FREETOWN (Reuters) – Sierra Leone’s auditor Lara Taylor-Pearce, who has been widely praised for her efforts to improve government accountability, said on Thursday that President Julius Maada Bio had suspended her while the attorney general was investigating his office.
The suspension comes a few weeks before his office presents an annual audit of the government’s public financial management in 2020.
Taylor-Pearce told Reuters she had received a letter to the State Audit Service (ASSL) Oversight Board asking that she and her deputy be immediately suspended while the attorney general sets up a tribunal to review the work of the ASSL.
“I have not been told what the mission of this tribunal is or what wrongdoing we are supposed to have committed,” she said.
“ASSL has always maintained the highest standards at all times and we deny any wrongdoing in the performance of our mandate.”
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President Julius Maada Bio’s office did not respond to requests for comment.
Taylor-Pearce was Auditor General for 10 years, building a reputation for his efforts to improve public sector accountability. It won international praise for its real-time audit of funding for the 2014-2016 Ebola pandemic response, which revealed significant corruption.
Some non-governmental organizations have expressed surprise at its suspension.
“We have a particularly difficult time understanding this decision given that Ms. Taylor-Pearce has [for] over a decade has provided high quality service, ”a statement from the Institute for Governance Reform of Sierra Leone said.
Ibrahim Tommy of the Center for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL) said the government should move quickly with the court so Taylor-Pearce can return to work if there is no evidence against her.
(Reporting by Umaru Fofana; Editing by Alessandra Prentice and David Gregorio)
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