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Sierra Leone promises probe into Ebola spending

Clarence Roy-MaCaulay Associated Press

Freetown, Sierra Leone — Sierra Leone’s government promised a full investigation Monday after an internal audit found that nearly one-third of the money received to fight Ebola was spent without saving the necessary receipts and invoices to justify the spending.

The audit report first emerged in Sierra Leone’s parliament last week, detailing how some $5.75 million in funds either had no or insufficient documentation. That represents about a third of the total $19.32 million under review.

In a statement released Monday, the government pledged a full investigation, and said the matter also would be debated in parliament.

“Government wishes to make it abundantly clear that those who are found guilty of misusing Ebola funds will face the full force of the law,” it said.

The report by Sierra Leone’s Auditor General covered the months of May through October 2014, and looked at donations received directly by the government to fight Ebola.

“It is clear from our audit conducted that there continue to be lapses in the financial management system in Sierra Leone and these have ultimately resulted in the loss of funds and a reduction in the quality of service delivery in the health sector,” the report stated.

More than 3,300 people have died from Ebola with nearly 11,000 cases over the past year in Sierra Leone, where transmission remains the highest in the world.

As Ebola is being brought under control, Sierra Leone plans to re-open its schools at the end of March. Neighboring Liberia reported just five confirmed Ebola cases last week and it reopened most of its schools Monday.