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Sunday, July 21, 2024


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By Omar Bah

The National Audit Office has queried a whopping D63 million expenditures on travels and overseas training at the Gambia Civil Aviation Authority. The NAO made this query in its 2021 Performance Audit report on GCAA.

According to NAO, the GCAA administration budget experienced significant overruns, ranging from D28 million to D76 million for the period under audit.

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However, the GCAA management revealed that the authority faced challenges in controlling budgets, particularly in 2018 and 2019.

“The Director of Finance attributed budget overruns to the adverse foreign exchange rates for the Gambian dalasi against major international currencies,” NAO said.

The NAO added that the total budget overruns (negative variance) in 2019 for travel and overseas training amounted to D63M whereas in 2022, it was just D15M. This, it added, is contrary to the Finance Director’s explanation that foreign exchange movements caused the budget overruns.

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“The GCAA produces quarterly management reports to compare actual spending with budgeted amounts. While these reports identify differences early in the budget execution process, they lack explanations for why actuals differ from the budgets. As a result, management lacks a clear understanding of the reasons behind the budget overruns and cannot implement effective remedies. The budget overruns contributed to GCAA making losses,” the auditors stated.

The NAO also revealed that going by the audited financial statement, the GCAA incurred a loss of D38 million in 2019, which included the D63 million budget overrun in the year on travel and overseas training.

“If overseas training and travel budgets were executed effectively, a profit of D25 million would have been made. Management was not focusing on understanding the specific factors contributing to budget deviations and taking corrective actions,” the report added.

According to the NAO, the GCAA Director General should exercise tighter controls over discretionary expenditures like travel and training so that expenditures do not significantly exceed budgets. The NAO also advised the GCAA Finance Department to incorporate investigation and reporting on reasons for significant variance as and when they occur to enhance accountability and learning.

In its response, the management argued: “We note the conclusions and wish to state the cost control measures have been introduced and these have been reinforced following the advent of Covid-19. We are glad to report that these measures continue to be adhered to. However, to put the variations into context, the expenditures exceeded the budget in most instances due to unplanned budgetary spendings as a result of urgent operational and safety deficiencies that required urgent intervention in order to ensure the safe and continuous operations of Banjul International Airport”.

According to the GCAA, in 2019, following a safety assessment of BIA, it was established that there were serious deficiencies in terms of training for personnel of the Airport Fire and Rescue Services Unit. “In order to avert the downgrading of the fire coverage from Cat 9, which would have hampered the ability of the airport to handle certain aircraft, the Authority had to urgently send more than 45 personnel (in batches) on specialized firefighting training in Douala, Cameroon which was quite resource intensive. Similarly, engineers were also sent to the USA to undergo training on the maintenance of the fire trucks at BIA,” the GCAA added.

But the auditors had further observations on that. They argued: “It is concerning that management response attributed budget overruns to financing unplanned activities because of urgent operational and safety deficiencies. This brings into question how GCAA identifies activities for budgeting for years 2018 – 2022. We could not assess the extent to which unplanned activities were financed because the budgets were not detailed enough for this to be done. Specific details should be provided in the departmental budgets and management has not provided these for our review.”

The NAO said it hopes that its recommendation to incorporate reporting on causes to budget variance can provide real time information to management and the board why budgets differ from actual spendings.

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