By Omar Bah
A report by the National Audit Office (NAO) on the management of the second phase of the government’s Covid-19 response funds obtained by The Standard, has strongly noted a catalogue of irregular spending’s including a colossal D79,385,505 the ministry of health allegedly paid to several companies and hotels without producing receipts to justify the payments.
The recipient businesses are: Amber Limited T/A Tropic Garden, Badala Park Hotel, Bambo Village Resort, Djeliba Leisure Group Limited, Golden Beach Hotel Limited, Laico Atlantic Hotel, Metzy Residence Hotel, Seaview Garden Hotel, Seaview Garden Hotel, Vakani Holding Limited and West African Leisure Group Ltd.
According the auditors a review of 36 sampled payment vouchers have showed that 26 payments were not supported with receipts and the ministry didn’t provide any response to the queries.
“According to regulation 26 (21) of the Financial Regulations 2016, ”payment vouchers shall be accompanied by the appropriate supporting documents which may include original invoices, time pay sheets, and local purchase orders. Without receipts, we could not substantiate whether the right suppliers were paid or suppliers were paid the correct amount. Furthermore, it is difficult to ascertain the authenticity of the transaction,” the auditors added.
The report also revealed that a review of the payment vouchers and attachment list of allowances raised by the ministry of health revealed that allowances amounting to D1, 464,645 were paid to individuals whose names were not in the master list.
“In addition, our review of payment vouchers at the hospitals revealed that payments amounting to D430, 006 were made to beneficiaries who were not captured on the attachment list. There is a risk that personnel other than those entitled were paid. Management should ensure that only those beneficiaries in the master list are paid. We further recommend that the payees in question should be informed to report immediately to the National Audit Office with their identification cards or passport,” the auditors said.
The report further revealed that contracts totaling D8,995,235 were awarded to West African Leisure Group, Lemon Creek Hotel, Atlantic Hotel, Mone Berre, Tropic Garden Hotel, Bambo Village Resort and Jerreh Camp, Kunta Kinteh Roots Camp before GPPA’s approval.
Reacting to the findings, the ministry of health said: “The listed sampled procurements herein have all been reviewed and approved by the multi-sector committee prior to the service being provided. However, due to the emergency nature of quarantine and going by the working modality agreed, the committee’s approval is always followed by the necessary paperwork with GPPA. Nonetheless, the audit recommendation is noted and will be complied with in future transactions.”
Non-submission of quotations
According to the auditors, the ministry made a procurement of D193,207,843.00 without any evidence to indicate that the procurements were done through RFQ because the list of all the service providers (successful and unsuccessful) with their respective price quotations were not presented for review.
“There is a risk that single sourcing procurement process was used and contracts awarded to favour suppliers and therefore compromised on maximising value for public money. In the absence of quotations, we cannot substantiate the prices quoted by the bidders (responsive and non-responsive),” the report added.
Reacting to the findings, the ministry of health said: “Management takes note of the audit query and would appreciate it if audit was more specific by providing the list of affected procurements for further action.”
According to the auditors, they noted a difference of D7, 821,105 between the D55,685,000.00 million paid to Gambia Tourism Board by the government for onward distribution to the beneficiaries and the actual amount distributed. The GTBoard reportedly distributed D47,863,895 leaving an outstanding balance of D7,821,105.
Responding to the query, GTBoard said the difference is due to the deduction done on some of the beneficiaries who owed them outstanding balances on operational license fee from 2019.
But the auditors insisted that the fund was to support the hotel industry’s operational activities, not to settle outstanding liabilities.
“The reduction of the amounts allocated to them will defeat the purpose of the relief package as it will affect their operational activities,” the auditors said.