By Omar Bah
A damning report from the National Audit Office obtained by The Standard has revealed that tens of millions of dalasis was expended by the government in its Covid-19 response (procurement and distribution of medical and food items) without following due process. It also highlighted millions more transactions that could have been avoided.
According to the report, total payments amounting to D24, 405,418 were made without obtaining the necessary approval from the procurement committee.
The report revealed that four separate payments were made to the GNPC alone without due process. The payments which were done in different dates include D27,000.00, D138,450.00 D2,127,482.85 and D363,412.50
Also, according to the report, the following companies received payments for transactions that were not approved by the procurement committee: MP Trading Company Limited D10,000; Dems Trading Enterprise D426,300.00; Gambia Horticultural Enterprise D257,100.00; Nasser Foam Manufacturing and Gen Enterprise Ltd D420,000.00; WWG at Doorstep D255,780.00; Dicko Enterprise D1,978,500; Marr Banta Suppliers D1,300,000; Sadia Trading D244,000; Gamworks Agency D1,839,405.00; Shyben A Madi & Sons Limited D12,800,000 and Liza Transport International D2,217,987.87.
The report stated that after a review of the management response against the evidence presented, some payments are still outstanding. These include GNPC D2, 489,249.93; Petro Gas Co Ltd D600,001.48; Atlas Trading Enterprise D400,000.00; Gamworks Agency D1,839,405.00 and Liza Transport International D2,217,987.87.
According to auditors, other payments of over D20 million were made without appropriate approval by the Procurement Committee while no supporting document was received for another payment totaling over D22 million.
As for the payment made to Liza Transport International in respect of the procurement and transportation of Covid-Organics from Guinea-Bissau to The Gambia, which the authorities claimed they paid over D2.2M, the auditors commented:
“We could not confirm whether the payment was made and/or received by the supplier as claimed since relevant supporting documents were not attached to substantiate the payment. Subsequently, we noted that the bank transfer details for Liza Transport International were stated on the invoice, but no payment instruction was attached. As a result, the cash payment cast significant doubt on the payment made to Lisa Transport International”.
The auditors further said they find it difficult to conclude that an expenditure of approximately €40,000 just to deliver three boxes over a distance of approximately 400km by air is a reasonable use of government resources compared with the much lower cost of, say, sending a car and driver to pick up the boxes.”
Commenting on the claim by the Ministry of Health that they signed a contract with TMS worth $3,946,637 for the supply of medical items and equipment to the Ministry for the COVID-19 response, the auditors made the following observation:
“This procurement was initiated by the emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, a review of the procurement file revealed that significant time elapsed which resulted in excessive transportation costs of $565,827 (D28, 291,350) incurred before the items were delivered at the CMS stores for the timely response and/or preparedness for COVID-19”.
The auditors added: “The amount that was eventually paid for the transport of the items was $665, 827.95 (i.e. $635, 000 by air and $30,827 by sea). The amount of money spent on transporting the items to The Gambia could have been significantly reduced if the Ministry had acted immediately after the completion of the inspection, i.e. late April 2020. The items could have been wholly transported by the sea at
that time and arrived 45 days earlier than it (both air and sea) eventually did.
The cost for transportation, could have been about $100,000, thereby saving the approximately $565, 827.”
The audit report further revealed that some items procured for over D5 million were also not delivered to the Central Medical Stores. “Although it is possible that these items were delivered to other health facilities directly, no evidence of the items was found,” the audit report stated. It further said procurements of medical items amounting to D123, 232,642, the were made without any needs assessment being conducted.
“As a result, the Ministry could not be sure of the usefulness of medical items in fighting the pandemic.”
According to the audit, a review of the procurement file revealed that ten Ford transit ambulances costing $897,500 (D44, 875,000) were procured by the Ministry in response to the COVID-19.
“However, when we identified ambulances, we could not ascertain whether these were the actual ambulances procured from the TMS-Turkey supplies as the delivery note with the chassis numbers were not provided,” the auditors noted.
According to the auditors, an imprest amounting to around D500, 000 has not yet been retired.
“Also the following confirmation from the West African Health Organization (WAHO) liaison Officer with regards to donations made to the government, we noted that an amount of $50,000 (D2,561,500) was donated to support in the fight against COVID-19. This support was to be specifically used in the training of health staff in the five thematic areas – case management, surveillance, infection control & prevention, supply chain management and risk communication.
The amounts were issued to the respective thematic heads in a form of imprests and were required to be retired in full however a review of disbursements and supporting documents revealed that imprests amounting to D499,980 have not yet been retired.”
The report stated that over D5.7 million of fuel, distributed to the Joint Security Team could not be traced to fuel stock records.
Read more tomorrow.