AUDIT REPORT SAYS GOV’T WITHDREW D669M WITHOUT APPROVAL IN 2017

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By Omar Bah

The National Audit Office’s summarised audit report on government’s 2017 financial statements has revealed that government made withdrawals amounting to D669 million without approval from the Accountant General. The report said the money was withdrawn from “Special Security” accounts which were closed on its [NAO] recommendations but were reopened with the same account name but with a different account number.

“We could not determine the balance on closure during the audit of these accounts, or whether the funds were used for approved budgeted activities because statements were not provided,” the audit report shared yesterday by NAO at the launching of its Phase 1 audit of Covid-19 procurement and distribution of food and medical items in the Greater Banjul Area.

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OP

The report, which was published in 2019 but was only made public yesterday, highlighted that the Office of the President paid a supplier D22.5 million for renovation works at State House through single sourcing, a week after signing the contract, with an excess payment of D424, 680 between the agreed amount and the paid amount. The auditors said another payment of D21.8 million was made to a supplier for delivering furniture, household and other office equipment for the Office of the President, without documentary evidence for the procurement or for choosing that supplier.

The report further highlighted that a payment of D11.5 million was made to a supplier for the purchase of six vehicles for cabinet ministers without any approval from the Major Tender Board, or for single sourcing by GPPA.

“Review of further documents showed that this procurement was done through directives issued by OP and bypassed procurement processes,” the audit said.

Irregular procurement

According to the audit report, Office of the President had claimed to have expended about D17 million in purchasing eight vehicles but they later found out that only seven vehicles were purchased.

“We detected a high risk of lack of transparency in contracting as the contract may have been awarded after the completion of work. The work was also not certified by the ministry of works. Although GPPA issued no rejection to the procurement, there is a high risk of potential loss of public funds in nontransparent bidding processes,” the report said

Improper management

The auditors added that receipts totaling D183.6 million were held in commercial bank accounts and managed from the Office of the President without any evidence to show that approval was granted by the ministry of finance to use the money for something else, or keep in these accounts.

In 2017, the auditors added, the government provided loans to State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) amounting to D11 billion without proper record management system to determine outstanding debt balance of the SOEs and the ability to accurately assess the amount of loans each SOE should be given. “[The implication] is that if the SOEs are unable to pay back the loans, the government will have to eventually write them off,” the auditors added.

The auditors also said in 2017, unbudgeted interest payments were made on government debts amounting to D121.5 million with no clear budget line in the National Assembly approved budget for 2017.

“There is a risk that this amount was misstated and therefore indicates a weak supervision of the budgetary review process,” the auditors said.

Launching of report

Addressing the stakeholders at the launching of the NAO special audit report on the Government’s Covid-19 response Phase 1 (procurement and distribution of food and medical items), the Auditor General, Karamba Touray, said the ultimate goal of the special audit was to track and report on government’s response and measures to the pandemic.

“It was also meant to hold the government to account in the use of public resources and recommend ways to strengthen the government’s response to this emergency situation, as well as future emergencies,” he said.

 The Auditor General added that the report is specific to the procurement and distribution of food and medical items within the Greater Banjul Area and some parts of West Coast Region.

Read more on the launching on Monday.