By Omar Bah
The National Audit Office’s report on the financial dealings of the Gambia government for 2019 presented to the parliamentary committee on finance FPAC Tuesday, highlighted irregularities in the contract awarded to Gai Enterprise for the rehabilitation of State House.
The auditors said a review of contract documents signed on 2nd May 2019 revealed that GAI Enterprise was awarded a contract of D17,488,155.63 for the construction of a new President’s Office and rehabilitation works at State House. However, the auditors said documents showed that the contractor was required by GPPA to revise the Bill of Quantities (BOQ) and resubmit for approval before work can commence. According to the auditors, the GPPA had requested for clarity in the supervisory role of the work as this was not indicated in the submission and the removal of D950,000 contingency allocation from the contract and for the subtotal of D55,770.00 to be added to the grand total of D17,488,155.63.
“We noted that despite the failure of the contractor to make the amendments directed by the GPPA, work went ahead, nonetheless,” the auditors queried.
They added that a review of correspondence from Ministry of Works referenced BLD 31/160/02(22-ES) and dated 20th March 2019, revealed that an assessment was carried out by the Ministry to certify the volume and extent of the rehabilitation works that was carried out at State House the result of which was used as the basis for the payment of D17,488,155.63 to GAI Enterprise. “This assessment was carried out prior to the approval from GPPA on 29th March 2019 for the use of single source and the subsequent contract signing on 2nd May 2019.
“It is therefore clear that approval was sought for the use of a single source well after this rehabilitation work was completed. This is a gross violation of the GPPA regulations. Furthermore, examination of the procurement documents revealed that goods bought from Fatima Trading amounting to D5, 637,000.00 were delivered to the Office of the President before requesting for a single source approval from GPPA,” the auditors said.
The auditors further noted that the failure to comply with the procurement process in respect of the contract could be used to perpetrate fraud and that the lack of transparency in the procurement process suggests that fraudulent transactions could have been executed by officials through collusion.
“We request that OP and the ministry of works provide an explanation for the above anomalies. We also advise OP to follow due process for all procurements to ensure that public funds are judiciously spent for their intended purpose in accordance with the laws of the Gambia.”
In response, the Office of the President acknowledged the query, adding that the retrospective approval was sought to regularize oversight in the procurement process.
But the auditors argued that the GPPA regulations are there to ensure transparency and value for money and that the request for retrospective approval of the contract by the Office of the President completely ignores these objectives.
Failure to adhere to contract agreement
The auditors said during the review of procurement committee minutes, they noted that rehabilitation works at State House were considered urgent that necessitated the request to seek approval from GPPA for the use of a single source in awarding the contract.
According to the report, further review of the contract documents signed between the Government of The Gambia and GAI Enterprise for the rehabilitation works revealed that payments would be made in stages but a review of payment voucher 01PV021043 dated 27th May 2019 that GAI Enterprise was paid the full amount.
The auditors said the implication of this could be that the contract document was faked to cover for the failure to follow procurement regulations; the violations of the contract payment methodology also suggest high level corruption; the value for money, transparency and accountability were completely overlooked during the procurement and there is an increased risk that the contractor might not be held accountable in full for defects or substandard work during the rehabilitation work.
Responding to the queries, OP said the contractor only requested for payment upon completion of the job.
OP also acknowledged the recommendations made by the auditors and commits to ensure in the future the office will strictly adhere to terms and conditions of payment of its contractual obligations.
However, the auditors said the finding remained unresolved up to the time of finalising this management letter.