By Tabora Bojang
The Finance and Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly yesterday resolved that the explanations provided by the Gambia Press Union, the National Disaster Management Agency and the Ministry of Health in respect to unaccounted Covid-19 funds are not sufficient and it would instruct the IGP to further investigate.
The committee passed a resolution on September 14th 2023 ordering among others that the Grant Management Committee and the Gambia Press Union must return to the Accountant General the sum of D585,159.86 being the ‘unused funds’ for the Covid-19 relief support to media houses on or before September 25, 2023, failure of which Inspector General of Police must launch an investigation immediately.
During review of responses by the GPU and the Grants Management Committee, the senior manager responsible for the audit of donor and government funded projects Mass Jallow, told members that the queries highlighted in the audit that funds disbursed to some media houses were not accounted for still remains unresolved.
“We reviewed the evidence and noted that D585, 159 was disbursed by the GPU to the media, however the audit team could not confirm whether the funds were utilised by media houses as prescribed in the agreement. There was no evidence to suggest that funds were accounted for and bank statements were not presented by the underlisted media houses. Only the DHK [radio] has presented its bank statement which amounted to D122, 000 and as a result the issue remains unresolved, “ Jallow stated.
Committee chairman Alagie S Darboe, said the GPU’s position in its responses was that the “onus lies on FPAC to follow the media houses concerned” and ensure they comply. “But our position is that we are not the disbursing officers. The GPU were the ones that disbursed the funds to media houses and they should do the necessary follow up. So now we are forwarding this to the IGP and the IGP will know what line of approach to take,” Chairman Darboe added.
Committee member and nominated NAM Kebba Lang Fofana, urged the committee to “ignore” claims by the GPU in its defence. “They [GPU] are closely working with the Auditors. Their submission is what matters. The letter was their opinion. Does it override that of the auditors? No.”
The September resolution had also resolved that the executive director of the NDMA Sanna Dahaba must account for all undelivered food items worth over D100 million, shortage of delivery of oil worth D37.6 million and provide the certificate of confiscation of the damaged food items by the Food Safety and Quality Authority all on or before 25 September, 2023 failure of which the police shall launch an investigation immediately.
Chairman Darboe explained that the NDMA boss Dahaba made submissions to the committee in relation to these resolutions and also requested for 3 months extension.
However, the auditor disclosed that a review of evidence presented by the NDMA has not availed any evidence to indicate otherwise.
“From our review of evidence presented by NDMA, we noted that it was the same information provided to us during the audit. An amount of D3.5 million relating to disaster victims was presented for our review but this was not related to the Covid-19 response. Also the evidence of delivering the balance of 53,791 drums of 10 litre oil amounting to D37.6 million was not presented. The onward delivery note included in the submission was the 16, 209 drums of 10 litre oil. There was also no evidence presented for the disposal report or destruction certificate. We also noted that the LRR confiscation certificate for 28 bags of rice was re-produced, this cast doubt about the destruction certificate. Not all confiscated food items were supported with a destruction certificate. Based on the issues we cannot rely on the destruction report presented after the audit. Therefore all the resolutions against NDMA remained unresolved,” Jallow stated.
Meanwhile, resolutions against Ministry of Health and the Gambia Tourism Board in respect to a missing payment voucher of D1.6 million, and D1.1 million for over payment of Covid-19 frontline workers and D202,000 being the difference of money received for payment to individuals in the informal tourism sector all remain unresolved and the IGP would be instructed to take further actions.
According to NAM Fofana, the overpayments claimed by the GT Board in its new submissions are new additions which do not surface on the original payment vouchers.
“We [FPAC] take the submission of the auditors and if there are any issues they [GT Board] can sort it out with the police,” Chairman Darboe submitted.