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Auditors say MoH denied them access to verify D5.7M fuel expenditure

Auditors say MoH denied them access to verify D5.7M fuel expenditure

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By Omar Bah

A report from the National Audit Office on the procurement and distribution of medical and food items obtained by The Standard has revealed that auditors were denied access to the Ministry of Health’s data to verify its claims that it procured fuel amounting to D5, 745,596.76 in response to Covid-19.

According to auditors, access to information was “not provided to us to establish the accuracy and completeness of the quantity of fuel supplied and received at the Police Intervention Unit (PIU) as well as the onwards distributions to various security teams. As a result, we could not gain comfort over the supply and distribution of fuel in response against Covid-19.”

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The details of the fuel supplied without justification are as follows: Petro Gas Co. Ltd: D600,001.48, Gambia National Petroleum Company Ltd D138,450.00, Gambia National Petroleum Company Ltd D27,000.00, Gambia National Petroleum Company Ltd D2,489,249.93, Gambia National Petroleum Company Ltd D2,127,482.85 and Gambia National Petroleum Company Ltd D363,412.50.

Implication

The auditors added: “In the absence of the information for audit, we could not ascertain the accuracy of the amount of fuel claimed to have been given to the police from the Covid-19 fund. We could not also assess the controls over the usage of the fuel received.”

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The auditors recommended for management to provide documentary evidence on the amount of fuel provided to the police from the Covid-19 fund and how the fuel is distributed among and used by the various units across the country.

Ministry’s response

In its response, the Ministry of Health said: “The fuel procured by the Ministry of Health (MoH) was done in accordance with the budget approved by the Multi-stakeholder Committee on Procurement and Finance for the operations of security in support of Covid-19 response activities.

“However, as part of the coordination arrangement agreed among the various security apparatuses, the office of the National Security Adviser and the Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIGP) were responsible for the management of the fuel which MoH procured at the GNPC. Audit may wish to interview the National Security Adviser and or DIGP.”

Auditors’ conclusion

However, the auditors concluded: “We reviewed the management response against the evidence provided and noted that this finding remains unresolved as evidence of receipts and issuance of fuel procured were not presented.”

Needs assessment

According to the auditors, the Ministry of Health failed to perform needs assessment and specification for the procurement of medical items amounting D123, 232,642.

Implication

According to the auditors, there is “a risk that the Ministry procured items that are not useful in response against Covid-19; this could result in waste of government resources and reduce the effectiveness of the overall Covid-19 response. There is a risk that medical items were not specified by the Committee, and this could result in the procurement of unused medical items in the response against Covid-19”.

The auditors recommended for the health authorities to ensure that plausible explanations substantiated with evidence for the non-performance of needs assessment are provided immediately.

Health authorities’ response

Responding to queries raised by the auditors, the Ministry of Health said: “Predicting the course of a pandemic is one of the biggest challenges in epidemiology, especially a pandemic caused by a previously unknown micro-organism. The Covid-19 pandemic is of such nature. However, based on what was seen as the pattern of the disease in the countries affected earlier on, various thematic areas in the Covid-91 response came up with lists of items that would potentially be used in the response.”

According to the health authorities “new treatment centres were needed while equipment and supplies challenge in health facilities also needed to be addressed as Covid-19 patients could present at any facility in the country and they need to be taken care of”.

“The director of health services, the chief technical officer of the Ministry in clinical care, with his team knew the needs in the health facilities. These needs were put together in the list of items procured. The items procured are in line with what is needed in those facilities for the potential projections in managing the pandemic. Specifications were provided by the team and the World Bank Task Team Leader.”

However, reacting to the ministry’s response, the auditors argued: “We reviewed the evidence provided (Ref: P173798) and noted that it is an email correspondence between the World Bank task team leader and the Ministry of Health and does not contain evidence that suggest a needs assessment was performed accordingly. The content of the correspondence was about advising the Ministry of Health to include the allocation of approximately $2 million out of the $3.8 million in their work plan or budget,” the auditors noted.

However, auditors added that the work plan or budget was not provided as part of the evidence.

“Subsequent review of the updated (second batch) of the management response revealed that the specifications were carried out but there was no appropriate evidence to indicate that the needs assessment and specifications were carried out by the Ministry and approved by the procurement committee. As a result, this finding remains outstanding,” the auditors added.

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