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OP’S CLAIM OVER D669M EXPENDITURE IS FALSE – Malagen

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Respected online investigative media, Malagen, has said its fact-checking on the claim by the Office of the President that the D669M queried by the auditors was a 2016 expenditure, has found it to be false.

On Tuesday, the Office of the President said in a statement on its Facebook page that the sum was a 2016 expenditure, before President Barrow came to power and accusing both The Standard and former finance minister Amadou Sanneh of a misleading headline. Mr Sanneh was quoted by The Standard and many other media calling for parliament to investigate OP about the money.

The rest of the fact-checking by Malagen’s Kebba Jeffang is reproduced herewith:

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The auditors had made it clear in the report that the withdrawals were made from an account inherited from the Jammeh administration and ordered closed on their recommendations. Instead, the OP under Barrow reopened them “with the same account name but a different account number”.

On April 21, the National Audit Office (NAO) launched the first phase of their audit exercise on Covid-19 expenditure. The audits probe the food aid government gave to vulnerable communities and the purchase of medical equipment during the pandemic.

The NAO took to the launch a summary of their audit of government accounts for 2017. A part of this summary indicated suspicious withdrawals of government funds amounting to D669 million. These transactions were outside of the formal government financial system handled at the level of the Accountant General’s Department.

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In reaction to the audit findings, the former finance minister Amadou Sanneh urged the parliament to launch an inquiry.

The claim

On April 26, the Office of the President issued a brief statement saying the withdrawals queried by the auditors were done under the leadership of ex-president Yahya Jammeh and not Adama Barrow. 

“The Ex-Finance Minister, Honourable Amadou Sanneh, is aware that the D669 million mentioned in the Audit Report of 2017 was an expenditure in 2016 when the Barrow government was not in office,” stated a part of the statement.

Factcheck

By law, in March of any year, the National Audit Office should have audited the government accounts of a preceding year. However, due to capacity constraints the NOA, could not do this. As a result, audits of government books lag by a year or two.

For example, only the following reports are ready and published: 2016, 2017 and 2018. The 2019 report is ready but not printed, according to NAO. What is certain is that the 2017 report audits the government accounts and financial statements for that year.

Based on the full 2017 audit report and its summarized version, expenditures quoted were ones done from January 2017 to December 2017.

The introduction of the summarized audit report is clear.

“In December 2019, we completed and submitted the audited 2017 financial statement of the Government of The Gambia”.

Beyond the introductory part, the audit report also clearly segregated the expenditures based on “irregular procurement” and other activities where it is clearly indicated funds were spent from 2017.

The clue is also in the timeline of the projects queried. For example, the renovation works by Haddim Gai at the State House flagged in this 2017 report was under the Barrow administration as indicated in this audit by Internal Audit Department in 2018. At this time, Barrow was at the vice president’s residence in Fajara.

Meanwhile, the auditors had made it clear in the report that the withdrawals were made from an account inherited from the Jammeh administration and ordered closed on their recommendations. Instead, the OP under Barrow reopened them “with the same account name but a different account number”.

In conclusion, the NAO had already published their report which probed the government accounts for 2016 as it can be accessed on their website.

Verdict: the OP’s claim is false.

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