Audit Performance Report Reveals GCAA Incurred Loss of D38 Million

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By: Kebba AF Touray

Audit reports of the National Audit Office (NAO) on the Gambia Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) revealed the latter incurred a loss of D38 Million (thirty-eight million Dalasi) in 2019 fiscal year.

NAO made this revelation in its audit performance report on GCAA’s budget management which was discussed during the sitting of the Public Enterprise Committee (PEC) on Tuesday, 28 May 2024.

The engagement brought together officials of PEC, GCAA Management, and NAO, to get responses to the aforesaid audit findings, and for the remedial actions to be taken and the time frame within which to make amends on the audit issues raised on the budget.

In the said audit report, NAO detailed that budget overruns contributed to GCAA incurring losses.

“According to audited financial statement, GCAA incurred a loss of GMD 38 million in 2019, which included GMD 63 million budget overrun in the year under review, on travel and overseas training. If overseas training and travel budgets were executed effectively, a profit of GMD 25 million could have been made,’’ NAO reports. 

Based on their finding, NAO further stated that GCAA has not effectively executed its budgets, and that the Authority’s Management did not focus on understanding the specific factors that contribute to budget deviations and the corrective actions to be taken. They recommended that the Director General exercises tighter controls over discretionary expenditures like travel and training so that expenditures do not significantly exceed budgets. 

“The Finance Department should incorporate investigation and reporting on reason for significant variance as and when they occur. This enhances accountability and learning,” NAO reports.

On review of GCAA’s budgetary notes, NAO revealed that these disclosed inconsistencies in the way they provided explanations for changes in their budget lines, and concluded that the overall budgets do not have sufficient clarity regarding significant changes in budget allocations.

“This hinders effective budget oversight, and without proper explanations, decision makers like the board, may simply change budgets without adequate information,” NAO reports.

NAO recommended that the Finance Department provide a detailed explanation for what drives significant changes in budget allocations, to ensure the transparency that will help decision-makers understand the underlying causes. NAO added that GCAA Management may need to set a minimum increase or decrease that requires an explanation, noting that this way, any substantial changes will trigger a review and clarification on the changes.

Providing responses to the audit findings on the losses incurred, the Management of GCAA, clarified that the Director of Finance did not attribute budget runs to adverse foreign exchange rates in its entirety, as other factors also contribute. They further said that they have noted the conclusions and stated that cost control measures have been introduced and these have been reinforced following the advent of COVID-19. 

“We are glad to report that these measures continue to be adhered to. However, to put the variations into context, the expenditures exceeded the budget in most instances due to unplanned budgetary spending, as a result of urgent operational and safety deficiencies that required urgent intervention in order to ensure the safe and continuous operations of BIA,” the GCAA Management said.

The management exemplified that in 2019, following a safety assessment of BIA, it was established that there were serious deficiencies in terms of training for personnel of the Airport’s Fire and Rescue Services Unit. 

Management further informed PEC that in order to avert the downgrading of the fire coverage from Cat 9 which would have hampered the ability of the airport to handle certain aircraft, the Authority had to urgently send more than 45 personnel (in batches) on specialized firefighting training in Douala, Cameroon, which was quite resource intensive. Similarly, they reported that engineers were also sent to the USA to undergo training on the maintenance of the fire trucks at BIA.

On the inadequate budget note details for significant allocation changes raised by the NAO report, the GCAA management replied that they have explained that all budgets are accompanied with sufficient notes detailing all relevant explanations on any major changes in the budget, adding that such notes accompany budgets to the board to inform them of their decision-making process on the estimates; that similarly, notes also accompany budgets to MoFEA and the Office of the President.