Audit Report Unveils Flaws in Award of Banjul Roads Project

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By: Kebba AF Touray

The Audit Report on the 2019 accounts of the Gambia Government has discovered flaws in the award of the Banjul Drainage Roads and Sewage Project (BDRSP), worth over US$35,720,000 (equivalent to D1, 821,720,000.00).

On its findings, the audit report stated that Section 20 (5) of the Gambia Public Procurement Authority Act  (GPPA) 2014 states that: “The President may by order published in the Gazette, exempt any procuring organization from requiring the approval of the Authority with respect to any procurement in whole or in part, and in such case, Cabinet shall be responsible for giving such approvals instead of the Authority.”

During the review of the documents, the audit report noted that the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), had advised through a letter referenced AG 313/01/ Part 6 (16) and dated 18th June 2019, that the approval by the President and Cabinet on the award of the BDRS project to Gai Enterprise in May 2019, amounting to $ 35,720,000.00, should be gazetted before the conclusion of the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract.

The audit team in their report stated that they requested a copy of this Gazette from the MoTWI to confirm that this award has indeed been Gazetted before the signing of the contract, but nothing was provided for review up to the time of writing their management letter. The audit team also indicated that they requested for evidence of invitation for project proposals from the Office of The President initially sent to GAI Enterprise and any minutes of contract committee meetings relevant to this project from Office of the President, but none were provided for review up to the time of writing this management letter.

According to the Auditors, the implication on such projects is that there is a risk that the contract was signed and not Gazetted which is a violation of the GPPA Act, and that there is a risk that due diligence was not carried out, and that the project was designed to syphon government funds for personal gains.

“There is a risk that the content of the Banjul Drainage Roads and Sewage Project is not authentic and does not accurately reflect Government policies and decisions. We recommend that the Ministry of Transport, Works and Infrastructure provide the above documentation for audit verification, and we advise the Ministry to follow proper documentation procedures for transparency and accountability,” the Auditors indicate in the audit report.

However, Management in its response said “the legal advice was adhered to, and that the award of the contract was Gazetted through Legal Notice N0.10 of 2021, with exemption from GPPA approval Order 2021 and signed. That Gazette N0. G.N N0.22/2021on all documentary evidence is available for inspection.

The auditors further commented that the Gazette was prepared on 15th of February 2021, which is almost two years after the commencement of the contract, and quoted and said the following: “As stated in the Gambia Public Procurement Authority Act 2014, the President may by order publish in the Gazette, exempt any procuring organization from acquiring approval of the authority concerning any procurement in whole or in part and in such case, cabinet shall be responsible for giving such approval instead of the authority.” This is translated by the audit report is an indication that the contract commenced without approval from either the President or GPPA, and therefore, the issue remained unresolved up to the time of finalizing the management letter.

“Updated responses are yet to be received from Ministries, Departments and Agencies,’ responded management in their letter.

The findings of the audit report further indicated that their review of the documentation and discussions with officials disclose that the Banjul Drainage, Roads, and Sewage (BDRS) contract was signed in May 2019, and tabled at the National Assembly on the 12th of June 2019.

The audit report further revealed that the project was scheduled to be completed by November 2021, and further review of the consultant’s report; but that inspection of the updated program of work for the project disclosed that actual work commenced on the 18th March 2019. This according to the audit report’s findings, means that actual work commenced on the 18th of March 2019, meaning that work actually commenced two months before the contract was signed and submitted to the National Assembly for discussion in June 2019.

“This further raised concerns on transparency leading to the award of the contract,” the audit report said.

According to the audit report, this implies a risk that the contract was awarded to a favored contractor on the basis of personal relationship, and it could stifle competition with potential loss of value for money.

“There is a risk that due processes were not followed in the conception, award and execution of the contract. We request detailed explanation and justification from the Ministry of Works, Transport and Infrastructure on the commencement of the contract before the official signing of the contract document,” the audit report said.

“On the 16th of  February 2019, H.E. The President launched the Banjul Roads Rehabilitation and Rebuilding Project at the Banjul Mini Stadium (KG5), attended by a wide spectrum of the Banjul community, members of stakeholder institutions and various dignitaries including the Mayor of Banjul. Management in its response added that at the launching, H.E. The President noted that Banjul has been facing challenges in terms of flooding and leakages of sanitary wastes, coupled with the loss of the structural integrity of the roads due to the high underground water table. That the implementation of the project cannot come at a better time in addressing all the challenges the people of Banjul are faced with. Management in their response averred that in addition to the launching of the Project by the President in February 2019, the physical conditions of the drainage and sewerage systems of the capital were deteriorating and at crisis point (danger of cholera outbreak), demanding urgency and expediting actions especially in the face of the impending 2019 rainfall season.

“The situation demanded the launching of an immediate project in the form of an Engineering Procurement Construction (EPC) contract with a local contractor, with the capacity to do EPC, and self-financing for at least a year of project implementation,” management said in their letter. They added that Gai Enterprise was recommended by OP and evaluated by MOTWI to have all the requisite capacities to carry out the work. Management further indicated that this evaluation was submitted to Cabinet for endorsement on the 11th of May 2019; that the EPC / Turnkey Contract for the Rehabilitation of the Roads, Drains, and Sewage Systems in Banjul was signed between GAI Enterprise and MOTWI, for the lump sum amount of US$ 35.72 million, for a three year period.

“The Contract is FIDIC based, second edition 2017, silver book, including general conditions,” Management concluded in their letter.