By: Kebba AF Touray
The Finance and Public Accounts Committee (FPAC) of the National Assembly in deliberating on Phase One of their report on the Government’s Audited accounts meant for the procurement and distribution of food and medical items, disclosed that there was a waste of public resources due to blatant non-compliance with procurement laws and regulations.
Tabling the report before the Assembly, the Vice Chairperson of FPAC Alhagie Mbowe, reported that Government redirected GMD1.7 billion from the budget to cater for the needs of the citizenry, adding that a total sum of GMD750 million was meant for health and economic response, whilst GMD909 million was meant for the procurement of food items for vulnerable households, as additional funding and other assets were provided by donors. He stated that from his speech delivered on the 26th of April 2020, the President of the Republic of the Gambia made a commitment through MoFEA, that they will put aside GMD734 million virement from debt relief towards food support for the citizenry. He said that additional virement were subsequently made bringing the total amount to approximately GMD1 billion.
“The audit report highlighted a total of D832 million, which was spent on the procurement of rice, sugar, and oil to support vulnerable households during the pandemic. However, this was done without conducting a needs assessment,” he said.
On single sourcing of the 15% contingency fund, he stated that the report highlighted that payments amounting to D116 million were made to suppliers by the contracts committee using a single source procurement method, without obtaining approval from the GPPA.
He asserted that the single source procurement method should only be used in exceptional circumstances and can only be done after seeking formal approval from the GPPA.
He said: “The audit report queried that payment vouchers presented amounting to GMD64 million were not for verification and all payment vouchers for procurements conducted by the committee were not supported with suppliers’ receipts.”
Additionally, he said payment vouchers amounting to GMD365 million were not stamped by the Accountant General’s Department (AGD) to confirm that payments were done or have been done appropriately. “A total amount of GMD27 million was paid by the Accountant General’s Department as of 31 October 2020, in relation to the transportation and distribution process. Vulnerable households in Banjul, Kanifing Municipality, and large parts of WCR received food assistance,” he said.
Dilating on lapses, he said some vulnerable households in Bakau Newtown/Fajara and Manjai Kunda/Kotu were not registered, and therefore did not benefit from the relief package.
He stressed further that the absence of criteria in identifying the vulnerable households in Bakau and Manjai Kunda/Kotu Wards Newtown/Fajara suggests that households were selected using discretion, with the potential of missing out on people that needed the support most.
He said that a proper needs assessment, including relevant criteria, would have ensured that households are carefully selected and only those considered vulnerable are identified to benefit from the support.
He reported: “Payments totaling GMD22, 669, 674 were made without proper supporting documents. Without payment vouchers, receipts, and delivery notes, it is impossible to ascertain whether the payment was executed diligently.”
NAM Mbowe, while further exposing authorities responsible, told the assembly that the audit exercise by NAO has brought to light inadequate and or inappropriate evidence being presented by the Ministry of Health, to substantiate the procedures carried out during the procurement and distribution processes.
“Procurements carried out were not executed in line with acceptable procurement standards, regulations, or laws. Procurement and distribution of medical items for use in the fight against Covid19 were not conducted in accordance with relevant Laws, Regulations, World Bank procurement requirements, Standard Operating Procedures and Stores Regulations,” he said.
These aforesaid lapses, he recounted unequivocally, indicated that money has been wasted, and there was poor control, distribution and storage of medical items, which increase the risk of such items not being readily available or effectively used in treating patients.
He unveiled that whilst acknowledging the emergency nature of the situation, much procurement of food and medical items did not comply with relevant laws and regulations, and added that Issues of non-compliance were regular at all the stages of the procurement and distribution cycle across the procurement and or distribution of both food and medical items.
“Thus, full value-for-money might not have been achieved. Public resources were wasted, and the Government of The Gambia COVID-19 response was not maximised and not efficient as seen in the treatment of patients,” he said.