NAO Advises President’s Office to Ensure Judicious Utilisation of Public Funds

137

By: Kebba AF Touray

The National Audit Office in its report on the 2019 accounts of the government, said it has advised the Office of the President to ensure the judicious use of public funds. The Audit Office said it issued this advice to the office of the President, following its findings on the procurement and payment of over D17 million for the rehabilitation works at the State House.

“The office of the President was advised to ensure the judicious use of public funds and to also ensure that procurement is done with due process,” the audit office said.

Engaging the Accountant General, Ms Agnes Macaulay on the matter, the Chairperson of the Finance and Public Accounts Committee (FPAC) Alhagie S. Darboe, told her that according to the audit report on the failure to adhere to contract agreement during the meeting of the procurement committee, the auditors noted that rehabilitation works at State House was considered urgent.

This he said according to the audit report, necessitated a request for approval from the GPPA for the use of a single source in awarding the contract. That further review of the contract signed between Gai Enterprise and the government for the said rehabilitation works revealed that payment should be made in stages as follows:

Advance payment of 25 percent as contract sum amounting to D3,497,631.13 and the first interim payment of which 30 percent is the contract sum when the ground floor is completed amounting to D5,246,446.69; second is the interim payment of 30 percent of the contract sum when the first floor is completed amounting to the above mentioned figure of D5, 246,446.69; and the final payment of 20 percent of the contract sum when all other works are completed, amounting to D3, 497,631.13.

“This gives a total of D17, 488,155.63. The contract further required that the certificate of completion for each stage would be issued by the Ministry of Works before payment is made. However, the auditor noted from the review of payment voucher dated 27th May 2019 that Gai Enterprise was paid a full amount as opposed to payment in stages,” he said; That in addition, certificates of completion for each stage were not provided for the audit team.

“The recommendation advanced by the auditor is that the office of the President should provide explanation for the above abnormalities and that the office of the President is advised to follow procurement regulations to ensure that public funds are judiciously spent,” Hon Darboe said.

Accountant General Macaulay in her response said their initial management response to this query indicates that the contactor only requested for payment upon completion of the rehabilitation works.

“The recommendation is noted and in future this office will strictly adhere to the terms and conditions of payment of the contractor,” she said.

She added that in their subsequent response, they further made an investigation to confirm actually when these payments were done, stating that they have looked at the details relating to the payment and noticed that the Works Ministry as the supervising authority, has assessed the work and advised the amount due to be paid.

Hon. Darboe further stated that the auditor’s further comment stated that the issue remains unsolved up to the time of finalizing the management letter and asked the Accountant General about her stand on the matter.

In her response, the Accountant General said their investigations disclosed that they were not paying based on those stages, and added that government paid after all the work was done.

Reacting on the said evidence, the auditor stated that it was not available to them as at the date of the report, adding that they cannot have the audit un-ended and at some point, they have to close the assignment.

“As at the date of the report this information was not available to the audit team, and even with the provision of the additional information, the substance of the findings still remains unchanged. It is a contravention of the contract agreement, because the contract agreement stipulated that payment have to be done in stages,” said the audit office.

Hon. Musa Cham told the Accountant General that there is an anomaly in the contract process and thus asked the AG whether she was part of the contract.

AG Macaulay responded that they were not part of the agreement, and quickly emphasized that the audit query is about the payment and payment being done in stages; that during their confirmation, they saw an outflow of the said amount, where she said they became involved.

“Does that mean that you are taking full responsibility of the payment and equally can you also take the responsibility of other issues such as the actions to be taken? asked Hon. Cham

“I am not taking full responsibility of things other than the payment that has come through me or had happened in my office. The responsibility of adhering to the contract term is the responsibility of the vote controller,” AG Macaulay said.