By Momodou Jarju & Kebba Secka
The Public Enterprise Committee (PEC) of the National Assembly on Friday March 6th adopted the activity report and financial statement of the National Roads Authority (NRA) for the period ended 31 December 2018, after hours of scrutiny.
Members of the select committee took turns to raise concerns and queries on both reports in order to ascertain its representation as a fair view of the state of affairs of the authority.
Adoption is the third phase of the oversight function of the committee who then prepared a comprehensive report with recommendations and presented it before the plenary session of the lawmakers for possible consideration or otherwise. The engagement exercise was meant to ensure efficiency, transparency and probity within the public enterprises as provided by law.
After a comprehensive introduction by the Chairperson of the committee Halifa Sallah, the Jokadu lawmaker and member of the committee Salifu Jawo, asked the authority whether they have enquired why they did not receive the actual money budgeted for road maintenance activities since 2016 to the year under review- 2018. Jawo further asked whether they have made follow ups to know where the problems lie.
In 2016, the amount budgeted for road maintenance was over 277 million dalasi but little over 85 million dalasi was released or given to the authority. This is three times less than the budgeted amount. In 2017, over 187 million dalasi was budgeted for, but the authority got less than the actual amount, having had a little above 104 million dalasi. In 2018, the budgeted amount was over 325 million dalasi and a little above 112 million dalasi was given to the authority.
Responding to his question, the Managing Director of the NRA, Momodou Senghor, said when the Authority was established in 2006, it inherited a lot of backlog on road maintenance because the roads were already in existence before they came to being.
“We have pushed the Ministry of Finance and of course the Ministry of Transport to get more funds to be able to carry out effective maintenance of this backlog which we inherited,” he said; but that when they started, their subvention came from the Road Funds which is earmarked for maintenance activities; that this is subvention from the Ministry of Finance.
MD Senghor said they look at roads and examine and carry out inventory on them in terms of their maintenance requirement and come up with a budget annually; that this is later presented to the Finance Ministry; that they would budget but would anticipate receiving less than the actual money they budgeted for.
Speaking on the issue, Saikou Marong, the Member for Latrikunda Sabiji who is also a Member of the Committee, asked the Management of the Authority to explain the disparity of figures on fuel for the year ended 2018.
Hon. Marong brought the management’s attention on the activity report which indicated that the actual money released from the road funds’ fuel levy for 2018 was D112, 140, 402.17 while in the financial statement of the Government’s subvention, it was captured as D84, 591, 377.00 which is D27.5 million less.
Responding to his question, Mustapha Joof, the Finance Director of the NRA said the figures in the activity report are monthly figures that were expected from the Ministry of Finance through the Accountant General for the fuel levy. Joof said the income or financial statement is the actual amount received and the difference of 27.5 million was not.
“So it could not have been accounted for as income. Although it was released by the GRA (Gambia Revenue Authority) to the Accountant General for further transmission to our account, it never took place. However in the subsequent year, all the arrears were paid but we can only account for it when we receive the money,” he said.
Unsatisfied with the response of the Finance Director, Hon. Marong referred the Management of the NRA to the previous year 2017, where a similar situation occurred. The Finance Director responded that they did not receive the entire amount but captured the information in the activity report for them to understand why it was not received.
Joof emphasized his previous response that as accountants, they can only put the money received in their income statement.
At this point PEC Chairperson Halifa Sallah added his voice and informed the board and management of the NRA that both the financial statement and activity report are interconnected; that this is why they do not receive one and leave the other behind.
“The essence here is the validation of the activities and that is not conceivable until you have the audited accounts which is linked directly to what is in your activity report,” he said. Sallah further informed the NRA officials that the committee members saw a complete divergence on the information presented.
“In that regard, that part of your report should be amended to suit what is in your financial statement, rather than giving something that is anticipated,” Sallah said.
NRA board Chairperson Modou Gaye acknowledged the discrepancy, saying it was a defect.
“The activity report would be duly revisited to identify why the error may have come about and put it in order,” he said.
Taking the floor for the second time, Hon. Marong referred the management to page 12 of the financial statement under revenue recognition which stated that “revenue is taken to income in the period in which they relate to.”
Hon. Marong put the question to the management that in line with revenue recognition, the stated amount released to the Road Fund in 2018 in the activity report is receivable.
Finance director Joof replied the same that the Accountant General did not transfer the money on time.
Hon. Marong explained to him that as stated in the report, the Authority should have received the money and should have done a follow up to get their money.
Finance Director Joof responded in the positive. Mr. Senghor, the Managing Director of the NRA added his voice saying they have been persistent in engaging the Ministry of Finance to get this money.
“Once we have the advice, we frequently knock on their doors to make sure that this money lands into the Roads Fund. Sometimes they will say it would land or it was being transferred. But sometimes, it is not the case,” he concludes.