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 AUDIT REPORT ON COVID RESPONSE REVEALS MILLIONS

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T O P I C    R E V I E W
Momodou Posted - 23 Dec 2021 : 12:55:03
AUDIT REPORT ON COVID RESPONSE REVEALS MILLIONS SPENT WITHOUT JUSTIFICATION

The Standard: DECEMBER 23, 2021

By Omar Bah

https://standard.gm/audit-report-on-covid-response-reveals-millions-spent-without-justification/

A damning report from the National Audit Office obtained by The Standard has revealed that tens of millions of dalasis was expended by the government in its Covid-19 response (procurement and distribution of medical and food items) without following due process. It also highlighted millions more transactions that could have been avoided.

According to the report, total payments amounting to D24, 405,418 were made without obtaining the necessary approval from the procurement committee.


The report revealed that four separate payments were made to the GNPC alone without due process. The payments which were done in different dates include D27,000.00, D138,450.00 D2,127,482.85 and D363,412.50

Also, according to the report, the following companies received payments for transactions that were not approved by the procurement committee: MP Trading Company Limited D10,000; Dems Trading Enterprise D426,300.00; Gambia Horticultural Enterprise D257,100.00; Nasser Foam Manufacturing and Gen Enterprise Ltd D420,000.00; WWG at Doorstep D255,780.00; Dicko Enterprise D1,978,500; Marr Banta Suppliers D1,300,000; Sadia Trading D244,000; Gamworks Agency D1,839,405.00; Shyben A Madi & Sons Limited D12,800,000 and Liza Transport International D2,217,987.87.

The report stated that after a review of the management response against the evidence presented, some payments are still outstanding. These include GNPC D2, 489,249.93; Petro Gas Co Ltd D600,001.48; Atlas Trading Enterprise D400,000.00; Gamworks Agency D1,839,405.00 and Liza Transport International D2,217,987.87.

According to auditors, other payments of over D20 million were made without appropriate approval by the Procurement Committee while no supporting document was received for another payment totaling over D22 million.

Madagascar Covid-Organic

As for the payment made to Liza Transport International in respect of the procurement and transportation of Covid-Organics from Guinea-Bissau to The Gambia, which the authorities claimed they paid over D2.2M, the auditors commented:

“We could not confirm whether the payment was made and/or received by the supplier as claimed since relevant supporting documents were not attached to substantiate the payment. Subsequently, we noted that the bank transfer details for Liza Transport International were stated on the invoice, but no payment instruction was attached. As a result, the cash payment cast significant doubt on the payment made to Lisa Transport International”.

The auditors further said they find it difficult to conclude that an expenditure of approximately €40,000 just to deliver three boxes over a distance of approximately 400km by air is a reasonable use of government resources compared with the much lower cost of, say, sending a car and driver to pick up the boxes.”

Medical items

Commenting on the claim by the Ministry of Health that they signed a contract with TMS worth $3,946,637 for the supply of medical items and equipment to the Ministry for the COVID-19 response, the auditors made the following observation:

“This procurement was initiated by the emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, a review of the procurement file revealed that significant time elapsed which resulted in excessive transportation costs of $565,827 (D28, 291,350) incurred before the items were delivered at the CMS stores for the timely response and/or preparedness for COVID-19”.

The auditors added: “The amount that was eventually paid for the transport of the items was $665, 827.95 (i.e. $635, 000 by air and $30,827 by sea). The amount of money spent on transporting the items to The Gambia could have been significantly reduced if the Ministry had acted immediately after the completion of the inspection, i.e. late April 2020. The items could have been wholly transported by the sea at that time and arrived 45 days earlier than it (both air and sea) eventually did.

The cost for transportation, could have been about $100,000, thereby saving the approximately $565, 827.”

The audit report further revealed that some items procured for over D5 million were also not delivered to the Central Medical Stores. “Although it is possible that these items were delivered to other health facilities directly, no evidence of the items was found,” the audit report stated. It further said procurements of medical items amounting to D123, 232,642, the were made without any needs assessment being conducted.

“As a result, the Ministry could not be sure of the usefulness of medical items in fighting the pandemic.”

Ambulances

According to the audit, a review of the procurement file revealed that ten Ford transit ambulances costing $897,500 (D44, 875,000) were procured by the Ministry in response to the COVID-19.

“However, when we identified ambulances, we could not ascertain whether these were the actual ambulances procured from the TMS-Turkey supplies as the delivery note with the chassis numbers were not provided,” the auditors noted.

Imprest

According to the auditors, an imprest amounting to around D500, 000 has not yet been retired.

“Also the following confirmation from the West African Health Organization (WAHO) liaison Officer with regards to donations made to the government, we noted that an amount of $50,000 (D2,561,500) was donated to support in the fight against COVID-19. This support was to be specifically used in the training of health staff in the five thematic areas – case management, surveillance, infection control & prevention, supply chain management and risk communication.

The amounts were issued to the respective thematic heads in a form of imprests and were required to be retired in full however a review of disbursements and supporting documents revealed that imprests amounting to D499,980 have not yet been retired.”

Fuel

The report stated that over D5.7 million of fuel, distributed to the Joint Security Team could not be traced to fuel stock records.
2   L A T E S T    R E P L I E S    (Newest First)
Momodou Posted - 28 Dec 2021 : 11:54:43
MINISTRY OF HEALTH’S REACTION TO THE STANDARD NEWS PAPER ON ITS PUBLICATION DATED 23RD DECEMBER 2021 “AUDIT REPORT ON COVID RESPONSE REVEALS MILLIONS SPENT WITHOUT JUSTIFICATION”

Dear Editor Standard Newspaper,
Your Paper’s news edition captioned as above and reported by one Omar Bah on your 23rd December 2021 publication, came to our attention with stark disappointment and disgust about the publisher’s intent of malicious and smear campaign against the Ministry of Health.

Please allow me therefore to respond in no uncertain terms to Mr. Bah’s story which he carried without any second verification.

First of all, it appears Mr. Bah is quoting an audit Report that to my knowledge is in draft version because each of those so-called millions claimed in the report, the Ministry had explicitly and adequately explained with a full write up that is backed with supporting evidence which either your paper deliberately failed to reflect as the Ministry’s standpoint, or the auditors have failed to do so with ill motive.

It is quite disappointing and perplexing that a report of this nature, will be carelessly made available to the Press even before a final version of it is shared with the Ministry as the primary respondent and more so the National Assembly as the foremost oversight body to whom the National Audit Office is answerable as the representative of the people. I strongly believe this is at odds with the mandate and procedures of the National Audit Office. I further hold strongly that the story by Mr. Omar Bah is pre-meditated for malice because it has by its nature, deviated from the Audit standard of presenting both the audit findings and the attendant Management (Ministry’s) responses alongside each other for the readers. Your paper has failed to observe the tenets of balance reporting in this regard. Rather, the paper unprofessionally picked on only those points it desires to use as points of earning cheap popularity - a style of reporting the Standards newspaper has become notorious for, as against professional and balanced reporting.

Secondly, the report clearly demonstrates Mr. Bah’s ignorance and lack of understanding of government payment procedures and requirements, because if he does then he would have asked himself a lot of questions about the barrage of inconsistencies carried in the draft audit report before relying on it. If you understand the payment procedures and or if you care to find out at all, you would have realized that the payment of the magnitude of D1, 978,500 quoted for Dicko Enterprise and D1, 300,000 for Marr Banta Supplies (see letters ref GPPA/MOHSW/TR 10/20/(2)/(J.J) of 9th April 2020 and GPPA/MOHSW/TR 10/20/(2)/(J.J) of 9th April 2020) could not have passed the scrutiny of the various levels of the payment cycle without the prior formal approval letter from the Gambia Public Procurement Authority (GPPA) represented by its Director General on the Multi-sector Procurement Committee, alongside the other members like the Accountant General, the Director General of Internal Audit, the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs and the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Health. At least, as the professional Newspaper that Standard claims to be, the paper owe it to its esteem readership to go the extra mile to dig out the relevant facts and back up evidence from either the author of the source document or by consulting the leadership of the Ministry of Health for clarity before publication.

In the same vein, if not for the reporter’s malicious intent or lack of awareness of events in his surroundings, he would have noticed that an earlier attempt by another journalist to smear the image of the Ministry using the same report failed woefully after receiving a rebuff in the social media when he published his story. The positive difference that that particular journalist had over Mr. Bah is that at least he made an effort and had met the Ministry’s leadership and was able to collect firsthand information and evidence from them, even though that one also equally decided not publish some of the facts he obtained from the Ministry because they were counteracting his own malicious assertions.

With the aforesaid, please allow me to now present to your readership the Ministry’s version in refutation of the points quoted in your Standards newspaper report of 23rd December 2021 as follows:
In the opening paragraph the reporter stated “ …..The standard has revealed that tens of millions of dalasis was expended by the government in its Covid-19 response (procurement and distribution of medical and food items) without following due process”.

Evidence contravening these allegations are presented here from the review of our records which show copies of the GPPA approval Ref: GPPA/MOHSW/TR 7/20 (2)(J.J) of 1st April 2020 for the amount of D12,800,000; GPPA/MOHSW/TR17/20/ (2)/(B.S) dated 10th June 2020 for the amount of D2,489,249.93; GPPA/MOHSW/TR10/20/(2)/(J.J) dated 9th April 2020; GPPA/MOHSW/TR10/20/(2)/(J.J) for the sums of D1,300,000 (Marr Banta Supplies) and D1,978,500.00 (Dicko Enterprise); GPPA/MOHSW/TR31/20(B.J) dated 21st August 2020 for the sum of D400,000 (Atlas Trading) are all proofs of due process followed. These facts are verifiable and had been made available to the auditors unless denied with ill-motive.

In addition, the relevant supporting documents listed below are quotations based on the prescribed procurement method for items within the Request For Quotation (RFQ) threshold, in line with Clause 12 (1), which is further explained in schedule (1) of the table of thresholds in Gambian dalasis as contained in the 2019 GPPA Regulation. Evidence of the RFQ process is here presented for your verification. Note that for each of the categories, only the most responsive quotation is selected and for MP. Trading, our records show the amount of D32, 200 instead of the erroneous figure of D10, 000 quoted in your story.

Procurement of Printer and Catridge:
• MP Trading Company (invoice No. 024326) D32,200
• AA Consotuim Ltd (invoice N0. 002119) D49,500
• Sonko Jileng Enterprise (invoice No. 39079) D63,250
• Prime Stationary (invoice No. 0000642) D34,500

Procurement of locally made face mask
• WWG@ Door Step (invoice No. 00088) D255,780
• IFA Trading (invoice No. 000123) D369,460
• Dems Trading (invoice No. 000602) D483,140

Procurement of Hand Sanitizer
• Dems Trading (invoice No. 000652) D426,300
• IFA Trading (invoice No. 000123) D468,930
• WWG@ Door Step (invoice No. 00004) D468,930

Procurement of Hand Sanitizer
• Sadia Trading (invoice No. 000054) D244,000
• Njileng Trading (invoice No. 004524) D283,000
• Arcolley’s Enterprise (invoice No. 007003) D266,000

Procurement of Mattresses:
• Nasser Foam (invoice No.019673) D420,000
• Adonis Supplier (invoice No. 000610) D975,000
• M Sumareh Ent (invoice No. 000566) D819,375

Procurement of biolavicides
• GHE (invoice No.2006030) D257,100
• Afric-Agro Action (invoice No. 000054) D385,170
• Dems Trading Ent.(invoice No.000553) D343,500
• Korr Jorr (invoice No. 000166) D641,350
• Anfatz Trading (invoice No. 000053) D1,975,500
• Marams Trading (invoice No. 001106) D1,197,000

Madagascar Covid-Organic:
Your story’s assertion under the above sub-heading refers to finding 2.4 of the referenced audit report. In the Ministry’s management response to audit, it was categorically stated that during the Covid-19 pandemic a major challenge has been to know what the exact treatment of Covid-19 is. The pandemic might not have gone out of hand if the exact treatment was known and accepted worldwide. A lot of conventional treatment regime including drugs previously used to treat other ailments, were used in various countries
The issue of Covid Organic from Madagascar gained the attention of all especially during those desperate times of surging infections and mortality. The President of Madagascar donated some covid-19 Organic to some African countries including The Gambia. The Bissau Guinean President facilitated the transport of the quantities meant for The Gambia, Senegal, Guinea Bissau etc. This was transported from Madagascar by a chartered flight arranged for by the Bissau Guinean government and all the countries which benefited from the gesture were meant to contribute to the cost of freight. This D2, 217,987.87 is not for procurement of the Covid organics or for single sourcing of the transportation. It was The Gambia’s contribution to the cost of the hiring of the aircraft that brought the Covid organics from Madagascar to our country.

The Covid organic were never said to be useless by the WHO in the fight against Covid-19 it was said that more research needs to be done on it.

At a time when people were searching for a cure for Covid-19 to save lives, we think it was not out of place to get the Covid organics as a country. Part of what we planned to do is use it in clinical trials. That plan is still on, so covid organics are not wasted. Collaboration with Senegal for the trial is being explored.

Therefore points 2.6 (failure to obtain GPPA approval on single sourcing) and 2.7 (Non-assessment of alternative sources of transportation) do not apply since the situation did not warrant those.

Medical items: Finding 2.10
The Standard report of …”significant time elapsed which resulted in excessive transportation cost” featured under sub-head 4.2.1 of the draft report and it should be understood that the Covid-19 pandemic brought with it challenges in transportation with global shipping and airfreight being affected. The planned mode of transportation of the items procured from Turkey had always been from the beginning, to airfreight the items to The Gambia. This suggestion was received from our technical support teams who are very conversant with the trends in the international arena at that time. The Ministry was tasked to approach government to make a request to the Turkish government to help airfreight the items for us probably using a Military Cargo plane. The Executive was briefed and upon approval, a letter of request Ref: AD 229/407/01 TEMP: (49-M.L.J) dated 9th April 2020 was sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to facilitate this process. The Turkish government was engaged through the Embassy in Banjul. The request was being looked into by the Turkish government. It took a while and we were told that the request was being processed. A letter of reminder referenced AD 229/407/01 TEMP: (M.L.J) dated 24th June 2020 was sent to our Foreign Ministry but we were told that the request was still being processed.

During the period, the Ministry was constantly monitoring the stock levels which remained very high from the numerous donations obtained from partners. As time went by, we noticed that there might be a challenge on the Turkish side in getting a transport support from the Turkish government. The Executive was contacted with this information and the go ahead was given for the Ministry to transport the items. At this juncture the World Bank Task Team Leader (TTL) mentioned that the items be airfreighted considering the fact that there were increasing number of cases of Covid-19 worldwide including in The Gambia. Many countries had also locked down at that time. He went ahead to say he had secured an additional funding of $1 million from his institution for the airfreighting and other activities.

The argument that the items could have been transported cheaper if they were shipped is defeated considering that we were in a pandemic and a seemingly stable situation could deteriorate within a very short period. This showed the high unpredictable nature of Covid-19 as seen in most parts of the world. We seriously believe that your quoted figure of $665,827.95 spent on airfreighting from the extra $1 million funding secured from the World Bank for this and other purposes was put to good use.

It must be emphasized that the additional funding of $1 million was requested for by the World Bank Official (Health Team Task Leader-TTL) just for airfreighting and any extra for other activities. So we strongly believe that using the fund that was specifically provided by World Bank for airfreighting the goods including the ten Covid-19 ambulances for that purpose is very much in line with good practice and value for money.

3.1.2 Needs Assessment
Predicting the course of a pandemic is one of the biggest challenges in epidemiology especially a pandemic caused by a previously unknown micro-organism. The Covid 19 pandemic is of such nature. However, based on what was seen as the pattern of the disease in the countries affected earlier on, various thematic areas in the Covid -19 response came up with lists of items that would potentially be used in the response. New treatment centers are needed to be established and another is to be restructured. Equipment and supplies challenge in health facilities need to be addressed as Covid-19 patients could present at any facility in the country and they need to be taken care of. The Director of Health Services, the chief technical officer of the Ministry in clinical care, with his team know the needs in the health facilities. These needs were put together in the list of items procured. The items procured are in line with what is needed in those facilities for the potential projections in managing the pandemic. Specifications were provided by the team and the World Bank Task Team Leader.

Fuel from GNPC for Security:
The fuel procured by the Ministry of Health (MoH) was done in accordance with the budget approved by the multi-stakeholder Committee on procurement and finance for the operations of security in support of the Covid-19 response activities. However, as part of the coordination arrangement agreed among the various security apparatuses, the offices of the National Security Adviser and the Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIGP) were responsible of the management of the fuel which MoH procured at the GNPC. GPPA approval Ref: GPPA/MOHSW/TR 17/20/(2)/(B.S) of 10th June 2020 was sought and obtained for the amount of D2,489,249.93 for the single source purchase of 48,296.51 litres of diesel and10,312.50 litres of petrol. For the understanding of your audience however, it should be noted that the pump price for diesel and petrol are virtually the same for all players in the Gambian market and thus, in that time of an emergency, it does not make much sense for MOH to waste time collecting quotations only to generate the same values. The Ministry therefore as part of the approved budgeted quantities for the Security a letter was formally written to GNPC for quotations for amounts within the RFQ threshold (different allocations executed on different dates) and made direct settlement for those payments captured in your reporter’s quoted D5, 745,596.76.

Imprest Retirement:
As a matter of fact imprests are retired after the completion of activities they are issued for, or before end of the particular year at 31st December. It should be noted however that at the time of the audit exercise, implementation of the training of health staff was yet to be completed and therefore not due to be retired. Subsequently, all retirement documents have been put together and are in the process of being retired before end of December.

It is very important for Standard Newspaper to stop misleading the General public creating doubts in the minds of the public against the very hard working, committed, dedicated staff of the Ministry of Health who have been sacrificing and spending sleepless nights working both days and night even over the week-ends to ensure that the country have a successful Covid-19 response to save the lives of the people.
Please publish above for the consumption of your wider readership.

Muhamadou Lamin Jaiteh
Permanent Secretary 1
Ministry of Health
The Gambia
Tel: +2209966258/5378060
toubab1020 Posted - 27 Dec 2021 : 18:36:43
Very interesting,what will happen now?
,Ahhhh I KNOW..... a "clarification" will be issued by the government very soon,so everyone will know where the money ended up.

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https://standard.gm/audit-reveals-over-d148m-avoidable-loss-by-govt/

============

By Omar Bah on December 24, 2021

Continuing our coverage of the damning revelation of the National Audit Office on government’s Covid response, we now turn our attention to the Ministry of Health.

According to the auditors, the Ministry of Health’s failure to negotiate contract terms with suppliers ATC and AKKA cost the government D148, 209,858.

The auditors said they reviewed the procurement contract of medical items between the Ministry of Health and TMS-Turkey supplies and also obtained confirmation from the correspondence of TMS-Turkey supplies dated 13 May 2020 and noted that the MoH signed a contract for procurement of medical items by the World Bank through the Project Coordination Unit (PCU) amounting to $3,946,637 equivalent to about D197, 331,850 without being negotiated contrary to normal procedure.

The auditors also added that their analysis showed that price negotiation with TMS or the use of alternative suppliers such as ATC and AKKA suppliers that also provided quotes could be a huge savings for the government. “The Ministry could have potentially saved $1,255,071 equivalent to D62,753,563 and $1,722,098 equivalent to D86,104,929 from suppliers ATC and AKKA respectively,” the report added.

According to the auditors, some D100M was expended by the Ministry of Health in its Covid-19 response (procurement and distribution of medical items) without providing justifications on how the contract was awarded.

“From our review of procurement and other related documents and discussions with the procurement officer at Project Coordination Unit (PCU) of the Ministry of Health, we noted that PCU procured medical items worth D 100,000,000 equivalent to USD 2,000,000 being the Government expenditure from GLF related to procurement of medical items and equipment in the response to the pandemic. However, we noted that the method of identifying the supplier awarded the contract was not specified in the procurement documents and could not be explained by the procurement officer at the PCU,” the report said.

The report also highlighted that the Ministry of Health has failed to record donated items in the inventory system and tally cards and they were also not found in the store at the time of the audit.

Wasteful expenditure

The auditors further highlighted that the ministry of health expended D100M on items not needed to the fight against Covid-19.

“In its COVID-19 Preparedness and Response, the MoH contributed D100 million towards the World Bank project for the procurement of medical supplies and equipment. Under the project, a contract was signed between the MoH and TMS-Turkey supplies worth $3,946,637 equivalent to approximately D197, 331,855 for the supply of medical items and equipment to the Ministry. However, our review of the procurement file indicated that items worth $116,490 equivalent to GMDD5, 824,500 were found not relevant to the fight against COVID-19 as they were kept in store and not distributed at the time of drafting this report,” the auditors noted.

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