By Landing Ceesay
The Minister of Health, Dr. Ahmadou Lamin Samateh, has accused the National Audit Office of exaggeration and alleged a lot of ill-will in the audit process and the final audit report relating to Covid-19 funds procurement and management responses.
Minister Samateh made these comments at a press conference convened on Saturday, April 23rd, at the Ministry of Health in Banjul.
“The complex nature of the audit report and the context are not explained to the general public. Thereby giving the perception of wrongdoing and fraud to the general public and none of these has been proven in the report. It saddens me to say here that there was a lot of ill-will in the audit process and the final audit report.”
“The audit process was carried out by three young auditors who came in with a lot of arrogance as they work with some of our staff. They demonstrated a lot of arrogance to our Permanent Secretary who was their principal partner in the audit process. This made us believe that they came in with a pre-conceived position and mindset making them neglect the explanation and management responses.” Dr. Samateh told the Journalists at a Press Conference.
The Health Minister acknowledged the essence and need for audits in the public domain and therefore does not want people to construe their response to the audit report as a dislike for audits and accountability. The press conference, he continued, was convened to shed light on the audit process that culminated in the final report and what they perceived to be the behavior of the auditors, and how that behaviour may have influenced the final product -the National Audit Report.
Hon. Samateh took issue with the way and nature the report was made public and the negative blowback it is causing for his ministry and the entire government.
“Unfortunately, this report which was leaked by the Standard Newspaper well before it was launched brought about a lot of bad publicity for the Ministry of Health and the government as a whole,”
Dr. Samateh stressed that the Ministry of Health under the current dispensation holds transparency and accountability in all they do paramount. He lamented that during their restructuring process at the Ministry, they took transparency and accountability seriously and they have to a very large extent succeeded in that.
“The Ministry believes that the series of evidence provided as explained in not less than two management responses backed with the required supporting documents continued to be deliberately ignored thereby inimical to the principles of fair and objective reporting in this regard.”
“The Ministry considered the NAOs’ disregard of the ministry’s view as deeply shocking and a manifestation of the audit team’s adamant resolve to not only attract cheap public attention but also a reflection of aggressive intent seen in some of the audit team members during the Ministry’s interaction with them while on the exercise,”
In its recently launched report, the National Audit Office (NAO) reported that the Ministry of Health could have saved D27.7 million if they made timely procurement and negotiations to transport ten ambulances and other medical items to The Gambia. The report alleged that the Ministry of Health could have spent D5 million instead of the D32.7 million they spent on it, leading to a significant loss of public money.
The NAO noted in their report that payment vouchers and supporting documents for food and medical items amounting to D64 million and D7. 5 million, respectively, were not presented for their verification. NAO said without this supporting documentation, they cannot vouch for the authenticity of the payments.
The NAO report further stated that contracts were awarded, and payments made for food and medical items worth D116 million and D2.2 million respectively using a single source procurement method without obtaining GPPA approval. NAO said this is a gross violation of the GPPA rules and regulations. And there is a high risk that value for money was not achieved.
Responding to some of these findings contained in the NAO report, the Health Minister, argued that these findings are found to be somehow exaggerated since the NAO refused to take into account most of the tangible testimonies and supporting documents the Ministry of Health placed at their disposal during the exercise.
“People believe in audit reports and auditors so much. So the audit reports should be objective, not subjective,” Dr. Samateh said.