By Landing Ceesay
The National Audit Office of the Gambia said the contract payments for the construction of the office of the President and rehabilitation of the Statehouse suggest “high-level corruption.”
The contract documents signed on 2nd May 2019 revealed that GAI Enterprise was awarded a contract of D 17,488,155.63 for the construction of a new President’s Office and rehabilitation works at the Statehouse.
The Auditors said their review of the contract documents, however, showed that the contractor was required by GPPA to revise the Bill of Quantities (BOQ) and resubmit for approval before work can commence.
The Auditors said the amendments to the contract that were required to be made before work could commence include the following: to clearly define/ clarify the supervisory role/s of the work as this is not indicated in the submission; Remove the GMD 950,000.00 contingency allocation from the contract; and the subtotal of GMD 55,770.00 on page 2 of 11 of the BOQ to be added to the grand total of D 17,488,155.63.
“We noted that despite the failure of the contractor to make the amendments directed by the GPPA, work went ahead, nonetheless,” the Auditors said.
National Audit Office said there is a risk that the contract was not approved by GPPA. And that Value for money, transparency, and accountability are completely overlooked.
“We request that evidence be provided to confirm that the required amendments were made before the commencement of work. In the event that the amendments were not made before work began, the Office of the President should explain their failure to comply. In the future, we recommend that the Office of the President adhere to the Laws and Regulations of the Government of The Gambia in all procurements to ensure that public funds are judiciously spent. The Bill of Quantities (BOQ) was revised accordingly. However, it was inadvertently not resubmitted to GPPA for their records,” the NAO started.
The Auditors said there is no evidence of a revised BOQ approved by GPPA up to the time of finalizing the management letter.
The Auditors said during the review of the procurement process of the work at Statehouse they noted that the review of correspondence from the Ministry of Transport, Works and Infrastructure referenced BLD 31/160/02(22-ES) and dated 20th March 2019, revealed that an assessment was carried out by the Ministry to certify the volume and extent of the rehabilitation works that were carried out at State House the result of which was used as the basis for the payment of D 17,488,155.63 to GAI Enterprise.
The Auditors revealed that the assessment was carried out prior to the approval from GPPA on 29th March 2019 for the use of a single source and the subsequent contract signing on 2nd May 2019.
The NAO said it is clear that approval was sought for the use of a single source well after the rehabilitation work was completed.
“This is a gross violation of the GPPA regulations. Furthermore, an examination of the procurement documents revealed that goods bought from Fatima trading amounting to D5, 637,000.00 were delivered to the Office of the President before requesting a single source approval from GPPA. The date on the goods delivery note was 11th March 2019 whilst the date on the GPPA approval was 2nd April 2019. This suggests that the services of Fatima Trading were used three weeks before seeking single source approval from GPPA,” the Auditors revealed.
The National Audit Office further stated that a Review of payment voucher no 01PV023731 dated 21/12/2019 revealed that office equipment to the tune of GMD 50,251.00 was paid to Fatima Trading for which no receipt was provided as well as the signature of recipient to confirm payment received although the items were delivered.
The Auditors said the purchase order and request for quotations were only issued four days after the payment has already been made to the supplier (Fatima Trading) on 27 December 2019.
“This is a reckless disregard for procurement and financial regulations. There is a risk that the procurement process is flawed, and this increases the risk of collusion with officials from the Ministry of Works to issue an assessment report to certify work well before the contract was signed and subsequent request for approval from GPPA for the use of the single source for the said rehabilitation work.
“The failure to comply with the procurement process in respect of this contract could be used to perpetrate fraud. The lack of transparency in the procurement process suggests that fraudulent transactions could have been executed by officials through collusion,” the auditors further revealed.
The Auditors said they requested the Office of the President and the Ministry of Works to provide an explanation for the above anomalies, and also advise the Office of the President to follow due process for all procurements to ensure that public funds are judiciously spent for their intended purpose in accordance with the laws of the Gambia.
Auditors said the GPPA regulations are there to ensure transparency and value for money.
They revealed that the request for retrospective approval of the contract by the Office of the President completely ignores these objectives.
“During the review of procurement committee minutes, we noted that rehabilitation works at State House were considered urgent that necessitated the request to seek approval from GPPA for the use of a single source in awarding the contract. Further review of the contract documents signed between the Government of The Gambia and GAI Enterprise for the rehabilitation works revealed that payments would be made in stages,” the Auditors said.
Auditors revealed that the Advance Payment should be 20% of the contract to a sum of D3,497,631.13; the 1st Interim Payment should be 30% of the contract when the ground floor is completed to the sum of D5,246,446.69; the 2nd Interim Payment should be 30% of the contract when the first floor is completed to a sum of D5,246,446.69: and the final Payment should be 20% of the contract when all other works are completed to a sum of D3,497,631.13 and the total of D17,488,155.63.
“The contract further required that a certificate of completion for each stage would be issued by the Ministry of Works before payment is made.
However, we noted from the review of payment voucher 01PV021043 dated 27th May 2019 that GAI Enterprise was paid the full amount of D 17,488,155.63 as opposed to payment in stages. In addition, copies of the completion certificate for each stage were not provided to the audit team.
“The contract document was faked to cover for the failure to follow procurement regulations. The violations of the contract payment methodology suggest a high-level corruption. Value for money, transparency, and accountability are completely overlooked during the above procurement. There is an increased risk that the contractor might not be held accountable in full for defects or substandard work during the rehabilitation work,” the Auditors revealed.
The Auditors recommend that the Office of the President should provide explanation for the above anomalies.
The Auditors further call on the Office of the President to follow procurement regulations to ensure that public funds are judiciously spent.
Auditors revealed that the contractor only requested payment upon completion of the job and the recommendation is noted, and in the future, they will strictly adhere to the terms and conditions of payment of its contractual obligations.
“The finding remained unresolved up to the time of finalizing this management letter,” the Auditors revealed.