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Audit report exposes procurement frailties

Janauary 20, 2016  By Alusine Sesay

The 2014 audit report of public institutions in Sierra Leone has exposed government’s continuous failure to provide adequate evidence that proper procurement procedures were followed during the year under review.

Despite the setting up of the National Public Procurement Authority (NPPA), the issue of flouting procurement procedures still remains a huge challenge.

Experts opine that procurement is the main conduit through which corruption in public sector thrives, thus the need for government to pay more attention to the area in order to curb the menace in society.

According to the 2014 audit report, uncompetitive and unfair procurement processes, inadequate contract management and missing tender documentations were observed during the course of the audit.

“There was no evidence that auditees had followed a fair, transparent and competitive process for some awards. For instance, Le1.27 billion (of the amount selected for audit sampling) was identified as procurements undertaken by various ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) for the supply of goods and services, but that these procurements were observed to have been split with the possible intention of avoiding the need for national competitive tendering,” the report reveals.

The report underscores that the importance of competitive tendering is to ensure that maximum value for money is achieved, and that splitting procurement to avoid such a process undermines this goal, as well as breaking the law.

It adds that Le648 million procurements were carried out in 2014, but certain salient documents such as invoices, GST returns, and contract documents were not submitted upon request.

Similar observations were made in the 2013 audit report that uncompetitive and unfair procurement processes, inadequate contract management and missing tender documentation were observed during the course of the audit.

“In many cases there was no evidence of fair, transparent and competitive processes being followed in awarding contracts. For instance, we found that MDAs undertook Le9.2 billion in procurements for which the NPPA regulations were not followed,” stated the 2013 report.

In addition, salient supporting documents such as performance bonds, GST returns, and contractual agreements covering Le13.3 billion of procurements, though requested, were not presented for audit. Furthermore, Le1.64 billion out of a total contract price of Le2.3 billion was paid before the contract was signed, said the 2013 report.

The report further noted that procurement regulations are in place to ensure government achieves value for money when it purchases goods and services, and that there is a significant risk that the objective is not met and that government money is wasted if proper procedures are not followed.