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‘Corruption’ slowed Ebola response

Health Ministry can’t account for Le17bn - Ebola funds probe by Audit Service reveals

February 13, 2015

THUMPS UP … Auditor General, Lara Taylor-Pearce

THUMPS UP … Auditor General, Lara Taylor-Pearce

Monies set aside for the purpose of combating the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone may have been used for unintended purposes, thereby slowing the government’s response to eradicate the virus, notes a report on the audit of the management of the Ebola funds laid on the table of Parliament yesterday by the deputy Speaker of the House, Hon. Chernor Maju Bah.

The report, titled “Audit of the Management of the Ebola Funds”, covers the period between May and October 2014.

Among the plethora of revelations made by Audit Service Sierra Leone (ASSL) is the Ministry of Health and Sanitation’s alleged failure to produce any documentation for contract agreements that amounted to Le17 billion (including Le12.7 billion for the purchase of 50 vehicles and ambulances, and Le2.7 billion for the construction of the Port Loko Treatment Centre) – all to aid the fight against the dreaded Ebola virus.

“There was a complete disregard for the law on public procurement in an emergency situation. For instance, contracts were entered into without any clear guidelines on the specification of items required,” the report discloses. “Furthermore, contracts were badly drawn up as if to allow for additional costs to be incurred thereby preventing a transparent, competitive and cost effective procurement.”

The ASSL report further highlights that the contract in respect of the purchase of 20 ambulances for a contract sum of US$1,050,000 was inappropriately entered into “as specific areas relating to the inspection, transportation and delivery of the ambulances were excluded in the Special Conditions of the contract”.

Consequently, the report notes, additional costs of $60,590 and Le39,330,000 were incurred in respect of air freight, daily subsistence allowance and airfare for the ambulances bought by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation.

In addition, contracts worth over Le1 billion in respect of food for quarantined homes were awarded to various suppliers without regard to the provisions of the procurement regulation in relation to procurement in an emergency, it adds.

The ASSL audit team further found that payments were made to the Member of Parliament for Constituency 93 in Goderich to carry out sensitisation activities even though an amount had earlier been paid to all seating members of parliament for similar activities.

Also, the report indicts civil society activist and Executive Director of Health For All Coalition (HFAC), Charles Mambu, whose organisation was said to have been loaned the sum of Le421,800,000 for scaling up of the response to the Ebola fight. The auditors were however concerned that the said loaned amount was made in the name of Charles Mambu instead of HFAC, the organisation which he represents.

“In addition, the loan was not documented and the repayment terms were not agreed between the ministry and HFAC,” the report indicates.

To this, the report recommends that the Permanent Secretary and the Director of Financial Resources in the Ministry of Health provide adequate explanation for this discrepancy within seven days of the receipt of the report. The ministry, it admonishes, should also ensure that it desists from such practices and that all further payments be addressed in the name of the beneficiary organisations and not individuals.

“The Permanent Secretary should also submit to the Audit Service within seven (7) days an approved repayment terms and conditions for the recovery of the loan given to the Health for All Coalition for audit inspection; and also implement the necessary measures to recover the funds within the shortest possible time,” ASSL demands.

See page 2 for full details of the report…