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Second Ebola Audit Report reveals…

Lapses in fix assets management by NERC & MOHS

February 29, 2016 By Jariatu S. Bangura

Auditor General, Mrs. Lara Taylor-Pearce,

Auditor General, Mrs. Lara Taylor-Pearce,

The second phase of the Auditor General’s report on the management of Ebola Funds reveals there were lapses in the way and manner in which fixed assets were managed and controlled by both the National Ebola Response Center (NERC) and the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MOHS).

The report, which was tabled in Parliament last Thursday, is the second on the management of Ebola funds by NERC, covering the period November 2014 to April 2015.

The first report drew unprecedented irk from the public after it emerged that billions were lost to bad procurement and financial irregularity by both public and private organizations.

The outbreak killed no fewer than 4,000 people, while thousands more survived the worst Ebola epidemic so far in the history of mankind.

A parliamentary investigation into the first report recommended that few individuals and organisations refund monies they had collected ostensibly to carry out sensitisation or for their failure to pay withholding taxes to the National Revenue Authority (NRA).

In her Executive summary, Auditor General of Audit Service Sierra Leone, Mrs. Lara Taylor-Pearce said NERC did not ensure that majority of vehicles and motorbikes assigned to them were registered, licensed and insured.

“It was observed that NERC had no policy in place for the management and use of its fixed assets. The assets register presented by them did not cover furniture and fittings, computers and other equipment that were bought by/donated by international partners for its operations,” said Mrs. Taylor-Pearce.

She added that a number of vehicles and motorbikes which were controlled by NERC were unavailable for physical verification, while the MoHS did not provide the audit team with a list of vehicles, ambulances and motorcycles that were transferred to NERC and other Ebola related institutions.

“We were unable to see a structured plan or basis upon which those assets were distributed by the ministry,” said the report.

The Auditor General said some procurement actions were neither open, nor competitive and transparent, adding that control measures that were supposed to have been instituted when procurements are done in an emergency situation were completely ignored.

Madam Taylor–Pearce revealed that payment to Mac Med Investment in the tune of Le840 million on November 2014 for the supply of discharge packages to survivors in the regions was in excess of Le80 million.

“It was noted that the withholding tax of forty million Leones (Le40,00,000) was added to the contractor’s total/actual cost of eight hundred million Leones (Le800,000,000) instead of it being deducted at sources from the actual cost,” the report notes.

In addition, she said the sum of  Le500 million was paid to Catherine’s Catering Services for the supply of food to specific Ebola centres in Bombali district even though the fiduciary agent who was responsible for certifying payment could not rely on the payment request made by the contractor.

Also, the report reveals that comments and recommendations made by the Public Account Committee (PAC) in respect of the first Ebola management audit report were not implemented by institutions or officers concerned, including Mr. Charles Mambu, who is yet to repay a loan of Le160, 900,000 as recommended by PAC, despite the stipulated one month period elapsing.

The report further notes that PAC had urged NERC and the Ministry of Health to fast-track all outstanding payments to suppliers after the adoption of their report, but that was far from been completed, while there was no evidence that the NRA had ensure the collection of all outstanding taxes withheld or supposed to have been withheld.

“We have not been provided with any evidence to indicate that such outstanding taxes have been recovered,” said the report.

Meanwhile, since the Auditor General tabled the annual public expenditure report for the 2014 financial year on 17 December 2015, it is yet to be deliberated on by PAC. It therefore remains unclear which one of the two audit reports will be first deliberated on by lawmakers.