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THE INQUEST

Report on the audit of the management of the Ebola funds - May to October 2014

February 16, 2015 By Audit Service Sierra Leone

From Last Edition

DUPLICATED EBOLA COMMUNITY SENSITISATION PAYMENT TO THE MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT FOR CONSTITUENCY 93

FINDING

Given that approximately Le63 million was earlier paid within the current year to each Member of Parliament for constituency sensitisation on the Ebola outbreak, we noted that an additional amount of Le110,640,000 was paid to the Honourable Member of Parliament for Constituency 93 on 22nd August 2014, in respect of daily subsistence allowance (DSA) and fuel to facilitate the same community sensitisation in the Goderich area. It was further observed that retirement details for the said amount were not submitted for audit inspection.

RISK

Duplication of effort for the same activity within the same constituency could create the avenue for the misuse of much needed funds. The additional amount could have been utilised to combat the Ebola epidemic in other affected areas.

This could also create the avenue for individuals to exploit the limited resources meant for the fight against the epidemic, thereby hindering the early response to the outbreak.

RECOMMENDATION

It is recommended that the Permanent Secretary (PS) and the Director of Financial Resources (DFR) should provide adequate explanation for honouring this request within seven (7) days of the receipt of this report. In addition, the relevant returns including the community sensitisation report on the outcome of the activity for the said amount should be submitted by the recipient for audit inspection within seven (7) days of the receipt of this report. Failing which, the total amount should be refunded to the Emergency Operations Account and evidence of payment forwarded to the Audit Service for verification.

MANAGEMENT’S RESPONSE

Le110,640,000 was paid to the Member of Parliament of Constituency 93 on 22nd August 2014 on the instructions of the former Minister of Health and Sanitation during the emergency Ebola outbreak. However, the above amount was paid before the pronouncement of government to give approximately Le63 million to each Member of Parliament. In addition, the relevant documentary evidence for Le110,460,000 have been requested from the Member of Parliament of Constituency 93 and will be submitted for audit inspection.

 AUDITOR’S VERIFICATION

During the course of the verification exercise, the audit team confirmed that the payment of Le110,460,000 by the Ministry to the Honorable Member was indeed on the 22nd of August 2014. However, the team further confirmed that the payment of Constituency Development Fund which was later converted for Ebola sensitisation, to Honourable Members by Parliament was on the 18th August 2014.

We therefore note that the Ministry’s payment was made three days after the payment by Parliament for the same activity. This indicates that due diligence was not conducted by the Ministry before payment was effected. In addition, the relevant retirement details were not made available for verification and therefore the auditors could not eliminate the possibility of a “double dip” by the Honourable Member. In conclusion, this matter is unresolved.

PAYMENTS FOR SERVICES THROUGH THE ICT DIRECTOR OF THE MINISTRY, RATHER THAN THE SERVICE PROVIDERS

FINDING

Amounts which totalled Le171,360,000 were paid directly to the ICT Director, for radio and television programmes for the Ebola epidemic rather than directly to the various service providers.

RISK

Disbursing amounts in the name of an individual rather than the beneficiary organisation creates the leeway for such payments to be converted into personal use.

RECOMMENDATION

It is recommended that the PS and DFR should give adequate explanation for this occurrence; and that the ministry desists from such practices. In future, the DFR should ensure that payments be made in the names of the beneficiary organisations and not individuals.

MANAGEMENT’S RESPONSE

The recommendation of the Auditor General has been strictly adhered to. However, the ICT Director requested for all the radio programmes and it was his responsibility in an emergency period to make sure that the advertisement on radio was adequately broadcast. Furthermore, the ministry accepted to desist from such practices in future.

AUDITOR’S VERIFICATION

Although the Director was responsible for managing the radio programmes, it does not mean that the various service providers could not have been paid directly. We further observed that the Director failed to provide retirement details, therefore the issues is unresolved.

WITHHOLDING TAXES NEITHER DEDUCTED NOR PAID OVER TO THE NATIONAL REVENUE AUTHORITY (NRA)

FINDING

Inconsistencies were observed for a number of procurement activities agreed on between the MoHS and the suppliers; with some not having any provision for the deduction and remittance of the 5% withholding tax to the NRA. As such the Ministry failed in its obligation to withhold the 5% tax estimated at Le525,721,555.36 and US$70,500 respectively.

RISK

This may lead to the loss of public funds.

RECOMMENDATION

The DFR should ensure that all payments above Le500,000 must attract withholding tax deduction at 5%; and these should be paid over to NRA.

The DFR should also ensure that the amounts in question are recovered from the various suppliers within seven (7) days of receipt of this report. Failing which the PS should refund the amounts in question and evidence of payment forwarded to the Audit Service for verification.

MANAGEMENT’S RESPONSE

Audit recommendations are taken in good faith and steps will be put in place to improve on the process of deducting 5% withholding taxes and pay immediately to National Revenue Authority (NRA). However, letters have been written to all concerned and will be produced for audit inspection.

AUDITOR’S VERIFICATION

Samples of letters written to the various suppliers and contractors by the Permanent Secretary were produced for audit verification. However, recoveries of the amounts in question have still not been done. Therefore, the matter should be referred to the National Revenue Authority for necessary action and the Auditor General be advised of any action taken.

INCENTIVE PAYMENTS TO HEALTH CARE VOLUNTEERS /CASUAL WORKERS

FINDING

Payments which amounted to Le25,500,900,000.00 were made between the period to 31st October 2014 in respect of “hazard pay” to healthcare workers in various hospitals nationwide for which supporting documents such as claim sheets and paid-up vouchers were not submitted for audit inspection.

RISK

Monies may have been used for purposes not related to combating the Ebola epidemic, thereby leading to a delay in eradicating the virus quickly and stemming possible loss of lives.

RECOMMENDATION

The DFR and concerned medical superintendents should ensure that the relevant supporting documents are submitted within seven (7) days of the receipt of this report. Otherwise, the whole amount should be refunded and evidence of payment into the Emergency Operations account forwarded to the Audit Service for verification.

MANAGEMENT’S RESPONSE

The recommendation of the Auditor General has been strictly adhered to. However, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation had written to all Medical Superintendents and the District Medical Officers to submit the relevant supporting documents for audit inspection. The documents will be ready for further verification.

AUDITOR’S VERIFICATION

The letter referred to above by the Permanent Secretary was neither attached to his response, nor was it produced during audit verification.

During audit verification, the Ministry provided supporting documents for the sum of Le4,618,900,000. However, supporting documents for the balance of Le20,882,000,000 were not produced for audit verification. Therefore this matter is resolved.

OBSERVATIONS ON FUNDS TRANSFERRED TO FOUR (4) EBOLA HOLDING CENTRES

BOMBALI DISTRICT

– OVERSTATEMENT OF LE216,800,000 IN RESPECT OF INCENTIVE PAYMENTS TO HEALTHCARE WORKERS

FINDING

Review of the expenditure returns including the claims sheets for an amount of Le571,200,000 transferred revealed the following observations:

1. The serial numbering of the names of healthcare workers provided by the Makeni Government Hospital was distorted with gaps in the numbering of the entitled beneficiaries. The serial numbering jumped from 109 to 200 (91 places/counts), and also from 209 to 300 (91 places/counts). It was observed that these gaps were repeated throughout the list at various intervals and by various counts.

2. The anomaly in the list submitted for payments being overstated by 271 names amounted to Le216,800,000.

RISK

There is a risk of possible misappropriation of these funds.

RECOMMENDATION

The Medical Superintendent (MS) should also ensure that the relevant supporting documents are submitted within seven (7) days of the receipt of this report. Otherwise, the Le216,800,000 should be refunded and evidence of payment into the ministry’s Emergency Operations account forwarded to the Audit Service for verification.

MANAGEMENT’S RESPONSE

The Ministry of Health and Sanitation had earlier written to the Bombali District Medical Superintendent requesting for an adequate explanation on the above issue. The Medical Superintendent replied with relevant supporting documents which will be produced for audit inspection.

AUDITOR’S VERIFICATION

The Ministry failed to produce the letter referred to above together with the relevant supporting documents. The matter should be referred to the appropriate authority.

CONNAUGHT HOSPITAL

– PAYMENT OF INCENTIVES TO UNAUTHORISED HEALTHCARE WORKERS

FINDING

Review of the expenditure returns provided by Connaught Hospital revealed the following observations on funds transferred:

1. Casual and volunteer workers received incentives of Le144,800,000 without contract or temporary appointment letters. See Appendix “A8” for details.

2. Le61,200,000 was paid as incentives to hospital staff who were without approved PIN codes.

3. Unauthorised and unapproved payments that amounted to Le41,800,000 were made to security guards of a private security company, as incentives.

4. Incentive payments made without recipients’ signatures acknowledging receipt of such funds amounted to Le3,200,000.

RISK

Monies may have been used for purposes not related to combating the Ebola epidemic, thereby leading to a delay in eradicating the virus quickly and stemming of possible loss of lives.

RECOMMENDATION

The Hospital Care Manager should ensure that the relevant supporting documents are submitted within seven (7) days of the receipt of this report. Otherwise, the whole amount of Le252,200,000 should be refunded and evidence of payment into the Ministry’s Emergency Operations account forwarded to the Audit Service for verification.

MANAGEMENT’S RESPONSE

The above issues occurred during an emergency outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in Sierra Leone. Casual and volunteer workers were recruited during the emergency period. However, the Hospital Care Manager will submit the relevant supporting documents for audit verifications.

AUDITOR’S VERIFICATION

The Ministry/Hospital Care Manager failed to produce the relevant supporting documents. The matter should be referred to the appropriate authority.

ROKUPA GOVERNMENT HOSPITAL

– UNCLAIMED INCENTIVE PAYMENT OF LE1,800,000 IN RESPECT OF HEALTHCARE WORKERS

Review of the expenditure returns revealed the following observation on funds transferred:

An amount of Le3,400,000 rather than Le5,200,000 in respect of unclaimed incentives were returned or paid into the Health Emergency Response Account at Sierra Leone Commercial Bank as per the bank paying-in-slip. It was observed that the difference of Le1,800,00.00 was not refunded.

RISK

There is a risk of possible misappropriation of these funds.

RECOMMENDATION

The MS should ensure that the outstanding amount of Le1,800,000 is paid back into the Health Emergency Response Account within seven (7) days of the receipt of this report; and forward evidence of payment to the Audit Service Sierra Leone for verification. Otherwise the appropriate authority would be informed.

MANAGEMENT’S RESPONSE

The Medical Superintendent is going to be contacted immediately for the outstanding payment paid back into Health Emergency Account and receipt or evidence of payment be produced for audit verification.

AUDITOR’S VERIFICATION

The Ministry failed to provide evidence of the refund; therefore this matter should be referred to the appropriate authority.