‘64,470 bags of fertilizer not supplied’

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-Internal Auditor reveals

February 27, 2019

By Hassan Gbassay Koroma

President Bio making his presentation
Principal Internal Auditor, Mohamed Michael Conteh, testifying at the inquiry

The Principal Internal Auditor at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security, Mohamed Michael Conteh, has narrated at the ongoing Commission of Inquiry room 2, presided over by Justice Bankole Thompson that only twenty-five thousand five hundred and thirty bags of 50kg of the total quantity of Urea fertilizer were supplied, while a remainder of sixty-four thousand, four hundred and seventy bags were not.

“We noted in our report that there was a short supply between approval and supply of two thousand two hundred and twenty five bags of NPK 15-15 at the Kissy Central Store. We also noted that only twenty-five thousand five hundred and thirty bags of 50kg of the total quantity of the fertilizer were supplied,” he narrated.

Mohamed Michael Conteh, who is the 8th State Witness at the ongoing Commissions of Inquiry, said he has served as internal auditor since 5th August 2015, adding that some of his core responsibilities were to ensure that internal controls were met by all and sundry, as well as served as the principal adviser to the vault controller on all audit related issues.

He said as internal auditor at the ministry, he only came to realise that the ministry had procured fertilizer in 2017, through a certain friend he could not name.

He reiterated that he was not aware as to when the procurement was done, even though the procurement Act of 2016 and other supporting rules provide that the internal auditor should be aware about the process.

He said when he came to know that the ministry had procured the fertilizer without his knowledge, he immediately, on 11th April, 2017, wrote a memo to the Permanent Secretary, reminding him of the bridge and his dissatisfaction about being excluded from the process.

He said after writing the memo, he further spoke with the Permanent Secretary in person, and that on 30th June, 2017, he wrote another letter requesting  the release of documents to enable his office review the process, but that he was never provided with those documents.

He said on the same 30th June 2017, he also wrote to the Permanent Secretary, requesting that the Internal Audit Office at the ministry be part of the distribution process of the fertilizer, but that none of his staff were included in the process.

He further that on 4th January, 2018, the then Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security, Professor Monti Jones, summoned a meeting in which he expressed dissatisfaction over the management of the  fertilizer and instructed him to conduct an audit on the entire process.

He said they conducted audit on the distribution process from the Kissy Store, respective districts to the Farmer Based Organizations (FBOs), adding that they submitted their findings on 30th January, 2018.

He said during the second phase of audit, they prepared a concept note and submitted it to the minister for approval, but stated that the minister refused to approve the said concept.

He continued that they stated in their report that despite the many requests made by his office, they were not provided with the comprehensive list of famers or Farmer Based Organizations, adding that they noted a shortage of 3,496 bags of fertilizer at the Kissy Central Store, which cost about Two Hundred and Eight-Five Thousand, Two Hundred and Eight United States Dollars.

He further that one hundred and fifty two bags of NPK-0-20-20 fertilizer could not be accounted for.

The witness narrated that the then Acting Chief Store Keeper, had told them that the missing bags were damaged due to flooding, but that no evidence was provided to ascertain the claim.

He said in their report, they recommended that evidence to support that process be laydown by management on the distribution of the fertilizer to the farmers and Farmer Based Organizations, and all documentations requested by his office from the ministry must be provided with immediate effect.

He said they recommended also that all effort must be made by the management of the ministry to retrieve the missing bags of fertilizer.