Audit Report 2021: Contract terms not met by Agriculture Ministry

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By Jariatu S. Bangura

Contrary to Section 30 of the Public Procurement Act  of 2016, there was no evidence that contract terms were fully met in the contact implementation of onion production in the Port Loko and Moyamba Districts for  LOT (1) and Falaba and Karene Districts for LOT (2),according to the 2021 Audit Report .

The report indicates that, in 2021, onion production was one project the ministry embarked on that was piloted in four districts. 

It states that the ministry signed contracts with two service providers for the implementation of the onion projects, with a contract value of Le4,940,000,000.00{Le2,625,000,000: for LOT 1 (PortLoko and Moyamba districts) and Le2,315,000,000 for LOT 2 (Falaba and Karene districts).

The report disclosed that the projects were marred by several procurement irregularities, all relating towards the service providers not complying with the contract terms.

“For instance, although 90% (Le4,445,924,000.00) of the total contract cost had been paid to the service providers and the contracts duration completed, activities not undertaken by the service providers were valued atLe3,351,455,000. These activities include: land leasing arrangement, construction of a multipurpose building and developing the irrigation system,” the report reveals.

During the auditors visit to the project sites in the districts, they noted that the communities graciously embraced the project but there was very little or no sensitisation on deliverables in the contracts and strategy on project sustainability.

“The projects were undertaken during an unfavourable planting season. As such, neither the service providers nor the communities could account for the project output.”

Meanwhile, auditors recommended that the service providers be held accountable for the breach and should therefore execute the contracts in full.

“Otherwise, cost in respect of the contract terms not met must be immediately recovered from them and paid into the Consolidated Fund.” 

In their official response, the Procurement Unit of the Ministry responded that the Project was supervised by the Ministry’s Monitoring and Evaluation Department, charged with the responsibility to properly manage/monitor the project. 

But auditors noted that management didn’t provide evidence to indicate that the two contractors had been notified of the breach of the contract terms to fully perform their obligations.

“Additionally, no evidence was submitted to suggest the contracts had been fully completed. The signatories to the contracts on behalf of the government had overall responsibilities to ensure that the terms or clauses of the agreement are fully complied with. Therefore, the issues are unresolved.”

During auditors visit also to the project land preparation site at Tormabum, according to the report,in the Bonthe District, they observed that the project had secured seeds, fertilisers, agro chemicals for 7,000 hectares for the 2022 cultivation,and the services of Machine Ring Managers,but that that there was no evidence of an MoU between the project and the Machine Ring Managers.

“Ring services already rendered were not paid for by the project.Ring Managers and operators were concerned that the service will end due to lack of funds to procure fuel. They also observed that agricultural structures and facilities (market infrastructure, rice mill, warehouse and dry floors, office blocks and accommodation) at Tormabum targeted for rehabilitation and reconstruction were still occupied by people. This issue,if not immediately addressed, will delay the implementation of the project,” the report states.

Auditors recommended that government should immediately secure the budgeted funds for the successful implementation of the project and that agricultural structures and facilities should be immediately handed over to the project for rehabilitation and reconstruction. 

The report states that, in the signed Memoradum of Understanding dated 16th April 2021, between the Ministry and different service providers for machine ring services in 16 districts, but that it was expected that various technical and strategic units in the 

It further states that the ministry was to prepare and submit monthly independent reports certifying work done before payments were made to the ring service providers.

“It was however strange to note that Le16,996,000,000.00 was paid to service providers without evidence of independent certification reports which should be the basis for payments.” 

The report further states that auditors also observed that there was limited involvement of the District Agriculture Officers (DAOs) in monitoring the activities of the machine ring services and that  copies of the signed MoU was not available in the district offices visited.

It states that the districts were also challenged with adequate mobility for monitoring and supervision of agricultural activities in the districts. 

They recommended that the independent certification reports for payments made should be submitted for audit inspection and that the PS and Acting CAO should also ensure that the DAOs become an integral part of the machine ring service, and those adequate vehicles and motorbikes are provided for ease of mobility to monitor farm sites. 

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