April 11, 2016 By Hassan Gbassay Koroma
While serving as Defence Minister, Alfred Palo Conteh, was a key player in an agreement for the procurement and supply of 126 common used and specialised vehicles, worth a whooping US$15.7m, for the Sierra Leone Armed Forces, according to the Auditor General’s Report for 2014.
The Report says the contract was in two lots of 69 and 57, with two suppliers, involving the sum of US$10,654,168 and US$5,058,368 respectively, totaling US$15, 712, 536.
However, the Report noted that only 49 out of the 162 vehicles ordered were delivered to the Ministry of Defense, leaving an outstanding balance of 77 vehicles.
The Report pointed out that a comparison of the invoice prices with the National Public Procurement Authority (NPPA) price norms, current market price and prices of similar vehicles procured by other government agencies, revealed that the vehicles were over priced by 30 billion Leones, which equivalent to US$6.1 million.
The auditors describe the act as a clear manifestation of “total disregard for the principles of economy in the use of public funds by those acting on behalf of the government in the contract agreements,” adding that some of the vehicles delivered did not match the specifications in the contract agreement.
“For example, two ambulances were supplied instead of mini-buses. Two defective vehicles were returned to the supplier and up to the time of writing this report the vehicles, valued at US$620,000 have not been replaced or fixed by the contractor. There were other deviations in specifications as well,” the Report added.
The Report noted that although the contract required that “all taxes, levies and other expenses be borne by the supplier, there was no evidence that duties amounting to Le9.7 billion was paid.”
The auditors further maintained that even though the contract agreement stipulates that “suppliers shall provide servicing spear parts for a period of one year,” there was no evidence to confirm that the suppliers had complied or that spare parts were ever provided to the Ministry of Defense.
According to the auditors, the issues which were discovered do not inspire confidence that resources are being managed optimally with due regard for economy, efficiency or effectiveness.
Both Mr. Conteh and the Ministry of Defence have kept sealed lips over the potentially embarrassing allegations.
Mr. Conteh was moved away from the defence ministry to serve as Chief Executive Officer of the National Ebola Response Committee in 2015, but did not return to his former post even after the outbreak was declared over by WHO.
Aside the mind boggling alleged defence contract scam, the second Audit Report on the Mangament of Ebola funds during his tenure as head of NERC did not give him a clean bill of health, either.
He has since been appointed Minister of Internal Affairs and is expected to be approved by Parliament, after the Committee on Appointments infamously only asked him to pronounce ‘Ebola’ during his interview.
Meanwhile, both sets of Audit Reports are yet to be deliberated on by the parliamentary Committee on Public Accounts, months after they have been tabled by Auditor-General, Madam Lara Taylor-Pearce.