Ebola audit saga…


Gov’t owes contractors US$156m

March 19, 2015 By Jariatu S. Bangura

NERC National Coordinator, Steven Gaojia
NERC National Coordinator, Steven Gaojia

The Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL) owes contractors – Ramesco General Supplies and Echo Construction Enterprises – a combined sum of US$156 million, according to Deputy Auditor General, Tamba Momoh.

Momoh, who was speaking Tuesday at a Public Accounts Committee hearing in Parliament, said Ramesco General Supplies is owed US$16m while Echo Construction Enterprises ought to be paid US$140m, equalling a joint equivalent of Le709,112,500, as stated in the audit report on management of Ebola funds.

He said a review of the contract documents between GoSL and Ramesco General Supplies revealed that it was financed by the African Development Bank Group, while minutes and reports of procurement meetings held to select suppliers indicate no objection by members of the Procurement Committee at the Ministry of Health regarding the procurement of 10 ambulances, five Toyota Hilux vans, and 38 motorbikes, amounting to US$1,031,000.00.

He said the same institution was contracted for the supply of medical supplies to the tune of US$3,465,423.97.

He said auditors observed that the contract was awarded to Ramesco even though they did not possess the requisite license for such procurement, as stated in the ‘Invitation for Bids’ notice, while no market survey was carried out to ensure value for money.

Momoh also stated that Echo Construction Company was contracted to overhaul electrical connection at the Kenema government hospital Ebola treatment center and operation theatre for a whopping amount of Le709, 112, 500.

Responding to the committee, Procurement Officer at the Ministry of Health, Ibrahim Swaray, said the ministry’s Permanent Secretary called an emergency Procurement Committee meeting to decide on whom to award the contract, and that the meeting decided on Ramesco based on tender document of the African Development Bank’s rules and regulations.

Swaray said prior to the award of the contract the Permanent Secretary wrote to the bank to notify them on the advance payment, adding that when the auditors visited the ministry he was busy on another emergency assignment.

He said 30% payment had been made for the drugs while the original documents are with WHO and the World Bank.

According to Ramesco’s Chief Executive Officer, Daklala Antar, he pre-financed the procurement of the items and received $1,015,929 after he supplied the items but had since not received his balance payment from the ministry or the African Development Bank, noting that the documents were now ready for verification.

Permanent Secretary Sadiq Kapuwa said he had written a letter to the National Ebola Response Center (NERC) with regards payment due to Ramesco General Supplies and other companies.

National Coordinator of NERC, Steven Gaojia, said they pay monies after certain procedures have been followed, including standards set by the African Development Bank and the World Bank, adding that there are lots of files stacked in his office for payment but they are waiting for orders to do so.

He said the documents tendered by Echo Construction Enterprise have been with DBO audit firm since November last year, and that payment would not be made until they are cleared. “We have to be advised thoroughly,” he said.

Hon. Hassan Sheriff said the $16m has to be paid to Ramesco General Supplies and urged that the relevant documents should be submitted in order to facilitate the payment of the contractors as soon as possible, noting that Audit Service was doing their best to ensure that businesses pay monies owed to government, hence the latter should do likewise.

But chairman of the committee, Hon. Chernoh R.M. Bah, noted that it seems both the Permanent Secretary and the Procurement Officer do not have documents to tender for monies disbursed, which he said was shameful.

“It took you quick to give document for monies to be released but as soon as the monies are given no documents now to explain how the monies were expended. If goods are to be procured, payment must be made immediately after those goods are received,” he said.

He urged that a comprehensive list of creditors be submitted to the committee and report of how they were awarded, during the next hearing.