March 20, 2015 By Jariatu S. Bangura
An official from KPMG auditing firm yesterday told members of the Public Accounts Committee in Parliament that the reason they withdrew from auditing the management of Ebola funds was due to issues about procurement and lack of cooperation from officials at the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Transport and Aviation.
Vidal Decker said sometime last year KPMG was contracted by government to audit the Ebola funds, which they agreed to do, with a written note of understanding signed by them to commence work on 22 August, 2014.
He said their service was sought to perform financial services and procurement management for a six-month period and professional fee of US$135,000. He revealed that they encountered lots of challenges when they commenced work which was unsuitable for their staff and normal standards of operation.
He said they held several meetings with staffs of both ministries to address the issue and that because of the high death rate of the Ebola, “We decided to offer the job for free as our own contribution in the fight. We tried all we could but the atmosphere was not suitable for us and we then wrote a letter in order to stop work on 2 October, 2014, to the EOC.”
Coordinator of NERC, Steven Gaojia, who was former head of the Ebola Operations Centre which has since been transformed to NERC, confirmed the narrative of the head of KPMG, although he maintained the auditing firm was given comfortable space to operate in.
Former Permanent Secretary at the Minister of Health, Sadiq Kapuwa, said they had received letters of complaint from KPMG but were unable to discuss it with the Procurement Officer of the Ministry of Transport and Aviation due to lethargy on the part of the Procurement Officer of the Health Ministry.
But Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Chernoh R.M. Bah, insisted that there could be no reasonable excuse for their failure to have discussed correspondences from the audit firm and to avail documents for auditing.
He noted that payments were made to Premier Logistics even though KPMG did not approve contract fees, thus flouting procurement rules, which left KPMG with no option but to leave.
However, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Transport and Aviation claimed they could not wait for KPMG’s advise because of the emergency situation they had at hand as there was urgent need to make payment for the conversion of vehicles into hearses.
Samuel Noldred of BDO audit firm said they commenced operation on 24th November, 2014 for a six-month period and a fee of US$150,000. He said when they commenced work they realised the emergency was affecting their work as that was when the Western Area Operation Surge was introduced, adding that a memo was signed for an interim operation to be carried out to manage the situation properly, which process was followed.
He revealed that even after they signed the contract there were lots of gaps left which forced them to subsequently return to the ministry’s officials to remedy, and that was achieved.
He said there was no indication where funds should be accessed to effect payments to contractors, and that it was only last week that the World Bank sanctioned payment for one out of seven payments that were supposed to have been made.