February 4, 2021
By Jariatu S. Jusu
Chairman of the Public Account Committee, Hon. Segepor S. Thomas, has stated in Parliament that his committee will refer officials of the National Corona Virus Emergency Response Centre (NACOVERC) to the Anti-Corruption (ACC) for further investigations and possible criminal prosecution for the overpricing of procured assets by NACOVERC.
According to the 2019 Auditor General’s Report on the audit of the National Covid Emergency Response Centre (NACOVERC), it was discovered that an excess amount of one hundred and eleven million, nine hundred and fourteen thousand five hundred and forty-two Leones (Le111, 914, 542) was used to purchase assets from various suppliers, way above the preferred Price Norm of the National Public Procurement Authority.
The assets acquired were ergonomic high back swivel chairs, settee foam chairs, office desks with 3 drawers, coffee tables, rectangular tables, executive desk, executive swivel chairs, sofas (3seaters), workstations, 4-seater waiting chairs, giant photo copier, extension cables, memory sticks, eternal drive, office fridge, among others.
Deputy Auditor General, Tamba Momoh, during a public hearing in Parliament, disclosed that the said suppliers were Magala Enterprises, House of Electronics, Fabiz Enterprises, Gassimu Hasmar Trading enterprise, Barracuda Investment & logistics and A1-Umar Ventures.
According to the Finance Officer, Lunyanga N. Kaiwa, all payments made to suppliers were done based on instruction/approvals made by the Coordinator of NaCOVERC.
Deputy Coordinator, Sheku Bangura, told committee members that he was not in office at the time those procurements were done, stating that the substantive coordinator should be in a position to explain better to the committee.
“These are matters of procurement and they were led by the Logistics pillar. Both Brig. Fefegula and A. K Turay were responsible so they should be in position to proffer explanations,” he said.
On his part,Spokesperson for NaCOVERC, Solomon Jamiru, said he will have to restrain himself from answering the questions raised by the committee as he was only in parliament to show solidarity to the team.
He said the Deputy Coordinator had asked for his presence, even though he was engaged with other matters.
He said the question specifically was bothered on finance hence craved the indulgence of the committee to allow him restrain himself.
Logistic Officer at NaCOVERC, Brig. Augustine Fefegula, said of all the issue raised by the report, as Logistic officer, his only responsibility is to forward the request made by the user department to the Coordinator for approval and then sent to the Procurement Officer.
He said it is the responsibility of the Procurement Officer to search for the supplier that should be selected, adding that he was not aware as to how the selection was done.
While all officials present in Parliament failed to take responsibility for such mishaps, the Deputy Speaker of Parliament stressed the need for the substantive coordinator to be present so that he provides thorough explanation to committee members as to why the prices were far higher than that of the price norm of the NPPA.
He added that verification of all assets procured will be conducted by the committee next week Wednesday to identify them physically.