Procurement irregularities uncovered at Education Ministry

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February 2, 2015 By Jariatu S. Bangura

According to the 2013 Auditor General’s report, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology failed to follow procurement rules in the year under review, thus violating the National Public Procurement Authority Act 2004.

The report, which is due to be deliberated on by Parliament, states that procurement procedures were not followed by ministry officials in violation of annual procurement plan of the ministry which stipulates a National Competitive Bidding and International Competitive Bidding methods to procure food for government boarding schools; teaching and learning materials; and text books.

However, the report reveals that the ministry adopted a restricted bidding method approved by the National Public Procurement Authority (NPPA) for no objection on the basis of urgency of time.

It also notes that it took more than six months from the inception of the process to the award and signing of the contract agreement for the supply of foods, while it took more than eight months from the commencement of the process to the signing of the contract agreements for the supply of text books and teaching and learning materials.

Thus, the report concludes that it stands to reason that ministry officials had sufficient time to have followed the required procurement processes.

The audit team further observed that the contractor had already supplied foods to government boarding schools for five months during the 2013/14 academic year prior to the signing of the contract agreement between the ministry and the contractor on 21 January 2014.

Thus, the report recommends that the Permanent Secretary should provide the relevant documents that would explain why the procurement process took more than eight months to be completed, and by extension, the NPPA should explain why there was “no objection” to the “restricted bidding” as the process took more than eight months to be executed.

The report says the Permanent Secretary (who was not named) justified the dubious procurement practice on the grounds that there were administrative gaps found at the time he was posted to the ministry in July 2013.

He is quoted to have said that due diligence was observed in the procurement process, and that ministry officials will comply with recommendations contained in the draft management letter as well as ensure value for money.

Despite such assurance, auditors say the issue remains unchanged.

Also, the audit service report reveals that 118 grant-in-aid awardees from different institutions were without student identification numbers.

Again, the unnamed Permanent Secretary is quoted to have stated that the ministry does not issue identity cards to students, rather their respective institutions print identity cards.

He is reported to have stated that students without ID numbers were not an indication of being illegitimate, as it could be they were in dire need of the grant as they were unable to matriculate at the time in question to get their ID numbers.

Thus, he is said to have argued that because payments were made directly to colleges, the latter could best provide details on the ID of the students in question.

But auditors note that the students in question were in Year Two and above, thus they ought to have had identification numbers as only fresh students in Year One may be without identification numbers.

Thus, the report recommends that the Permanent Secretary submit justifiable evidence for awards to beneficiaries without student identification numbers or the whole money be paid back into the Consolidated Revenue Fund, with evidence forwarded to Audit Service Sierra Leone.

 

For wrong charges…

Defence applies for accused discharge

By Hawa Amara

 

Defence counsel in the ongoing murder trial of Sheika Sesay and Isaac Williams last Friday applied for the accused to be discharged, arguing that wrong charges were proffered against them.

The duo was charged with the murder of one Anthony Gray.

However, lawyer Selwyn Nicol submitted that the first count of conspiracy to murder contrary to Section 11 of the Offences Against the Persons Act 1861 was incorrect, as it should have been murder contrary to law.

He added that the information and charge sheet with respect to the charge is defective, because the offence of conspiracy contrary to Section 11 of the said Act does not exist in law.

Counsel Nicol further submitted that the prosecution cannot by law amend the indictment in the Magistrates’ Court because it is a preliminary investigation, citing Section 148(1) of the Criminal Procedure Act 1965, which says an amendment can be done before a trial.

The said clause doesn’t mention preliminary investigation thus according to the defence counsel, an amendment can only be done in the High Court.

However, police prosecutor Assistant Superintendent Francis K. Nyuma applied for an amendment of the first count charge.

Magistrate Albert J. Moody fixed the next adjourned date (6 February) to rule on the application of the defence and countermotion by the prosecution.

P’ment ratifies two grants, concludes debate on Presidential Speech

Parliament last Friday ratified two grants which were laid on the table of the House on Monday 26th January and geared towards containing the Ebola virus disease in the country.

These are: the grant agreement between the Government of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania and the Government of Sierra Leone for the provision of a grant to assist in the fight against Ebola, dated 6th January, 2015; and the grant agreement between Sierra Leone and the Islamic Development Bank (as administrator of the FA’EL KHAIR donation) to support the efforts to fight the Ebola epidemic in the country, dated 12th January, 2015.

Prior to ratification, the Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, Foday B.L. Mansaray, said the grant provided by the government of Mauritania was more than Le1,000,000,000 (one billion leones) as part of African solidarity to assist countries that have been hit by the Ebola virus to stop the spread of infections and improve on their public health systems.

On the other hand, he said that the Islamic Development Bank gave a grant of over $6,000,000 (six million dollars) aimed at containing the Ebola disease and assist government of Sierra Leone with resources meant for the re-opening schools for a period of six months, starting February this year.

The Ministry of Education Science and Technology is the main implementing agency for this project which, among other things, looks at the safe re-opening of schools; and provision of thermal sensors, computers, boreholes, psychosocial counselling, and vehicles.

In her brief contribution, the Minority Leader, Hon. Dr. Bernadette Lahai, said that both grants were non-controversial and thanked the grantors for the assistance to contain the Ebola virus soonest.

Also in his submission, the Majority Leader, Hon. Ibrahim R. Bundu, thanked the grantors for the kind help being rendered to the country at a challenging moment like this; and advised that those responsible for the implementation of both grants should use due diligence to achieve the desired results.

In another development, Parliament has concluded debating on the Presidential Speech for five consecutive allotted days on 30th January on the motion which was exhaustively dealt with by over 20 Members of Parliament from both sides of the aisle, including one Paramount Chief member from Moyamba District.

The motion was moved and seconded by Hon. Leonard S. Fofanah from Kenema, and Hon. Komba E. Kodoeyoma from Kono respectively. The motion reads: “Be it resolved that we the Members of Parliament here assembled wish to thank His Excellency the President for the address he so graciously delivered on the occasion of the State Opening of the Third Session of the Fourth Parliament of the Second Republic of Sierra Leone in the Chamber of Parliament on Friday 5th December, 2014.”

Department of Public Relations, Parliament


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