By Chernoh Alpha M. Bah, Matthew Anderson, and Mark Feldman
An internal audit into procurement activities of the Maada Bio administration for the fiscal year 2019 has revealed how Le21.3 billion was spent on diverse procurement activities by two government ministries that were not in their respective procurement plans. Auditors say officials of the country’s Ministry of Water Resources and the Transport and Aviation Ministry collectively spent a total of Le21,388,319,149.00 on various procurement activities contrary to the 2016 Public Procurement Act and the Public Procurement Regulations of 2006, the laws governing public procurement activities in Sierra Leone.
Section 33 of the 2006 Public Procurement Regulations provides that government procurement units must ensure that any proposed procurement is “identifiable within the annual procurement plan” and that adequate funds are available within the remaining annual budget of ministries prior to initiating any procurement proceedings. Auditors say officials of the two ministries carried out the diverse procurement activities contrary to this requirement.
“Procurement activities in respect of the Ministry of Transport and Aviation (MTA) and Ministry of Water Resources (MWR) totaling Le21,388,319,149 was not in the ministries procurement plans,” they said. The listed procurement activities include Le19.5 billion multiple contracts for the procurement of 30 vehicles awarded to B. M. Kodami Enterprises (Le7,657,197,600.00) for the purchase of 12 vehicles, and a twin contract for the procurement of another 18 vehicles awarded simultaneously to Anagkazo Ventures Company Ltd worth over Le11.8 billion. The rest of the other procurement costs totaling Le1,847,262,799.00 were also undertaken by the Water Resources Ministry in respect of the Freetown Dry Season Project. Auditors also say that ministry officials provided no evidence to show that contracts worth Le15.2 billion for the procurement of an additional 24 vehicles by the Ministry of Water Resources were advertised and placed on a competitive bid, which is in direct violation to the provisions of the Public Procurement Act of 2016. They added that Section 37 (1) of the Public Procurement Act 2016 provides that all public procurement must be undertaken by means of a non-discriminatory accessibly advertised open bid processes.
“All procurement shall be undertaken by means of advertised open bid processes to which equal access shall be provided to all eligible and qualified bidders without discrimination,” they stated, adding that officials also didn’t submit evidence that they sent letters of notification to unsuccessful bidders as to why their bids were unsuccessful. “Letter of notification informing unsuccessful bidders of the reason for which their respective bids were unsuccessful was not submitted for all procurement activities undertaken by the Ministry of Transport and Aviation using open competitive bidding method for the period under review,” they said, noting that Section 27 of the 2016 Public Procurement Act also mandates government officials in charge of procurement to “inform the unsuccessful bidder(s) of the reason for which their respective bids were unsuccessful.”
In response to these procedural violations, auditors have asked the permanent secretaries and procurement officers of the respective ministries for documentary evidence explaining why they undertook procurement activities that were not in their respective plans for the fiscal year 2019. “Permanent Secretaries, in collaboration with the procurement officers, should provide all relevant documents to show that the contracts were advertised through the various media houses in accordance with the requirement of the law,” they said, while recommending that government officials must send letters of notification to unsuccessful bidders about the status of their bids before the signing of any contract with the successful bidder after 14 calendar days as required by law.
Officials of the respective ministries contacted by Africanist Press declined to comment on the details of the internal audit, citing civil service codes of conduct and protocols. “Due to the civil service code of conduct, I cant grant an interview without consent of the head of the entity,” one of the officials told the Africanist Press. The audit report, which is yet to be released, documents details of financial activities in Sierra Leone for fiscal year 2019, the first full year of the Bio administration. An advance copy of the report seen by the Africanist Press contains jaw-dropping evidence of pervasive corruption and graft across government in key ministries, departments, and agencies.
Previous Africanist Press articles from details of the report had earlier highlighted how officials of the country’s Maritime Administration (SLMA), the institution responsible for regulating the shipping industry, could not account for more than Le27.2 billion in maritime revenues collected during the fiscal year 2019, while three government ministries also collectively spent a total of Le21 billion without verifiable documents to justify their expenditures.