Concord Times (Freetown)

5 February 2013

Sierra Leone: Fraud At Agric Ministry - Audit Report Reveals

The 2011 Auditor General's report has revealed that amount totalling Le21,200,000 received from the sales of bidding documents was not brought to account by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security.

The report, which is presently before the house of parliament for discussion, recommended that the said amount be refunded by the procurement officer and evidence of payment in the Consolidated Revenue Fund forwarded to the Audit Service Sierra Leone for verification.

According to the report, the ministry's Permanent Secretary should ensure that the contingency amount of Le221, 413, 008 must only be paid to the contractors after a written request and certification by the Consulting Engineer.

"There was lack of segregation of duties in the sales of bidding documents as the procurement unit was responsible for both the printing and sales of bidding documents. The procurement officer should submit the letter of approval from the National Public Procurement Authority (NPPA) for the use of sole sourcing in procuring agricultural inputs," the report stated.

The auditors also noted that the issue of contingencies was still outstanding and the documents submitted relating to the procurement of cashew seedlings were not sufficient to confirm that 'national shopping' method was used in the process.

In his response, the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Edward Kargbo, stated that proceeds from the sale of bidding document were stolen from the procurement unit during the period of the sale to the public, adding, "The matter was reported to the police and the outcome of the investigation has not been communicated to the ministry."

He maintained that a letter requesting an update on the investigation, which had been sent to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), was not responded to but admitted that contingencies were indeed not deducted from the initial advance payment to the various contractors.

"The ministry will ensure that the contingencies were only paid to contractors after certification of completion from the Ministry of Works, Housing and Infrastructure is issued," he stated.

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