Sierra Leone: Procurement Frailties Exposed At Defence Ministry

The 2018 Auditor General's report has exposed serious procurement weaknesses at the Ministry of Defence.

The report says the ministry undertook procurements worth Le2, 685, 149,000.00 that were not part of their procurement plan for the year under review.

According to the report, the approved procurement plan for the financial year2018 was submitted to them for review in which they observed that the procurement plan was not revised and updated as appropriated and in consultation with the Ministry of Finance and the NPPA, as stipulated in Section 27(3) of the Procurement Regulations of 2006.

The Auditor General's report observed that the continuation of such practice may lead to the procurement of unwanted goods, works and services and that it might not only distort the budgetary process, but will also put the government under undue pressure in making payment for these unplanned procurement activities.

The Director General in the procurement department of the ministry stated that the said transactions were executed after the procurement plan had been endorsed.

"Therefore, it was an oversight to modify the plan. However, all these activities were approved by the requisite authorities before execution. Hence, we note the recommendations and commit ourselves to future compliance," the director stated in the report.

Meanwhile, the auditors noted management's response, but argued that the revised and updated procurement plan done in consultation with the Ministry of Finance and the NPPA was never submitted; thus the issue remains unresolved.

The report which is before parliament for further deliberation notes that during the review of the International Competitive Bidding (ICB) procurement documents for the construction of 18 accommodation blocks at Gondama Barracks Phase II and the Infantry-size Battalion Barracks at Kambia, that reasons were not given for the rejection of unsuccessful bidder which is contrary Section 27 of the Public Procurement Act of 2016.

Meanwhile, the Director General says notifications were sent to the unsuccessful bidders but it was not submitted to the auditors for inspection.

The report also reveals that interview with key personnel and review of contract status update revealed that four contracts including Gondama Barracks Phase II, construction of the Kambia Infantry Military-size Barracks were still ongoing even when the contracts period had elapsed.

The report says there was no evidence of further action taken by the ministry against the defaulting contractors considering the fact that the performance bond and advanced payment guarantee had since been expired.

"We recommended that the Procurement Committee should take necessary action against the contractors to ensure full compliance with the terms of the contract. Otherwise, the Ministry should embark on a robust recovery action on amount paid plus interest from the contractors".

The Director General stated that there were instances where they, as a Ministry default in executing contracts due to unavailability of funds to pay the contractors as stipulated in the contract.

"Even though the Ministry is budget constrained, we are assessing ongoing projects so as to submit a realistic budget in ensuring that adequate funds are provided for their completion. In addition, we are also engaging the contractors for a possible remedy to this situation. We will keep your office updated on progress made with regard to outstanding projects," the report states

But auditors stated that the contracts have still not been completed and that the issue remains unresolved.

Auditors examined a sample of procurement activities to determine whether appropriate procurement methods were used in the procurement process and that it was observed that Requests for Quotation (RFQ) procurement method was used to undertake procurements valued at Le317, 230, 000.00 and Le4, 453, 333, 500.

'These values were above the RFQ threshold, and therefore the NCB procurement method should have been the most appropriate method of procurement."

The report notes that the ministry was in total violation of Section 37 (2) of the Public Procurement Act of 2016 which stipulates that procurement shall not be divided artificially with the intention of avoiding the monetary thresholds established under the Act or regulations made under it.

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