Following the Audit Service Sierra Leone (ASSL) 2014 Report, it was discovered after examination of the procurement documents at the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST) that there were no evaluation reports in respect of procurements amounting to Le1,237,747,668.
In addition, the composition of the Evaluation Committee did not include persons with technical knowledge. Local Purchase Orders (LPOs) totalling Le315,783,000 were not approved by the Permanent Secretary (PS) before being sent to the suppliers/contractors.
The ASSL 2014 Report also noted that Request for Quotations (RFQ) was used rather than undertaking a single National Competitive Bidding (NCB) for the different supplies which totalled Le284,550,000.
There were incomplete contracts valued at Le70,474,180 and no approved procurement plan was submitted for goods and services procured for the year 2014.
It was recommended that: the Procurement Officer (PO) should submit the procurement documents for audit verification within 30 days of the receipt of the report and should also provide adequate justification for not approving the LPOs before they were sent to supplier/contractors; the PO should give adequate justification for using the RFQ method instead of NCB within 30 days of receipt of this report; otherwise the whole amount should be refunded and evidence of payment to bank forwarded to the audit office for verification; and that the PO should also give adequate justification for not performing the various contracts in line with the contract agreements and should provide the said document for inspection within 30 days of the receipt of the report.
Responding officially with regard RFQs the Permanent Secretary in the Education Ministry said that funds to undertake the procurement activity at that time were not available as they were released on quarterly bases and procurement activities undertaken with respect to available funds.
He added that each of the activities undertaken at that time were below the threshold for National Competitive Bidding (NCB). He mentioned that the records were now available for verification.
The ASSL noted with concern however that the recommendations were not implemented by the Ministry on issues relating to the requested evaluation reports, unapproved LPOs, incomplete contracts and submission of approved procurement plan.
In fact, the Ministry failed to submit a formal response on those issues. The ASSL 2014 Report further noted that the PO failed to submit adequate justification for using the RFQ method instead of NCB for two outstanding supplies, totalling Le85,095,000.
In the area of Grants and Subventions, quite a number were found to have been executed without Expenditure Returns.
It was learnt that subventions and grants were made to various institutions/commissions which totalled Le990,496,000 for the year 2014, but expenditure returns were not submitted for audit.
It was recommended that the Principal Accountant should ensure that the expenditure returns were made available for verification from the various institutions in question within 30 days of the receipt of the report.
The Permanent Secretary in his official response stated that documents were available for verification.
However ASSL recommendation was partly implemented as expenditure returns which totalled Le278,496,000 were submitted and verified, leaving a balance of Le712,000,000.
The ASSL 2014 Report further noted that withdrawals made from various bank accounts which amounted to Le112,921,538 for the period under audit, were without payment vouchers and other supporting documents.
Withdrawals amounting to Le676,772,160 for the period under audit from various bank accounts were also without adequate supporting documents.
It was recommended that the Principal Accountant should ensure that the required documents for the use of the said amounts were made available for verification within 30 days of the receipt of the report.
The PS in his response stated that the documents were available for verification.
However, ASSL recommendation was partly implemented.
Out of the total of Le112,921,538, receipts, Le4,040,000 were submitted and verified, leaving a balance of Le91,449,038 for which payment vouchers and other supporting documents were not provided.
In addition, out of a total of Le676,772,160 supporting documents which totalled Le302,191,560 were provided, leaving a balance of Le374,580,600 without supporting documents..
A review by ASSL of controls in the payment of public examination fees by the ministry to the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) revealed the following: that an amount totalling Le121,650,000 was paid to National Certificates for Technical and Vocational Awards (NCTVA) for 811 candidates for the National Vocational Qualification Examinations; the list of candidates was only sent to the Ministry after the examination had been conducted.
A review of the list of schools given for the payment of West African Senior Certificate Examination (WASSCE) fees revealed that 51 private schools recorded as 3,460 candidates were included in the payments that government made to WAEC for WASSCE 2014.
This amounted to Le467,100,000 paid to WAEC from government funds for private school students who should have paid their own fees. The audit team also observed that payments of Le9,313,480,000 were made for the 2014 public examinations. However the Minister’s approved list of candidates and promotional lists for the National Primary School Examination (NPSE), Basic Education Certificates Examination (BECE) and WASSCE from each school, in respect of the 2014 examinations to justify the utilisation of the said amount, were not made available for audit.
In spite of requests made to the Permanent Secretary to access documents maintained by the Ministry relating to the payments of the 2014 BECE and NPSE public examination fees, no action was taken to remedy the situation.
It was recommended that the Permanent Secretary should: ensure that in future, the candidates list should be sent to the Ministry before the examination is conducted.
In addition, the Permanent Secretary should provide documentary evidence explaining why cross examination of the candidates was not done before the examination within 30 days of receipt of this report; as well as to provide adequate justification for the payment on behalf of private school candidates; otherwise the said amount should be refunded to the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) within 30 days of receipt of this report.