An internal audit has revealed corruption amounting to millions of US dollars emanating from the total disregard for procurement procedures in Sierra Leone’s Ministries of Defence, Education, Agriculture, the Police and Western Area Rural Council.
The report by the Audit Service which looks at the period January – October 2015 but has only just been made public after Parliament was notified in August, says five major audit entities were examined and an in-depth look at a sample of 72 major contracts. The said entities make up almost a quarter of national expenditure in 2015 amounting to Le 427.4 billion.
Despite procurement being the largest non-payroll expenditure of the government and deemed the biggest conduit of fraud and corruption, the audit found that “there has been a deterioration in the quality of compliance with the Procurement Act and Regulations since we reviewed it in 2013” scoring overall 1.4 on the 4.0 scale – down from 1.8 three years ago.
The report says there is total disregard for regulations: “Based on our findings we have to conclude that the Act and Regulations are in effect being ignored or, where considered were done in a very passive ‘tick-the- box’ manner”.
The auditors found that in all the entities examined, there was the possible presence of fraud and corruption. In what appears like calling the attention of the Anti Corruption Commission to intervene, the report calls for “an urgent need to conduct forensic investigation”.
In the Ministry of Defence, auditors detected “overpricing” with over US$12.5 million stolen, as well as possible mis-procurement in construction contracts.
The Sierra Leone Police exhibited “the inappropriate use of sole source method for Kenwood batteries amounting to Le 569 million”. The auditors also saw breaches of regulations in contract extensions amounting to Le 247 million. No documentary evidence to explain why despite 100 stun guns valued at $88,000 not having been delivered, yet another 100 stun guns were acquired for $5,750 but “appeared unfit for purpose”.
In the Ministry of Education they found “excessive and inappropriate use of restricted bidding practices in the acquisition of teaching and learning materials; as well as similar practices for the construction of water well/hand pumps”. The report says there was no evidence of two of eight school supply contracts. In the ministry of Agriculture the auditors saw “clear evidence of using only particular suppliers for fertiliser contracts valued at over $2.1 million”. There were also “irregular prices” leading to unnecessary expenditure of at least $774,000. The same applied in acquiring cashew seedlings, as well as errors in consulting services “resulting the potential misuse of government funds”.
The Western Area Rural showed irregularities in both the selection and disqualification processes used to award a series of public works contracts amounting to over Le700 million. Contracts were also awarded to suppliers “who neither had a license nor provided proof of having the equipment to carry out the work”.