Report Reveals Millions Mismanaged In Gov’t Covid-19 Food Aid Expenditure
Report by Omar Bah
The Gambia Government claim to have spent D909, 859,918 on procurement, transportation and distribution of 264,500 (50kg) bags of Rice amounting to D323,025,000, 279,500 (50kg) bags of Sugar amounting to D378,170,000, 185,200 (10L) drums of Oil amounting to D130,787,000, transportation cost D27,383,572 bringing the expenditure as at 31 October 2020, to D859,365,572.
Table 1: Percentage of the total amount of over nine hundred-million-dalasi COVID food aid spent on various food items and transportation
Table 2: Quantities distributed in 50 kilo bags of rice and sugar and 10 liters of oil drums
However, an audit report from the National Audit Office obtained by Gambia Participates has revealed that millions of dalasis was expended by the government during these transactions without justification.
In June 2021, the government earmarked D1.7 billion, which included D750 million for its health and economic response, and a further D909 million for the procurement of food items for vulnerable households. Additional funds and other assets were also provided by donors.
A cabinet subcommittee was established to be responsible for epidemiological, clinical and humanitarian matters and its meetings were held at the State house. Stakeholders such as: Department of Strategy Office of President, Ministries of health, finance, trade, agriculture, World Food Programme, GPPA, Internal Audit, Auditor General and NDMA.
Our Investigation reveals that the majority of the expenditures were not justified.
Gambia Participates investigates
According to evidence obtained from an audit on procurement and distribution of food & medical items, there were missing contract documents for six transactions amounting to D63, 775,000. The report also revealed that the authorities responsible failed to tender contracts above GPPA threshold of D1,000,000, no GPPA approval for the use of single source procurement, suppliers with lower bids not awarded the contracts, missing payment vouchers amounting to D63, 775,000 which were not presented for audit.
Non-compliance with GPPA regulations
The auditors also highlighted use of single source procurement without GPPA Approval.
“Examination of the payment vouchers and contract documents revealed that the contract committee awarded contracts using the single source procurement method. A request for approval written (to GPPA) by NDMA with reference AVC 153/303/01 PT2 (03) dated 10 March, 2020 was provided and reviewed. However, the approval from GPPA is yet to be provided,” the auditors said.
The list of the companies and contract volumes
ZAHRA LIMITED D11, 925,000, BMS CONSULT PLUS D12, 500,000, ASTA D3,630,000,, RAHMA GAMBIA LIMITED D14,150,000, ZEINE ENTERPRISE D20,500,000,, MAA FOUNDATION FOR WOMEN D33,000,000,, L.B GAYE & SONS CO LTD D13,000,000,, BMS CONSULT PLUS D7,000,000 bring the total to D115,705,000.
“From the review of the Payment Vouchers and the approved contract list from GPPA, we noted that 6 contracts totalling D74, 332,500 were awarded to suppliers who were not included in the GPPA approved list, and some of the approved contracts are beyond the GPPA ceiling, which means they should be approved by GPPA before awarding the contracts,” the report stated.
See details below: Fouta Enterprise Rice D11, 750,000 – 30,000 bags of rice approved but 40,000 was purchased, Microtech Consulting was approved to supply 3,000 20 Ltrs drums of Oil but contracted and supplied 8,000 drums of oil amounting to D27 3,657,500, Basuks Enterprise Sugar, Rice and Oil 33 D31, 050,000 Approved to supply 10,000 bags of Sugar only but supplied 20,000 bags of sugar, 10,000 bags of rice and 5,000 drums of oil, Kaira Catering Services Rice D74 12,500,000 Contract approved for rice was 10,000 bags but supplied 20,000 bags, Fatima Sabally Trading Rice D72 12,250,000 Approved to supply only 10,000 bags of sugar but contracted and supplied both rice and sugar 10,000 bags each, E.M Kay Stores Limited Oil D69 3,125,000 which was not included in the approved list totaling D74,332,500.
Contracts Awarded before GPPA approvals
Regulation 13 (1) of GPPA 2019 states, “Subject to section 12 (2) of the Act, any proposed contract for procurement with a value of one million dalasi and above shall be submitted to the Authority for its approval, along with the complete contract file and a recommended course of action in the format prescribed by the Authority.” However, auditors highlighted that an approval was only granted by GPPA for procurement activities on the 30th June 2020 after the contracts were executed.
The contracts include: ZAHRA LIMITED D11,925,000, B M S CONSULT PLUS D12,500,000, JAGANA BROTHERS D4,223,839, GENERAL TRANSPORT UNION D11,692,900, JALMA TRADING ENTERPRISE D13,020,000, SHEA TRADING ENTERPRISE D12,900,000, FOUTA ENTERPRISE D74,250,000, ZEINE ENTERPRISE D260,000, GLOBAL INDUSTRIES FINANCE ASSET MANAGEMENT COMPA D12,300,000, SUWAREH AND BROTHERS ENTERPRISE D13,250,000 and IN-DEPTH BUSINESS SOLUTIONS COMPANY LTD D12,500,000.
Unregistered GPPA Suppliers
Section 25 of the Gambia Public Procurement Authority Act 2014 states that, “In order to be awarded a procurement contract local suppliers shall be registered in accordance with Regulations made under this Act”. “During the audit, we noted that payments amounting to D98, 300,000 were made to suppliers but we could not ascertain whether these suppliers were registered with GPPA as no evidence of business registration certificates from GPPA were provided for our review. This includes Global industries, finance and asset management D12,300,000 and Fouta Enterprise D86,000,000,” the auditor said.
Award of contract to ineligible suppliers
According to the auditors during the review of the payment vouchers and the contract documents, they noted that some suppliers have registered with GPPA to supply services, some construction and others, goods only. “However, suppliers registered for services and construction only were contracted to supply food items and one registered for goods only, is contracted to transport food items. They include; MAA Farmers foundation Services, Sugar and Oil D33,000,000, Ndanbung & Sons Construction & General Merchandise D12,500,000, Kaira Catering Services only Rice and Sugar D26,200,000, Fouta Enterprise Services rice and sugar D86,000,000, Jagana BROTHERS Transportation (Services) D4,223,840.
Unpresented Contract Documents
The auditors findings noted from the review of the payment vouchers and the procurement file that the under-listed suppliers have supplied goods and were paid, but evidence of a contractual agreement was not provided to them for review. The suppliers include: E. M Kay Stores Limited D3,125,000, Technomate Construction Engineering Procurement En D15,900,000, Fatima Sabally Trading D12,250,000 Kaira Catering Services D12,500,000, L.B Gaye & Sons Co Ltd D13,000,000, BMS Consult Plus D7,000,000 totalling D63,775,000.
Bidding Documents not provided
According to the report, contract documents revealed that the procurement committee entered into contracts with several suppliers but the bidding documents of these contracts were not provided for review.
Non provision of transporters quotations
The auditors said the contract files revealed that there were five transporters contracted to deliver the food items through request for quotation (RFQ), however the list of all transporters (successful and unsuccessful) with their respective price quotations was not presented for review.
Supply of food items in excess of contracted limit
According to the report examination of payment vouchers against the contract documents revealed that Basuks Enterprise and MAA Farmers Foundation for Women were contracted on 5th May 2020 and 27th April 2020 respectively. However, they delivered more commodities than they were contracted to supply, and were paid for the amount delivered.
Contracts above government price ceilings
The price ceiling for 100% broken rice, sugar (50kg) and cooking oil (20L) was D1,200, D1,400 and D1,075 respectively for the KMC region.
“Examination of the payment vouchers and the procurement file revealed that some suppliers were contracted to supply at a price above the price ceiling which resulted in an estimated amount of D9,787,000 in additional spending.”
Suppliers with lower bids not awarded contracts
From the review of the contract documents and the price evaluation documents, the auditors added, “We noted that the following responsive low bidders according to price were not awarded contracts, while suppliers with higher prices were awarded. However, we were not provided with evidence of why they were not awarded. Some suppliers were awarded contracts at prices of D1,452.00, D1,250.00 and D1,450.00 for 20L oil, rice and sugar respectively.
Responsive bidders that lost to bidders quoting higher prices
This include: Grand Essentials Enterprise Rice D1,150, Fatima Sabally Trading Rice D1,225, Camara Trading Enterprise Rice D1,150, Camara Trading Enterprise - Sugar D1,330, Shea Trading - Rice D1,150, Jalma Trading Rice D1,202, Jalma Trading Oil (20L) D1,102, Dicko Enterprise -Rice D1,196, Yusupha Jawara and Sons - Sugar D1,420, Technomate Enterprise - Sugar D1,420, Global Industries Finance Asset Management Company- sugar D1,400, Jagana Brothers - rice D1,200, Syben A. Madi - Sugar D1,180, Syben A. Madi - rice D1,120. These, the auditors said, could result in waste of government resources as a result of sacrificing the value for money aspect of the procurement.
Contracts executed before they were awarded to suppliers
The contractors said 5 contracts totalling D47,994,740 were inappropriately executed by the committee. “Transactions took place before contracts were awarded to suppliers.” They include: Rahma Gambia Limited D1,650,000.00, ZEINE ENTERPRISE D20,500,000.00, GENERAL TRANSPORT UNION 15PV20000093 D11,692,900.00, AGS GAMBIA LIMITED D1,651,840.00, B M S CONSULT PLUS D12,500,000.00.
Inappropriate procurement method used in awarding contract
The threshold from the GPPA schedule 1 is D1,000,000.00”. However, auditors review of the contract files for transporters revealed that all contracts awarded were above the RFQ threshold of D1 million and should therefore be subjected to Open Tender (OT).
Payment made for food items not delivered
Gambia Participates established that the supply of oil was short by 53,791 (10L) drums at a total value of D37, 653,700 based on the delivery note provided for review.
Unpresented Payment Vouchers
According to the auditors a review of the DTL print out against payment vouchers revealed that payments amounting to D63, 775,000 were made to various suppliers, but the payment vouchers related to these transactions have not been presented for review. It include: E. M Kay Stores Limited D3,125,000, Technomate Construction Engineering Procurement En D15,900,000, Fatima Sabally Trading D12,250,000, Kaira Catering Services D12,500,000, L.B Gaye & Sons Co Ltd D13,000,000 and B M S Consult Plus D7,000,000.
Unsettled contract obligations for delivered contracts
“Our review of the contract document of Fast Lane Logistics against payment vouchers revealed that they (Fast Lane Logistics) had been contracted for the distribution of food items at a cost of D8, 587,525. Although the service was fully executed, there is an outstanding balance of D4, 293,762 due to them. No evidence of completion of the said balance is provided for our review,” the auditors said.
Cost of transportation was wrongfully charged to the government
The auditors said the contract awarded to all the suppliers, delivery of food items to the assembly centres is the responsibility of the suppliers. “However, we noted that the government was charged additional costs to deliver food items from the suppliers’ stores to the assembly centres. A payment of D1,004,800 was made to Jagana Brothers in June 2020 for the transportation of food items from Jimpex to Banjul, which should have been borne by the supplier,” they noted.
Unpaid liabilities to Distribution team & GPPC
“During the audit of the distribution of food items to the beneficiaries, interview of officers at Gambia Printing and Publishing Corporation (GPPC) confirmed that no payment was made in respect of coupons printed amounting to GMD1,478,325 as per the Invoices despite reminder letters sent to NDMA, MoFEA, MoICI, Office of the Vice President and Office of the President. According to the GPPC they had formally written to the sectors involved to effect payment, but no response had been received and no payment made,” the auditors said.
According to the auditors, the regional coordinators and consignees also stated that distribution teams are not paid for the work done as promised.
“We have followed due diligence throughout the process of procuring the food items and GPPA had vetted all the contracts before they were awarded,” the NDMA director general, Sanna Dahaba told our reporter as they sat down for a chat refuting the auditors’ findings.
He added that an assessment was done by the ministry of trade on whether the country's local market has enough food stock to supply the needed amount of rice, sugar, oil and other goods. He followed by saying the outcome of the assessment influenced the purchase of all the food supplies locally. However, our reporter was able to trace a Cargo Manifest which states that the ministry of agriculture imported 25, 944 bags of rice in February 2021.
The NDMA Supply Debacle
The National Disaster Management Agency, NDMA was part of a cabinet subcommittee established to be responsible for epidemiological, clinical and humanitarian matters and its meetings were held at the State house.
The NDMA director general, Sanna Dahaba was involved in the whole process of bidding and distribution of food stuff across the country. When contacted for comments Mr Dahaba said women businesses were priorities in the bidding. He said about 60 businesses were contracted to supply the food materials, however, only few were mentioned in the audit report. “The Ministry of Finance was responsible for payment. A logistician was contracted by my office to deal with issues of logistics and procurement,” he said. He denied allegations that Senegalese business owners were given contracts to supply food. “I know Syben Madi was included but we terminated it and gave it to some small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). As far as I am concerned, this is the only foreign name I show on the list because I personally called him to ask him to surrender the contract and the contract was reissued to SMEs,” he added.
However, he confirms that Ali Kadara of Ashobi shop was contracted to supply sugar.
MAA Foundation, which was among the SMEs awarded contracts to supply rice, is owned by Abubacarr Jawara’s sister Fatoumatta Jawara. Mr Jawara is believed to be one of the financial backers of the President Barrow’s National People’s Party (NPP). Critics say awarding the contract to Fatoumatta Jawara was influenced by Mr Jawara’s friendship and patriotic relationship with President Adama Barrow.
Refuting to these critics, Mr. Dahaba stated that he confirm “that Fatoumatta Jawara was contracted together with a group of women who came in the name of MAA Foundation. In fact, they were the people who first supplied rice. Beatrice Allen was also given with some others I cannot remember but they all came here as a group so that they will be given priority. They were all given one slot of five thousand bags [of food supply].” Fatoumatta Jawara was contacted for comments but she didn’t pick up her telephone and attempts to meet her proved difficult.
The composition of the cabinet subcommittee which included the GPPA and the Internal Audit Office was criticized. Critics say the committee compromises the principle of due process. However, when asked about these concerns, Dahaba said those concerns are not genuine because the committee was very observant of due diligence. “We understand the concerns raised but I can assure you that we followed due process throughout the process,” he said.
According to the auditors, from the review of the Payment Vouchers and the approved contract list from GPPA, they noted that 6 contracts totaling D74,332,500 were awarded to suppliers who were not included in the GPPA approved list, and some of the approved contracts are beyond the GPPA ceiling, which means they should be approved by GPPA before awarding the contracts.
They include: Fouta Enterprise – General Partnership, Microtect Consulting owned by Malamin Gassama, Basuks Enterprise owned by Sukai Jobe Sanneh, Kaira Catering Services owned by Fatou Njie Kaira, Fatima Sabally Trading owned by Fatou K Saidy, Emkay Stores Limited, Company Limited a shareholder business.
The investigators contacted a senior staff at the Fouta Enterprise who confirms that his company was awarded a contract of D11,750,000 to supply 30,000 bags of rice as approved but ended up supplying 40,000 bags. When asked to explain the difference between what his company supplied and what were contracted to supply, the man who refused to give his name said: “As a businessman I was awarded to supply commodities how that contract is awarded should be best explained by those who awarded me the contract. You can also go to the National Assembly or the Internal Audit and find out.”
When contacted for comments, Weky, a senior staff at the Emkay Enterprise also confirmed being awarded a contract of D 3,125,000.
But he could not tell whether it was included in the approved procurement list. He however referred the investigators to the company’s chief accountant, Moni Carter who didn’t pick up her calls. The remaining companies could not be reached for comments.
The auditors however argued that there was no determined quantity of rice, sugar and oil required, no publication of successful bidders by the MoTIE, missing contract documents for six transactions amounting to GMD63,775,000, Failure to tender contract above GPPA threshold of GMD1,000,000, no GPPA approval for the use of single source procurement, suppliers with lower bids not awarded the contracts, missing payment vouchers amounting to GMD63,775,000 not presented for audit.
According to auditors, examination of the payment vouchers and contract documents revealed that the contract committee awarded contracts using the single source procurement method. “A request for approval written (to GPPA) by NDMA with reference AVC 153/303/01 PT2 (03) dated 10 March, 2020 was provided and reviewed. However, the approval from GPPA is yet to be provided. The list of the procurements is shown below: Zahra Limited – D11, 925, 000, BMS Consult Plus – D12, 500, 000, Asta – D3, 630, 000, Rahma Gambia Limited – D14, 150, 000, Zeine Enterprise – D20, 500, 000, MAA Foundation – D33, 000, 000, LB Gaye & Sons Co LTB D13, 000, 000 and BMS Consults Plus – D7, 000, 000 totalling D115, 705, 000.”
When this was brought to the attention of the NDMA boss, he promised to get the approval letters but never got back to the investigators with the approval documents after several attempts. The investigators have also written letters of request to the Trade Ministry but the Ministry failed to reply.
The auditors of the Covid-19 food aid package concluded that there was insufficient documented evidence from NDMA to justify the transportation and distribution of the food aid to the deserving households.
“Based on the evidence obtained during the audit and lapses identified, the audit team did not receive sufficient information and documentation from NDMA to substantiate transportation and distribution of the food aid relief to vulnerable households. We can only therefore conclude that the storage and distribution process did not fully comply with the laws and regulations that govern them. In conclusion, the distribution process was not carried out fully in compliance with the Stores Regulations and Essential Commodities Emergency Powers Regulations 2020, and the President’s Proclamation on 26 April 2020. These failures are likely to have meant that some vulnerable households did not receive the food to which they were entitled.”
Due to insufficient documented evidences from the NDMA, the auditors concluded that the process did not follow due process and there are likelihoods that the food aid supply did not reach to the needy households. This vindicates Gambia Participates Food Aid research finding were 28.6% of the respondents were aware of corruption in the distribution points of the food packages.
Soldiers stealing bags of rice
Director General Dahaba said the reported stealing of rice by soldiers was over exaggerated because only 23 bags of rice were stolen which were later confiscated by police in Kerewan and returned back to Banjul. “It was an attempt to steal but they were not able to walk out with the bags,” he said.
The Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Trade at the time, Hassan Jallow also told this investigation team that due process was followed throughout the procurement and bidding process. “We have nothing to hide because everything was thoroughly scrutinized”.