By Adama Tine
The Government of the Gambia has recently come under serious criticisms over a series of attempts by officials to squander over D32 million through false claims.
In an audit report recently released by the Department of Internal Audit, it succeeded in saving the Gambia that amount through its pre-audit exercise.
According to the report, the internal audit exercise they carried out was able to make savings of the amount through cancelation of payment vouchers for “not complying with payment requirements and the Gambia Public Procurement Authority (GPPA) regulations”.
The auditors disclosed that the Office of the President on 4th May 2020, requested for the payment of D1, 158, 791.41 to Petrogas for fuel excess for the president’s meet the people tour without evidence to substantiate excess fuel used during the tour.
The report adds that in the same office, one Momodou E Njie and Roheyah Jeng Gaye also requested to be paid D130, 280.00 per diem each for attending an Independent Review Organisation (IRO) program which was fully funded by the organisers. The requests were refused by Internal Audit.
The report further highlighted that in November 2020, the Office of the First Lady requested D227, 990.00 per diem for the same IRO program which was also rejected.
The audit report also said that, Gamtel on 7th July requested a refund of D59, 250.00 telecommunication services which was never provided.
On 26th June 2020, the Office of the Vice President requested for D1, 228, 680 [50% of the total amount] for maintenance of the building without seeking GPPA approval despite advice to do so.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) on 25th March 2019 requested a refund of school fees for staff studying in China amounting to D75, 550.00 which was also rejected. The auditors later uncovered that the breakdown and composition of the school fees included line items that should not be borne by the state because the Foreign Service regulations catered for tuition fees only.
In the same year, MoFA requested a per diem of D174, 888.00 for its officials in relation to the annual pilgrimage to Mecca but auditors questioned the genuineness and stopped the payment as their trip was not official.
The report added that the Ministry of Health on 23rd April, requested payment of D51, 070.00 for overseas medical treatment (allowance refund) without producing a medical board report.
The report continued that the Ministry of Finance on 15th April 2020 spent D18, 000,000 on State-Owned Enterprise Restructuring which was later uncovered to be fraudulent duplication of disbursement.
According to the report, last year the Gambia Ports Authority (GPA) claimed a refund of D1, 849, 932.00 which they claimed to have spent on the Senegambia Bridge by ferries which was not substantiated.
Reacting to the Internal Audit findings, the founder and executive director of Gambia Participates, Marr Nyang said: “It is unbelievable but not surprising that mismanagement of public wealth and trust are coming from the highest office of the land. Left to these gangs alone, they will rip off the country to the last dalasi to enrich themselves”.
“Some of these claims are unjustifiable and it only shows how the people we entrust with power and authority to run our affairs are selfish and greedy. The Internal Audit Directorate did a great job by rejecting these unjustifiable claims. However, the work of the directorate will be compromised due to their lack of independence,” Nyang added.
This, he added, “is why it is urgent, more than ever before, for there to be an Act of Parliament that will establish an independent Internal Audit Directorate that will as well double as an Independent Financial Institution to monitor and report on government expenditure which will minimize public heist as it is currently the case in the public sector.”
A social and political commentator, Pa Samba Jow, said: “We must commend the Internal Audit Directorate for their due diligence in rejecting these blatant abuse of the system. It is absolutely sad and unfortunate that while the majority of our people continue to live in abject poverty, that some officials are deliberately milking the system to satisfy their insatiable greed”.
“It is an irrefutable fact that per diem hunting has become the surest way to ‘legally’ defraud the nation. The system has run amok-it is broken and needs to be addressed. But unless there is unalloyed political will to prosecute corrupt officials, this phenomenon will continue to retard our country’s much needed development,” he said.