Sierra Leone's Minister of Education
The 2013 Audit Report has put the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology under a glaring public attention, following a thorough scrutiny masterminded by the Public Account Committee of the House of Parliament.
The Public Accounts Committee with the assistance of auditors from Audit Service Sierra Leone identified that the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology erred in its procurement process relating to an international competitive bidding process that required the provision of diet to government boarding schools, including teaching and learning materials.
With an excuse to fast-track the procurement process, the Ministry had adopted a restricted bidding method approved by NPPA for no objection because of urgency.
However, according to report, for a process that would have started on October 2012 and completed in June 2013, it took more than six months from the inception of the process to the award of contracts and the signing of the contract agreement for the supply of diets.
It took more than eight months from the commencement of the process to the signing of the contract agreements for the supply of textbooks and other learning materials.
As the probing went further, the committee also revealed that the Ministry withdrew money from various bank accounts without payment vouchers and supporting documents. The withdrawal, according to the audit report, totaled Le 4.4 billion from three bank accounts were without payment vouchers and relevant supporting documents to substantiate the utilization of such funds.
Following this revelation, the Permanent Secretary was asked to produce documents relating to those withdrawals. The Auditors said that when the demand was made, documents totaling Le 3.8billion were submitted and verified, leaving a balance of Le 534,689, 000 not submitted for inspection.
It was also observed that supporting evidence for an amount of Le 643,000 in respect of returns from government’s contribution to two projects were not made available for audit inspection. Upon request, however, documents amounting to Le 104,050,000 that relates to a project bearing the name EFA-FTI were submitted and verified, with a balance of Le 539,000,000 with respect to the TVET project that was not submitted for inspection.
Another issue that the auditors identified was an amount totaling Le130, 601, 000 used on overseas travelling without relevant supporting documents. At the same time, it was pointed out that a balance of Le 21,011,000 on withholding tax on grants or subventions to various institutions were not deducted and paid to the National Revenue Authority.
As the probing session progressed, MPs of the Public Account Committee and Auditors also revealed that a total of 118 awardees of the government’s grants-in-aid were without student’s identification numbers.
The Permanent Secretary was asked to provide those identification numbers because the students were in year two and above. In the same vein, according to the auditors, despite several requests, application forms for the award of international grants-in-aid and interview reports were not made available for verification.
Audit report states that a total of Le 692,211,000 was paid by the Ministry to various institutions overseas for eighty-seven students on grants-in-aid scheme. It was identified that there were no progress report from their institutions. However, it was noted that there were progress reports for students in China, Morocco and Turkey. But those for students in Russia were not submitted.
There was also an issue of over-aged workers in which it was reported that some members of staff who had retired received salaries for three months and above.
Many other issues relating to mismanagement and non-availability of supporting documents were brought to the attention of the committee. But the Permanent Secretary and other top public servants attached to the Ministry have been asked to provide documents relating to the audit queries, especially when they accepted that most of the documents are available but were absent during the audit exercise.
By Poindexter Sama
Wednesday April 22, 2015