|Auditor General Sankareh|
The Gambia government has done payments or entered into financial transactions without adequate and proper documentations making it very difficult to certify the transactions are really free of fraud or in some cases the truthfulness of the transactions, reveals the Auditor Genegal’s report.
In the report, Auditor General Babucarr Sankareh, who raised eyebrow about the irregularities of the government’s financial transactions, said in the process of auditing government accounts, he did not receive appropriate and sufficient information to confirm the occurrence, accuracy, or even the existences of some financial transactions.
“The scope of my audit was limited,” Mr Sankareh said in the audited report he prepared after auditing the financial statements of The Gambia government for the year ended 31 December 2007.
In the report presented to the National Assembly in Banjul in October 2012, Mr Sankareh said that during his audit, he noted that the government purchased vehicles on credit amounting to over D77 million in 2007.
“These were single source procurements from TK Motors in contravention to the regulations of the Gambia Public Procurement Authority [GPPA],” he said. “MOFEA (Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs) was unable to provide documentation showing any approval from GPPA. Detailed policies and procedures for the purchase of vehicles were not in place.”
That aside, the Auditor General said during the year (2007), government made payments amounting to over D33 million for which he, as the auditor general, was not provided with proper and adequate supporting documents.
“Payment vouchers for D3,190,388.11 of these payments were not presented while the balance of D30,195,035.50 had payment vouchers without adequate supporting documents in contraventions to the Financial Instructions,” he said.
“In the absence of payment vouchers and adequate supporting documentation, I was not able to confirm the validity of the payments,” he added.
Again, Mr Sankareh disclosed that he identified balances totaling over D38 million as 31 December 2007 held for government in commercial bank accounts that were not reported.
The Budget Management and Accountability Act states that commercial bank accounts may only be used in exceptional circumstances and with the approval of the Secretary of State and Permanent Secretary. “I was not provided with evidence that the appropriate approval was received for the opening and operation of these accounts,” Mr Sankareh remarked.
Furthermore, the Auditor General also revealed that no information or relevant documents relating to the sale of Gamtel/Gamcel in 2007 were provided by the Ministry of Finance “despite several verbal requests during the audit and four formal written requests I made over a period of one year”.
In 2007, The Gambia government sold 50 percent share of Gamtel/Gamcel for a purported US$35 million to Spectrum Company. In November 2008, government terminated the partnership agreement and by this time, it had received US$28.5 million, leaving a balance of US$6.5 million outstanding.
“Despite several requests for information and documentation on the terms and conditions of the sale, the processes followed, payments received and any outstanding balances,” Mr Sankareh said, “MOFEA failed in their responsibility to proof information relating to the sale.”
“I was therefore unable to carryout appropriate audit procedures to ascertain the regularity of the sale. Treasury did not issued any receipts during the year for any revenue from this sale and the financial statements do not show any revenues from the sale or relevant disclosures.
“Again, the government paid D20 million during the year (2007) following its decision to capitalize the Central Bank with D100 million over five years.”
“The balances of D80 million was not disclosed in the Statement of Outstanding Commitments by Ministries,” he reported. “I was not provided with explanations on the full circumstances for the capitalization.”
Severe delays in the submissions of government accounts
The auditor general also raised eyebrow about the severe delays in receiving the reports of the Gambia government.
The 2007 Financial Statements of The Gambia were not submitted within three months of end of the previous financial year by the Treasury Directorate, contrary to the Budget Management and Accountability Act which states that the accounts should be submitted to the Auditor-General not later than three months after the end of the financial year.
The Constitution of The Gambia 1997 states that the Auditor-General shall within six months of the end of the immediately preceding financial year …report to the National Assembly on the accounts and draw attention to any irregularities in the accounts audited and to any other matter which, in his or her opinion, ought to be brought to the notice of the National Assembly.
“I could not meet the above Constitutional requirement, due to the late submission of the financial statement by the Treasury Directorate,” the Auditor General said.
He pointed out that the 2007 financial statements were submitted and resubmitted five times. The last submission, he said, was done on 4 August 2011.
Mr Sankareh said this is indicative of a lack of quality control processes over financial statements production at the Treasury Directorate and has severely impacted the timely completion of the Audit since some of the documents had to be re-audited after each resubmission.
He said it would appear that the primary aim of the hurried action (of the treasury directorate leading to submission of haphazard reports) was to meet the statutory deadlines and to satisfy government’s external partners.