GAC Audit Finds Squander, Waste, Abuse of Public Funds in Two Counties
Monrovia – The General Auditing Commission has completed and submitted audits of the Sinoe County Administration for fiscal years July 1, 2013 to Jun 30, 2015, including the July 26, 2014 Independence Day Celebration, and the Grand Bassa County Administration for the fiscal years July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2015 to the National Legislature.
In the audit, the GAC found that contracts were awarded for construction projects and payments made on those projects without work done by the contractors.
The audit also discovered violation of Public Procurement and Concession requirements during the award of these contracts.
Audit uncovered that in 2014, Sinoe County received US$1,570,083.79 from the Government of Liberia to host the July 26, 2014 independence day program and as such, the County through its leadership and other relevant stakeholders met at the Seventh Sinoe County Development Council meeting in Greenville, Sinoe County to plan programs and identify developmental projects that would be undertaken by the county authority.
2015 Independence postponement
The 2015 celebrations of the independence which was expected to take place in Sinoe County was postpone and the audit found that the untimely completion of the projects led President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to mandate the Ministry of Internal Affairs to postpone the celebration to July 2015 thereby moving the July 26, 2014 celebrations to Montserrado County.
Many projects outlined to be implemented for the celebration, the audit indicated were either not completed timely and several were abandoned.
“The GAC observed during the audit that the Sinoe County Administration awarded contracts and made payments in the total amount of US$1,107,443.82 (One Million, One Hundred Seven Thousand, Four Hundred Forty-Three and Eighty-Two United States Dollars and eighty-three cents) for various goods and services without adhering to the Amended and Restated PPC Act of 2010”, the audit not.
In its recommendation, the GAC stated that the Sinoe County Administration should be held accountable for the PPCC violations.
Section 138 of PPC Act of 2005 and 2010 Restated provides that any person who contravenes any provision of PPC Act commits an offence and a person convicted by a Court of a violation of this Act shall, upon summary conviction, be liable to imprisonment for a period not exceeding five (5) years and or a fine not exceeding One Hundred Thousand United States Dollars (US$100,000.00). Violation of provisions of this Act may also constitute grounds for debarment.
The GAC audit also noted inadequate supervision of projects which resulted in untimely completion of various Development Projects and/or Programs undertaken per contract and as a result, three of the projects reviewed appeared abandoned by contractors/vendors at the time of GAC’s field verification.
GAC auditors also noted an apparent lack of segregation of duties where the County Superintendent and/or the Assistant Superintendent for Development initiated and executed transactions while being A and B signatories to the County’s bank accounts respectively.
The GAC observed that the Sinoe County Administration made payments for various transactions amounting to US$55,895.00 United States Dollars without adequate supporting documentation to substantiate the regularity of the transactions.
Such violation, the audit indicated is a breach of financial discipline as provided by the PFM Regulation A.20 of 2009.
Grand Bassa spends without justification
Also, audit of the Grand Bassa County administration by the GAC also found that the county administration disbursed more than US$ 1 million without supporting documentation.
“Additionally, for the 2015 fiscal year, the Grand Bassa County Administration had available in the county bank account US$565,522.58 and L$171,086.00 respectively to fund activities for the period. In the same period, the county disbursed US$555,177.31 on administrative, programs and project expenditure”, the audit stated.
The Grand Bassa County Administration was also found to have violated provisions in the Public Financial Management regulations including Regulation P.9 (2) of the Public Financial Management (PFM) Regulations of 2009 states that ”Payments except for statutory transfers and debt service shall be supported by invoices, bills and other documents in addition to the payment vouchers.’’
Contrary to the above provision, the GAC observed during the audit that the Grand Bassa County Administration made payments amounting to US$1,178, 764.00 in fiscal year 2013, US$537,678.05 in fiscal year 2014 and US$189,958.10 without adequate supporting documentation to substantiate the regularity of the transactions.
Stated the audit: “Therefore, the GAC has recommended that Management should be held accountable for the breach of P.9 (2) of the PFM regulation, 2009. Payments without adequate supporting documentation cast doubt on the regularity of the transactions and undermine public sector accountability and transparency”.
Further, the GAC observed during the audit that the Grand Bassa County
Administration made payments of US$76,993.02 in fiscal year 2013, US$95,799.93 in fiscal year 2014 and US$35,446.78 in fiscal year 2015 individuals who did not directly provide goods and services to the county.
The GAC indicated that it could not confirm that payments were transferred to the individuals who provided the goods and services because there was no documentary evidence to support the transfer of these payments.
The audit findings added “The GAC further observed that the Grand Bassa County Administration did not withhold and remit into Government of Liberia Revenue Accounts the amount of US$203,975.64 in fiscal year 2013, US$65,724.39 in fiscal year 2014 and US$3,920.26 in fiscal year 2015 taxes from various vendors for procurement of goods, services, and works”.
Citing further violations by the Grand Bassa County Administration the audit pointed out that Section 3.4 of the Code of Conduct Act states that “In carrying out public functions, including making appointments, promotions, awarding contracts or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits, all Public Officials and Employees of Government shall make choices based solely on merit as defined by public policy and law.”
Auditors found that contrary to the above, it was observed during the audit that the Grand Bassa County administration violated the PPC Act of 2005 and 2010 Restated by self-awarding four construction projects for implementation totaling US$541,521.52 (Five hundred and forty-one thousand, five hundred and twenty-one United States Dollars and fifty-two cents) during fiscal year 2014.
Several projects according to the audit appeared abandoned during physical verification.
“The GAC noted upon field verification of the four projects on January 21, 2016, that they appeared abandoned. The projects are the General Road Development (cost S$62,795.96), Road Equipment Maintenance (cost US$315,318.00, Re-electrification Project (cost US$120,026.00 and Commissioner Residence (Cost US$43,381.56)”, the audit report stated.
The audit of the two counties found that based on the audit work performed and the findings, the GAC has concluded that the activities and financial transactions of Sinoe and Grand Bassa County Administrations are not in compliance, in all material respects, with stated laws and regulations.
The findings of the audit of the two counties is similar to findings from any other audits conducted by the GAC where laws and regulations are violated and millions expended without justification such as documents.