A special report by the Audit Service Sierra Leone has revealed that there has been deterioration in the quality of compliance with the Procurement Act and Regulations since it was reviewed in 2013.
According to the executive summary of the special report on procurement activities in selected public entities, the assertion was based on findings from the examination of procurement contracts, as well as taking account of procurement observations reported in MLs and their Annual Report for 2014.
It stated that the overall scoring, using the OECD Baseline Indicator tool, showed a score of 1.4 on the 4.0 scale (versus 1.8 in 2013), a deterioration of 22% , adding that with the exception of Pillar I (Legislative and Regulatory Framework), all remaining pillars scored lower.
"Based on our findings we have to conclude that the Act and Regulations are in effect being ignored or, were done in a very passive "tick-the box" manner that disregarded the intent and spirit of the law," the report stated.
It continued that red flags for the possible presence of fraud and corruption were found in the entities examined, but stressed that fraud indicators were not conclusive but merely indicative of an urgent need to conduct forensic investigation.
The auditors found appallingly poor internal controls, including inadequate segregation of duties, poorly trained procurement staff and weak record-keeping, among others.
"When internal controls are weak there is an open door for things to go wrong either through error, carelessness or deliberate illegal acts made easier by the poor control environment. The collective responsibility of procurement committees and individual civil servants serving on them is not being exercised with due regard to the PPA, its regulations or the GBAA," the report said.
Among the red flag indicators highlighted in the report were restrictive bid criteria, unfair application of criteria, excessive price variations, apparent unreasonable ignoring of the lowest bidder, excessive use of restricted bidding/sole source incomplete and/or unavailable documentation, ignoring independent technical advice, poor needs assessments and specifications tailored towards a d provider/supplier, among others.
Source: Concord Times.