A careful scrutiny of the rice supply distribution list showed that 328 bags of rice were supplied to the 4th Brigade in Makeni during the year under review.
However, documentary evidence submitted to the team for review revealed that only 180 bags of rice were received; leaving 148 bags of rice valued at Le24,989,800 unaccounted for.
The above was uncovered in the Audit Service Sierra Leone (ASSL) 2014 Report and many people have jokingly stated that the 148 bags of rice from the Defense Ministry (North) quoted in the ASSL 2014 Report as unaccounted for, could have been ‘eaten by rats’.
However, the ASSL 2014 report recommended that the Officer in-Charge of rice at the Ministry of Defense should submit adequate justification for the variance supported by relevant documentary evidence; otherwise, the said amount should be refunded and evidence of payment forwarded to the audit office for verification within 30 days of the receipt of this report and in future, carry out regular monthly reconciliations between the rice supply distribution list and the actual quantities received and differences highlighted for necessary action.
Officially responding to the anomaly was the Brigade Commander. He stated that the relevant documentary evidence to justify what was received and what was distributed was produced and maintained.
He added that the necessary reconciliations between records from HQ and what was actually received in the region to account for the quantity and amount is in progress.
He also noted that the relevant documentary evidence was available for verification to account for the 184 bags valued at Le24,989,800.
The Auditor commented however that the relevant documentary evidence to account for the variance of Le24,989,800 was not submitted for verification and therefore the issue remained unresolved.
Furthermore, according to the ASSL 2014 Report, a total amount of Le277,312,784 was given in cash instead of cheque to the 4th Brigade for ration cash allowances.
The monies were to be used to purchase condiments and other items for the well being of personnel at the brigade.
However, the amounts received were never deposited into an account so as to instill expenditure controls in the processing of payments.
This apparent lack of control had resulted in transactions being undertaken without due regard for proper financial management.
During the course of the audit, we realized that payments which totaled Le219,575,688 were made to four suppliers for the purchase of food items, provisions and other assorted items.
Further inquiries on the four purchases revealed the following: a total payment of Le110,990,788 was made to a supplier for the purchase of condiments during the year under review.
Discussions held with the proprietors revealed that the said items were never procured from them.
In the same vein, the mobile phone number quoted on the receipts was non-existent. However, the proprietors of the business refused to sign the management representation letter to confirm their declaration.
The audit team was unable to verify the payment of Le62,295,000 purportedly made to a supplier as the subscriber (who was called by the audit team) to the mobile phone number quoted on the receipt denied ever transacting business with 4th Brigade. He even denied being a businessman.
The business address, of Anita Enterprises at No. 43 Albert Street and the mobile phone number quoted on the receipt were non –existent.
Of utmost concern, was the fact that the mobile phone number used on the receipt was that of a mobile company that ceased operations sometime in 2012.
A total payment of Le40,759,900 was said to have been made to Anita enterprises. Provisions and other items were said to have been purchased for an amount of Le5,530,000 from certain business concern.
However, a spot check carried out revealed that the business enterprise only deals in spare parts and not provisions.
Third party confirmations were also received from Mohamed P. Bah confirming that he never supplied the 4th Brigade nor dealt in provisions.
The ASSL 2014 Report therefore recommended that the Brigade Commander (BC) should ensure the following: that the institution minimizes its potential exposure to financial fraud, through the use of a robust system of internal controls.
In this regard, segregation of duties should be instituted in the ordering, authorization, recording and payment for goods and services.
It was further recommended that all monies received should be deposited into an account before monies are expended.
In this regard, suppliers should be paid by cheque instead of cash, after the relevant procurement and payment processes have been followed.
Also that an in-depth investigation is carried out into the whole procurement processes at the Brigade and the report on the outcome of such investigation is forwarded to ASSL for verification within 30 days of the receipt of the report.
The Brigade Commander in his response stated that he noted the concern as the said supplier had been in business with their institution all the time but due to late and inappropriate suppliers, few items were not procured from them though the majority was done with those suppliers.
He however mentioned that the invoices and receipts had been reconciled for audit inspection and moreover, there were local and illiterate suppliers that probably in fear failed to make those representations.
He furthermore said that those controls were beyond the regional office to open and maintain account and that they would refer to HQ for further verification.
The ASSL 2014 Report maintained that the audit recommendation was not adhered to by the Defense Ministry and that some outstanding issues in the previous year’s audit were as follows:
*Bags of rice with amount totaling Le9,240,000 was not accounted for;
*There were no records for fuel consumed amounting to Le23,175,000;
*Withholding taxes amounting to Le9,867,750 were not deducted and paid to the NRA;
*The sums of Le34,710,000 and Le15,000,000 given to the 4th Brigade Headquarter and the 4th Battalion as ration cash allowances and imprest were not retired;
*The state of the staff quarters for both the 4th Brigade Headquarters and the 4th Battalion was far from pleasant; and the quarters lacked basic facilities like water, electricity, proper toilets and kitchens.