By Ramatoulie Jawo
Hon. Alhagie S. Darboe, Chairman of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Finance and Public Accounts (FPAC), has revealed that their report shows that one million, six hundred fifty thousand dalasis (GMD 1,650,000) are missing from the COVID-19 allowances for frontline workers in the health sector.
Hon. Darboe pointed out that a payment discrepancy of D1.6 million for frontline worker allowances lacked documentation from both the Accountant General and other relevant agencies.
“Neither the Accountant General nor the agencies could provide this documentation despite several attempts by the auditors. Based on the evidence obtained by the auditors adequate and appropriate evidence was not presented by the Ministry of Health to substantiate the payment of allowances to some frontline workers. There were lapses in internal controls, discrepancies noted that might not be addressed and funds might be diverted. The payment process did not fully comply with the laws and regulations that govern them,
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“Lapses in the payment of allowances meant money had been misused. In addition, poor controls around the storage and distribution of medical items increased the risk that items have not been available to treat patients,” Hon. Darboe stated.
He said that some of the staff of the Ministry of Health, whose names were listed on payment attachments, were not paid their COVID-19 allowances.
“There was correspondence with payment attachments list of personnel from the Ministry of Health directing hospitals and other health facilities to proceed with the payment of the respective allowance. However, we noted that some staff included in the payment attachment list did not receive allowances,” Hon. Darboe said
He also informed his fellow National Assembly Members that there were discrepancies in the allowances disbursed to frontline health workers.
Furthermore, he highlighted that the auditors identified an overpayment of D1,615,548 to 227 Ministry of Health staff, particularly impacting employees in the Upper River Region (URR) and Central River Region (CRR). Additionally, he disclosed that the distribution of medical supplies for COVID-19 was not conducted in accordance with relevant laws, regulations, the standard operating procedure manual, and store regulations.
Hon. Darboe emphasized that the committee’s recommendation is to produce the missing payment vouchers for the D1,650,000.00 payment within 72 hours; otherwise, the voting controller will be responsible for reimbursing this amount.
The committee also recommended that no payment should be initiated without a comprehensive list of eligible personnel.
The Finance and Public Accounts Committee (FPAC) tabled their report before the plenary on Monday, September 11, 2023.