By Kemeseng (Kexx) Sanneh
The Finance and Public Accounts Committee (FPAC) of the National Assembly reveals in its Consolidated Report for January to September, 2022 that the sum of D31.7 Million Dalasi was confirmed as the outstanding imprests for the said period.
However, it has further stated that out of the D31.7 Million, only D2.5 million was recovered.
The Vice Chairperson, Honorable Mbowe of the Finance and Public Accounts Committee (FPAC) of the National Assembly, reported the outcomes of the FPAC sessions convened (in public) at the National Assembly Auditorium from 2019 to 2021. This covers from 11 to 22 February 2019, 10 to 25 February 2020; 26 April to 31 May 2021; and,10 September to 15 October 2021.
According to Mbowe, this is in accordance with Sections 102 and 109 of the 1997 Constitution of the Republic of The Gambia, and the Finance and Public Accounts Committee (FPAC) had the following engagements.
He mentioned that the review covered the review and consideration of the Auditor General’s Report on the Accounts of the Government of The Gambia covering the period between 2016 and 2018. He added that the committee examined the review and consideration of the Activity Reports, Financial Statements, External Auditor’s Management Letters, and Compliance Reports of Gambia Public Procurement Authority.
Mbowe said they studied the Central Bank of The Gambia for the periods 2017, 2018, and 2019, the Financial Intelligence Unit for the periods 2014 to 2017; Gambia Revenue Authority for the periods 2016 and 2017; and the National Audit Office for the year ended 31st December 2016.
He said this was done in a consultative audience with the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC), who reviewed the Public Finance Act, 2014.
The vice chairperson of the committee informs the parliament of the findings in the Auditor General’s Report for 2016.
He indicates that the grants totaling D1,296,377,878.96 (nearly 1.3 billion dalasi) were not disclosed in the financial statements, and that grants continue to be received by sectors but not recorded by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs (MoFEA).
He added that there were contingent liabilities totaling D360,092,828, US$2,000,000 and €855,826 respectively, which were not disclosed in the financial statements.
The member also said the findings in the Auditor General’s Report for 2017 indicated unmatched transactions totaling D1,050,587,268.60, (over 1 billion dalasi) which was identified during the review, adding that Government bank accounts totaling D116,806 were not disclosed in the financial statements.
He went further to say that total liabilities of D8,168,654.02 from concluded litigation cases against the government were identified and that the Government guaranteed loans to State-owned Enterprises, which were unpaid and also not recognised in the financial statements.
On the findings in the Auditor General’s Report for 2018, the Member indicated the net worth of State-Owned Enterprise (SOEs) reported as D5,389,778,820 (nearly 5.4 billion dalasi) in the Financial Statement, but could not be confirmed because the audited financial statements of SOEs were not provided for proper review to be done.
He said there are differences amounting to D15,688,641,938 and D13,429,150, during the prior year’s closing balance and the current year opening balance in respect of loans and grants.
On the analysis of key issues and conclusions, he said grants from multilateral agencies do not go through MoFEA or AGD, but are arranged through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or NGO agencies and are delivered directly to the affected sector, adding that fear of not receiving full budgetary allocation usually prevents institutions from disclosing to MoFEA the grants they receive.
“Officials from Ministries other than the Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs usually sign some of these financing agreements,” he said.
Honourable Mbowe continued to say that an undisclosed contingent liability discovered in 2016 remain unresolved at the time of finalising the Management Letter for 2016.
“Accountant General’s Department (AGD) however commits itself to work within a reasonable time frame to resolve the issues. They assured FPAC that these outstanding issues have been analysed and will be cleared in the 2019 accounts,” he pointed out.
He said the AGD is a signatory to only central government accounts and that project accounts are opened through AGD, but the Project Implementation Units are the sole signatories. He added that the AGD has never been part of project negotiations, but they have access to already signed financing agreements, noting that AGD is mandated by law to be responsible for revenue collection from all sources but unfortunately, payments for the SecuriPort and scanning fees are collected by third parties.
Mbowe said the Litigation against the government involved third-party information which could only be obtained from the Ministry of Justice. He continued that the figures for 2019 were disclosed to the extent possible but the figures for 2020 have been requested but are not yet received.
Vice chairperson Mbowe said the Audited accounts for all the State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) were not available at the time of the audit exercise. The difference in closing and opening balance of loans was a debt management data issue. Since IFMIS does not capture the outstanding balances from the interface, Mbowe said only debt servicing information is available from the interface.
The member reports that financing agreements of projects usually dictate designated accounts and reporting requirements but some donors have stringent human resource and software requirements, which require a specific Public Finance Management (PFM) capacity in terms of Coordinators and Accountants.
“However, creating a Project Coordinating Units (PCU) everywhere is a waste of resources. Chartered Accountants of MoFEA could oversee project accounts like the Chartered Accountant that currently heads the Accounts at the Ministry of Environment,” he stressed.
He said the FPAC is concerned about the persistent adverse audit opinion over the years because of the materiality of the misstatements involved, especially when no plausible explanations have been advanced by AGD or efforts made to reverse this unfavourable trend.
At the end of the presentation, members of the Assembly adopted the report with the recommendations and asked the committee to come up with a resolution and a timeline to ensure the Accountant General resolves the queries.