7.36. Office of the President (2007 – 2010)
7.36.1. Excessive use of fuel without documentation
It was observed that some members of staff, and in some cases vehicles, collected far more fuel than they were entitled to, according to the fuel allocation lists provided for audit inspection. See summary below:
It was recommended that the Vote Controller should provide an explanation for the excess expenditure within thirty days of the receipt of the report, otherwise, the Auditor General would disallow and surcharge the amount.
The Secretary to the President told ASSL that there were categories of vehicles in the Office of the President that required more than 45 litres of fuel per week and there were those that worked round the clock to meet with the many challenges associated with the Presidency on a daily basis (including weekends) to provide much needed ancillary services within and around the Presidency.
It was important to note that the office provided support to His Excellency the President who held the highest office in the land and as Head of State, the Supreme Executive Authority of the Republic and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, his multifarious official duties and functions required logistic support on a timely basis, he added. He furthermore stated that the Fuel distribution was therefore done on the basis of need and in response to existing situations. He mentioned that it was also mandatory with most of those utility 4WD vehicles that the quantity of fuel should not go below a certain level in order to avoid damage to the fuel pump and other relevant parts of the engine. Therefore, as a matter of expediency they were constrained to observe such technical guidelines and having regard to those peculiar circumstances, it was their considered view that the office should be granted special dispensation to allow some degree of flexibility in fuel usage, he concluded.
ASSL Comment:The above issues still stand.
7.36.2. Per Diem allowances of $602,076.05 not properly evidenced.
It was observed that the State Chief of Protocol (SCOP), was responsible for collecting and distributing per diem allowances for the President’s Entourage during both local and overseas trips. It was further observed that there was no documentary evidence to confirm that what he collected was correctly distributed according to the approved budget. In other words, the auditors were unable to confirm that every member of the entourage did receive their per diem from the SCOP.
It was therefore recommended that in future, members of the President’s entourage should sign for their per diem when collecting it and those details added to the related payment voucher. Also the Secretary to the President should ensure that within thirty days of the receipt of the report the Chief of Protocol must provide documentary evidence accounting for the above; otherwise, the Auditor General would disallow and surcharge the full amount on the Chief of Protocol.
Official’s Response:On the overseas per diem, the Secretary to the president stated that as far back as 2007, they had ensured the collection of receipts of allowances paid to officials. He said in conformity with the recommendations of the Audit Report of 2007, they continued to observe the procedure with all officials having to sign and acknowledge receipt for allowances received. He mentioned that for the years 2008 and 2009 therefore, records of receipts for allowances received were in existence in the Accountant’s Office but unfortunately, it would appear that all of those records were misplaced during the Record Management Improvement Programme’s massive effort to decongest all the records sections at State House and introduce best practice records-keeping. He added that the efficacy of the exercise had not been eroded by the loss of those documents because alternative evidence may be obtained by enquiring with the personnel that were in the Presidential entourage, and their responses corroborated to help ASSL form an audit opinion. He said that all the officers who served as SCOP during the period under review were within the jurisdiction and would assist in the process. Nevertheless, from 2010 to present, there were records of receipts for allowances collected, which were available for inspection, he mentioned. He concluded by stating that they would ensure that details of receipts were added to the related payment. On the issue of the local per-diem he explained that it was rightly stated in the Audit Report that the SCOP was responsible for collecting and distributing per diem allowances to members of the President’s entourage when local travel was undertaken. He added that those officials consisting mainly of security personnel, press functionaries, stewards, drivers and senior officials normally signed for and received their allowances. As in the case of the records for overseas travelling, similar problems had been encountered in tracing documentary evidence of receipt of such allowances, he concluded.
Documents relating to per diem allowances for local travelling in 2010 amounting to Le478,025,000 have been verified. The balance of Le79,435,000 was still outstanding as documents were not submitted in support of the amount.
For the financial year 2007,2008 and 2009, there were no documents submitted for per diem allowances or related expenses for both local and overseas travelling.
On the issue of per diem allowance relating to overseas travelling in 2010, documents amounting to $34,901 were submitted and verified, in which case the remaining documents amounting to $57,769 were still not submitted.
7.36.3. Imprest Expenditure on overseas and local travel not retired by the State Chief of Protocol
It was observed that several payments amounting to $ 320,330 were made to the SCOP for the period under review, as Imprest during overseas travel, for which there were no retirement details.
Whenever the President was traveling to the regions, the SCOP would collect Imprest for the purchase of fuel, feeding and contingences. However, there were no documentary evidence (e.g. invoices and receipts), in support of retirement of Le 793,428,750.
It was therefore recommended that in future, the Accountant General should reject requests for Imprest from any Public Officer with an outstanding unretired Imprest. In addition, the Secretary to the President should ensure that the SCOP made available retirement details for the above amounts within thirty (30) days of the receipt of the report; otherwise, the whole amount would be disallowed and surcharged.
Replying to issues relating to unretired overseas imprest, the Secretary to the President said that the Imprest for the President had been used for the following:
Tips for hotel and general services
Purchase of air/train tickets not budgeted for
Hotel bills not covered by per diem
Fuel for private aircraft when necessary
He added that the Office, especially the unit headed by the SCOP was aware of Rule 83, subsection 3-5 and Rule 89 (1) of the Financial Management Regulations and officers who had held the position during the period under review were available for further clarification. He said that retirement of imprest for the period 2010 to present was available for inspection. He assured that in future, all documentary evidence pertaining to the use and retirement of expenditure would be followed to the letter.
For unretired local imprest, he stated that contingencies existed for the operational expenses of the Presidency. That he meant, was exclusively for the use of HE the President, and those funds were disbursed by the SCOP to cover the following and other expenditures:
Donations (Chiefs, Student Group, various Association, etc.)
Tips to security personnel in the regions, cooks, stewards, cleaners.
Advance to Res. Min/SDO as financial support for the purchase of additional drinks.
Purchase of additional fuel/oil/vehicle parts as the case may be.
He said the collection of receipts for most of those expenditures had not been consistent due to the nature of disbursements of those monies, and the extempore nature of those activities. As such, it had been impossible to provide receipts for all expenditures in terms of contingencies for local travel, he mentioned. He added that in the case of expenditure on fuel, the SCOP with the assistance of the Senior Driver had also been responsible for collecting monies and providing fuel for all vehicles in the Presidential entourage. Due to the distances covered, it was impracticable to receive fuel supply for all the vehicles in Freetown prior to their departure and therefore allocation for local travel had been in the form of cash disbursement to facilitate the purchase of additional fuel outside Freetown, he maintained.
He said since 2007, a record of receipts was maintained. However, those receipts for fuel which had been collected could not be traced due to the movement of personnel after the change of Government, he noted.
Concluding, he stated that receipts from 2010 to present were available for inspection and verification; notwithstanding the above, modalities would be put in place to ensure that adequate documentation was maintained and retained for all such expenses.
The documents for 2010 Imprest that related to overseas travelling were not submitted for inspection, even though it was mentioned in the Management Response that those documents would be made available for verification. In effect the issues are still outstanding. For imprests that related to expenditure, some documents for the year 2010 local travelling amounting to Le259,517,500 were submitted and verified. The balance of Le113,635,500 is still outstanding.
7.36.4. Special imprest/departmental warrant not retired
Retirement details on expenditures relating to special Imprests and amounting to Le 550,305,043 were not submitted for audit inspection. It was recommended that the Secretary to the President should make available retirement details for the above amounts within thirty (30) days of the receipt of the report; otherwise, the whole amount would be disallowed and surcharged. In future, the Accountant General should reject requests for Special Imprest from any Public Officer with an outstanding unretired Imprest.
The Secretary to the President said that the office had retired almost all of the payments and effort was being made to retrieve copies of those documents from the Accountant General’s Department. He concluded that they would be made available to ASSL for inspection and verification.
ASSL Comment:The above issues still stand as the said documents were not produced for inspection.
7.36.5. Documents not submitted for audit exercise
It was also observed that bank statements, cheque stubs and bank reconciliation statements were not submitted for audit inspection for the following bank accounts:
ASSL recommended that the Secretary to the President should make available the above documents within thirty days of receipt of the report, failing which Section 18 of the Audit Act would be invoked.
The Secretary to the President stating that efforts were being made to trace those documents, and that they would be made available to the ASSL for inspection and verification as soon as they were located.
ASSL Comment:The above issues still stand as none of those documents were produced.
7.36.6. Procurement procedures not followed in the procumbent of services
A payment of Le131,370,000 was made to Farouk M. Gebara & Company Limited, for the carpeting of State House, for which procurement procedures were not followed. There was no evidence for instance, to show that the contract awarded to Farouk was advertised, that bids were received, opened, evaluated and the contract awarded to the winning bidder. On the contrary, it would appear that Farouk M. Gebara & Company Limited was hand-picked and awarded the contract. It was recommended that, in future, procurement procedures should be followed, and that a detailed explanation should be provided for that breach by the Office of the President.
The Secretary to the President stated that there was a desperate need for the refurbishment of State House which included the re-carpeting of the entire area that was visible to the public. The carpet had become threadbare in certain areas, and its deplorable state did not befit the Office of the Head of State, he added. He said that several distinguished personalities and delegations were expected to visit His Excellency the President around that time and they could not expose the Presidency to shame and ridicule. He said further that fortunately, several rolls of carpets were donated to His Excellency the President who gave the green light for them to be laid immediately to remedy the situation. He also mentioned that the area to be carpeted was extensive and only one supplier Farouk M Gebara was willing to undertake the work despite contacts made with other suppliers within Freetown. He also mentioned that he was the only supplier who was willing to supply all other materials (including quality underlay which he had in stock) required to complement the laying of the carpet. He was therefore requested to perform the service with the understanding that payment would be effected later, he maintained.
ASSL Comment:The above issue still stands.