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Sierra Leone Business: MAFFS failed to respond to audit queries on damaged fertilizer

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security (MAFFS) has failed to respond to audit queries from the Audit Service Sierra Leone (ASSL) over claims of damaged fertilizer from suppliers. Section 185, titled Claims for Deficiencies or Damage under Part XIII of the Classification of Stores of the Financial Management Regulations 2007 states that claims for deficient or damaged stores should be made to the supplier or their agent and that should be done for deficient or damaged stores on receipt exceeding Le50,000. The Auditors recommended that MAFFS should either claim the damaged fertilizer from the supplier or deduct the cost price of USD 13,140 from the supplier’s payment. In addition, MAFFS should ensure that fertilizer and all other goods supplied meet the required standard specified in the contract before receiving them. This was according to the performance audit into the management of fertilizer by MAFFS, in which they stated in their management response that even though the Permanent Secretary informed the Senior Procurement Officer, he did not provide response to the findings of the Auditors. During physical examination of MAFFS Mechanical Stores at Kissy warehouse in Freetown, the Auditors found that 180 bags of Fertilizer worth USD 13,140 were damaged. In an interview with the Chief Storekeeper, they learnt that the above fertilizers were received damaged, but however no action was taken by the vote controller to claim these damaged fertilizer, from the suppliers. In addition to this, the contract between MAFFS and the suppliers also require that MAFFS inspects and carry out test on fertilizer delivered to ensure that its quality is compliant with the technical specifications outlined in the contract. Contrary to the above requirements, MAFFS had never measured, inspected or tested fertilizer delivered. Through physical inspection of MAFFS Mechanical Stores at Kissy which is MAFFS central store, it was revealed that the store in question was not equipped with scales for measuring fertilizer delivered. The Financial Management Regulations stipulate that the vote controller should arrange for regular examination of all scales used in the stores to make sure that they are properly functional. This examination should be done by the Weights and Measures Inspectors, in a case where there are no qualified weights and measures inspectors, the examination may be done using random tests results acquired with predetermined quantities.  From interviews with officials of the Sierra Lone Agriculture Research Institute (SLARI) which is the body responsible for providing technical support to the Ministry on agriculture matters, it was noted that MAFFS had never requested the services of their personnel for the inspection and testing of Fertilizer procured. According to the Auditors, it is important to note that this has been the case for the whole period under review (2014-2017). From the same interview, it was noted that other providers of Fertilizer in Sierra Leone such as Linking Farmers to Market (LFM) had engaged SLARI’s expertise to determine whether the quality of fertilizer supplied met the standards in their contracts. MAFFS failure to weigh, inspect and test Fertilizer delivered to ensure that they meet the technical specifications in the contract creates a risk of the Ministry receiving goods of the wrong quantity and specification. Subsequently, the Auditors said that they could not ascertain whether the 280,000 bags of Fertilizer costing $22,367,500 which were acquired during the period under review (2014 – 2017) were of the right quantity and quality. To avoid the risk of receiving the wrong quantity and specification of fertilizer, it was also recommended that MAFFS should ensure that fertilizer are weighed and tested for both quantity and quality before receiving them from suppliers. The Senior Procurement Officer did not provide a response to these findings again.

By Zainab Iyamide Joaque

Monday November 19, 2018.

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