Gilbert Seidu Iddi
The effort by the government to alleviate poverty in the northern parts of the country is increasingly becoming a mirage as more top officials are being implicated in the management of the Savanna Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) funds.
The latest Auditor-General’s interim report states that GH¢1,059,649.00 went into what the report calls ‘Inappropriate mode of selecting Consultants,’ for SADA.
As a result, pressure is mounting on President John Dramani Mahama to crack the whip on officials implicated so as to prove his commitment in the fight against corruption.
The interim report said under the Public Procurement Act 663, consultants should be selected based upon capabilities and resources to perform their assignments, but the SADA management ignored that critical requirement.
Meanwhile, the SADA management was given up to February 25, 2014, to respond to the issues raised.
According to the report, SADA had employed the services of highly skilled professionals who are well remunerated to carry out their assignments, yet management contracted four consultants and had been paying them monthly fees totalling a whooping GH¢620,206.00.
The four are Dr. Charles Jebuni as Chief Technical Advisor who took a total of GH¢437,206.00 in a period of 22 months (GH¢19,873.00 monthly); Salifu Mahama as Engineer for Housing, took a total of GH¢96,000.00 for 16 months (GH¢6,000.00 monthly); Bakari Sadiq Nyari, Land, grabbed a total of GH¢108,000.00 for 10 months (GH¢10,800.00 monthly) and Kennedy S. Mohammed, Resource Mobilization, collected a total of GH¢75,000.00 for 10 months (GH¢7,500.00 monthly).
The report said the management failed to produce the profiles and performance reports on the activities of the consultants to enable them to assess their effectiveness.
‘We also noted that Mr. Kennedy S. Mohammed, the Resource Mobilization Consultant for instance, failed to generate any revenue for the Authority since his first appointment in January 2013, yet his contract had been renewed for another six months,’ the report indicated.
It lamented, ‘We see this practice as a drain on the financial resources of the Authority that is meant to alleviate poverty within the SADA zone.’
The interim report said that the management’s failure to institute tight expenditure controls to ensure value for money in their operations accounted for the anomaly.
‘We recommended to management not to renew the contract with Mr. Kennedy S. Mohammed, the Resource Mobilization Consultant, for non-performance when his contract comes to an end in February 2014 since Mr. John Quarcoopome has been employed officially as a Finance Director and Resource Mobilization Officer.
‘We also recommended to management to review the performance of the remaining consultants and terminate the contract of the non-performing ones in order to minimize cost of operation of the Authority,’ it pointed out.
The report revealed, ‘The audit disclosed that management engaged the consultants currently providing services to the Authority without going through public advertisement to ensure that people with the right calibre were selected.’
It said the ‘audit team could not even sight the profile of the consultants providing services to SADA, adding, ‘This weakness blurred transparency and could compromise value for money and for that matter facilitate financial abuse.’
Additionally, the Auditor General said, ‘We noticed that the management spent a whopping £279,684.76 (equivalent GH¢839,054.28) and GH¢364,594.76 totalling GH¢1,059,649.04 on consultancy services during the period under review.’
According to the audit team, the expenditure on consultancy was rather very high and a drain on SADA’s much needed financial resources, looking at the poverty alleviation as the core objective of SADA, and urged management to review its present procedure of selecting and appointing consultants and strive to reduce the number of consultants so as to channel more funds to the productive areas of the Authority.
Meanwhile, six officials of SADA are being asked to pay back over GH¢830,000 to the Authority.
Two of the six who are board members, are supposed to pay back GH¢60,000 they received from SADA for performing unspecified administrative duties.
In December 13, 2012, two board members of SADA were paid GH¢30,000 each for performing administrative duties.
The Auditors said SADA could not produce any agreement between the management and the two board members who authorized them to carry out the administrative duties for fees or salaries amounting to GH¢60,000 in addition to their monthly sitting allowances.
The audit report said board members were supposed to supervise the Chief Executive Officer of SADA and not work under him.
In the 2012 farming season, SADA supplied 714 bags of hybrid seeds to two service providers at a time the farming season was over.
Because of this, SADA lost over GH¢320,000. The auditors described the action as ‘negligent’ and therefore recommended that those responsible be made to refund the amount to SADA.
The official in charge of the project is Dr. Charles Jebuni, then Chief Technical Advisor to SADA and now acting CEO.
Two other officials have also been asked to pay back GH¢218,000 to SADA.
The former CEO of SADA, Gilbert Seidu Iddi, has also been asked to refund some GH¢226,000 to SADA, being the cost of unapproved trip to Turkey on behalf of some district assemblies.
The report has also ordered SADA to retrieve GH¢6,000 from a consultant, Kennedy Mohammed, being the cost of a laptop the authority bought for him.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Information and Media Relations, Mahama Ayariga, has appealed to the media to measure their discussions on the operations of SADA in order not to destroy the initiative.
Even though he admitted that SADA had its own challenges, the idea behind its establishment, he insisted, was a noble one and must be supported to succeed.
By William Yaw Owusu
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