By Mafugi Ceesay
The Minister of Health, Dr. Admadou Lamin Samateh, on Saturday said the National Audit Office (NAO) failed to adequately capture in its final report, the Heath ministry’s answers contained in its response to the audit queries in an earlier management report.
The NAO also ignored the ministry advise to consult a World Bank official working with the ministry, who helped in the procurement of ambulances and medical equipment from Turkey, and who has all the relevant information needed by the auditors.
The health ministry in Banjul following the outbreak of Covid 19 made purchases of medical items from Turkey.
In a statement broadcast on GRTS statement to respond to the auditor’s publicized report, Dr. Samateh disagreed with the audit concluded that “health procurement and the distribution of medical items were not conducted, in all material respects, per the government of the Gambia regulations, WB procurement requirements, Standard Operating Procedure Manual and Stores Regulations”.
Samateh asked that the NAO audit exercise be reviewed in the light of the ministry’s observations mentioned in its response to the management report, and the additional information available, which the auditors did not consider.
In the statement seen by this reporter, Dr. Samateh asserted that “the procurement process for medical items and ambulances from TMS-Turkey supplies was never halted, and hence did not result in an extension of the procurement timeline.
“The items airfreighted were delivered on 2nd of July 2020. The items shipped were delivered September 23, 2020.”
The delivery dates were a result of the fact that his ministry was waiting for assistance from the Turkish government to airfreight the items free, he continued.
When that was not forthcoming, the health ministry was told that the request was being processed even after a reminder.
Then a decision was made for the major items such as the ambulances to be airfreighted, and the remaining to be shipped.
Thus the purpose of the emergency procurement was not defeated, whether the items were brought to the Gambia immediately or not.
The main benefit of the emergency procurement at that time was to secure the items for the country, which was achieved according to Dr. Samateh.
That the items did not get into the Gambia immediately, because the ministry was waiting for support from the Turkish government to airlift the items, does not mean that the emergency procurement was not useful.
Dr. Samateh also revealed that the suggestion to airfreight the procured items came from the World Bank task team leader, who made the ministry aware of the possibility of additional funding from the World Bank for the airfreight and other activities.
Samateh added that the World Bank official applied for this additional funding of $1million, which was approved.
“The arrangement with the freight company and the negotiations were all done by him using the World Bank guidelines.”
Dr. Samateh added that many of these processes are complex, and the health ministry relied on the guidance of the expert and partners who are in a better position to help with abiding by these rules.
There is also the additional fact that for such support, the World Bank rules supersede the national rules, he pointed out.