BY BEN BILUA
THE Office of the Auditor General has uncovered issues that affected the implementation of the Manaoba Airport Project after having gone through all available documents related to the project.
Key results on the investigation indicated that the Ministry of Communication and Aviation (MCA) administration and management’s procurement practices did not comply with the requirements of the relevant Acts, Regulations and procurement manual.
Issues of non-compliance indicated that MCA failed to formulate a procurement plan and annual budget bid for the Manaoba Airport project.
There was also lack of consultation on the project with relevant stakeholders and this led to in-appropriate procurement methods used to procure goods and services during project implementation.
Sourcing of procurement also failed to comply with the PCAM, and contracts were not advertised or tendered to the open market – as such tender bid documents were not evaluated by the Tender Evaluation Committee (TEC).
It was found that source documents were not made available for audit and that it was not possible to verify the appropriateness of the payments made to the suppliers and contractors.
Finding on procurement audited alleged that the amount of $62 million spent on the Manaoba Airport project was hard to verify by the auditors due to lots of limitations.
Limitations include; lack of Annual Procurement Planning led to the in-efficient usage of funds by the ministry, lack of Procurement Plan for large and complex projects like Manaoba airport, there was no feasibility study carried out prior to construction of Manaoba airport, land ownership issue was not resolved prior to construction of airport.
The investigation further found that there was lack of separate annual budget for Manaoba Airport project and no detailed budget that itemise the type of expenditure or costs that would be allowed to be met by the ministry during the procurement process.
Adding, there was lack of procurement source documentations to support the appropriateness of the payments, lack of transparency and accountability on the payments raised, in-complete project activities and non-performing contracts, payments processed were not genuine and the inherent presence of conflict of interest was obvious and it was draining off huge amount of money to related parties, cronies and relatives that undermined established procurement procedures due to lack of separate annual budget for Manaoba Airport project.
Auditor General Office states that an amount of $26,394,506.80 have been spent on Manaoba airport project despite the limitation of resources encountered audit was able to identify.
The report says that the amount could be higher given the circumstances mentioned above.
In its recommendation, the auditor general’s office emphasised the need improve compliance with relevant regulations and Acts as well as deficiencies in compliance, internal control measures, procurement practices and other areas where improvements in management were needed.
The audit of Manaoba Airport project was conducted following a request from MCA’s Permanent Secretary (PS) to carry out a special audit due to allegations raised concerning the $62 million as amount spent for the project.
The Civil Aviation Act 2008 provides for the ministry to build and construct new airports and its maintenance for both international and provincial airports.
The Manaoba Airport Project was one of these newly constructed airports that went through the ministry’s procurement process.
The main objective for developing the airport was to assist the population in that area in providing transport for them and furthermore to boost the economy for the province through tourism and other business activities.