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27 May 2014 | Gurjit Degun
The Ministry of Health and Sanitation in Sierra Leone has been accused of using fake invoicing and fictitious vendors when buying office equipment.
That’s the findings of an investigation by financing institution, the Global Fund’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG). The Sierra Leone Ministry of Health and Sanitation is a principal recipient of grants from the organisation.
In 2011, the Global Fund’s Local Fund Agent (LFA) raised concerns about “possible instances of misappropriation and fraud” involving Global Fund tuberculosis and malaria grants in the country. The LFA found a loss of $167,947 (£99,859) “due to fraud and misappropriation”.
The OIG said: “The LFA’s report noted that some suppliers did not exist and indicated possible collusion by suppliers.”
An investigation by the OIG identified a further loss of $70,510 (£41,928) “which were compromised by compliance issues”. The OIG found fake invoices dated between 2008 and 2011, some of which appeared to be in the handwriting of a ministry finance officer. There was also evidence that suppliers did not exist.
It added: “There was also evidence of bid rigging in the procurement process with ministry staff producing false quotations and multiple vendors identified as being controlled by a single entity. The practice of submitting different quotations for the same tender from a consortium of companies owned by the same entity creates the impression of fair competition when in fact there is none.”
A statement from The Global Fund said: “The Global Fund is seeking to recover the funds lost and has precluded the implicated vendors. At the Global Fund secretariat’s request, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation has outsourced the procurement of its non-health products to the United Nations Office for Project Services.
“The ministry held its fiduciary agent liable for $167,947 (£99,870) identified by the LFA and recovered part of it by withholding fees owed. The ministry has since changed its fiduciary agent.”
The ministry has not responded to SM's request for comment.