Delinquent gov’t officials face surcharge for overpayments, incomplete works

As part of efforts to curb overpayments on contracts, which have plagued state agencies for years, government has informed officials that those who sign off on incomplete contracts will be surcharged and have their names published in the annual reports of the Auditor General (AG), according to a Treasury Memorandum laid in the National Assembly last Thursday.

The memorandum details the actions government has taken or intends to take in response to the report of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on the Public Accounts for the years 2010 and 2011. During that time, members of the current government administration, who were in opposition, led the PAC.

According to the memorandum, government is aware of the need to improve its procurement practices with a view to having value for money. It indicates that Heads of Budget Agencies have been informed of the AG’s concerns and that government invited the AG as an advisor to its meeting with agency heads, where he reiterated his concerns.

Additionally, circulars have been issued to instruct agency heads to refrain from overpayments and to inform them that not doing so would be in violation of provisions of the Financial Management and Accountability Act.

The memorandum says several agencies have also taken steps “to reduce if not end the occurrence of overpayments to contractors.”

It notes that contracts are to be monitored continuously across agencies, while the unmitigated resoluteness by the PAC when dealing with agencies that did not set up procedures in the execution of contractual works have in effect created increased awareness of the systemic weaknesses across agencies. Additionally, it says meetings involving the PAC, the Finance Secretary, Accountant General and the Auditor General have been held with a view to discussing and arriving at decisive strategies aimed at enforcing protection mechanisms as well as the institution of disciplinary action against defaulters.

The memorandum also says other measures include having the employed engineers and the established field audit units give the necessary technical capabilities as well as audit oversight with an implemented requirement that technical staff give detailed reports when signing off on works.

These reports must include photographic evidence before, during and on completion of projects as another deterrent against designated officials signing off against incomplete works.

The most impactful measure, however, appears to be a directive to officers that appropriate action would be taken, resulting in persons being surcharged if overpayments to contractors occur, while instituting surcharge against all delinquent officials signing off on incomplete contracts and reinforcing it with the PAC request that the names of these officials be published in the AG’s annual reports.

Further, the memorandum says the implementation of mandatory protective clauses and their sustained validity throughout the duration of the contract is an exercise in progress as well as the development and implementation of a policy intended to address the prompt application of the Insurance and Performance Bond.

Other measures implemented to address the situation are the introduction of a system where variations, when necessary, are approved by the right tender board in keeping with statutory rules and regulations, and ensuring the involvement of the Works Committees of the Regional Democratic Councils in certifying works within the various regions as well as making the Bill of Quantities available to Neighbourhood Democratic Councils to create more awareness and oversight.

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