AG Dabbles In Corruption Allegation

Attorney-General and Minister of Justice is dabbling over corruption allegations levied against the government over procurement of vehicles and motor cycles for use by officials of the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC).
The EOC is charged with the responsibility of coordinating the campaign against the Corona Virus Disease in Sierra Leone also known as COVID-19.
The allegation comes at a time government has procured 30 assorted vehicles and 100 motor cycles valued at Le 19, 761, 000,000 (Nineteen Billion, Seven hundred and Sixty-one Million Leones).
In the procurement of the said vehicles, no reference was made to the National Public Procurement Authority (NPPA), an institution that regulates procurement processes in Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA’s) of government.
In a seeming sinister cover-up of the procurement activities by government, a clause in the constitutional instrument authored by the Attorney-General’s office shield government from procurement restrictions in the Public Procurement Act of 2016 and the Public Procurement Regulations, 2020 and the Public Financial Management Act, 2016.
“The Public Procurement Act, 2016 and the Public Financial Management Act, 2016 shall not apply to these Regulations. Any other law that is in conflict with these Regulations shall not hold,” the constitutional instrument reads.
The public has raised large eye-brows over the procurement of the said vehicles accusing the government of not going through laid down procurement processes, laws and regulations.
It is also alleged that through continued public backlash, the Attorney-General, in a concealed letter, has withdrawn a previous statement she earlier made to protect government from complying with the relevant public procurement laws and regulations.
A leaked document seen by Nightwatch indicates that the said vehicles were procured by a company known as Anagkazo Ventures Company Ltd situated at ECOWAS Street in Freetown having gone into an agreement with the Ministry of Transport and Aviation.
“This agreement made the 24th day of April, 2020 between the Ministry of Transport and Aviation… and Anagkazo Ventures Company of ECOWAS Street, Freetown invited bids for…30 assorted brand new vehicles and 100 motor cycles,” the agreement document reads.
It is not clear whether the vehicles were procured either through sole-sourcing or competitive bidding.
The constitutional instrument titled: ‘The Corona Virus Disease Emergency Fund Regulations, 2020 presented by the Attorney-General was passed into law by parliament to regulate public spending in the COVID-19 period to ensure value for money.
The Regulations deemed to have been in operation on 1st April, 2020 shall remain in force until revoked by government.
“The purpose of these Regulations is to provide for the establishment and management of the Corona Virus Disease Emergency Fund…to address the threat posed by the Corona Virus Disease to the lives of the people and the economy of Sierra Leone,” the Regulations reads in part.
The Regulations also contains a clause that provides for the establishment of COVID-19 Emergency fund with the main objective of paying for goods and services provided in furtherance of the purposes of the regulations.
As prescribed by the country’s supreme law, government may declare a state of public emergency when an epidemic or a pandemic strikes invoking Section 29 of the Constitution of Sierra Leone Act No 6 of 1991.
However, no procurement law or regulation has been set aside in the COVID-19 emergency period by virtue of the presidential proclamation.
The Public Procurement Regulations recently passed in parliament provide for procurement processes in an emergency situation.
The Public Procurement Act passed in 2016 reinforces the continued existence of NPPA as the regulator of procurement processes embarked upon by MDA’s.
NPPA is empowered by law to regulate and harmonise public procurement processes in the public service, promote economic development including capacity building in the field of public procurement by ensuring value for money in public expenditure.
The Act prescribes competitive bidding and sole-sourcing in the procurement of state assets.
The latter means a procuring entity in a government agency awards the procurement contract directly to a supplier without holding competitive bidding.
Section 46 of the Act prescribes conditions under which a procurement entity in any government agency can embark on sole sourcing.
The conditions say when only one bidder has the technical capability or capacity to fulfill the procurement requirement within the time required by the procuring entity, No reasonable alternative or substitute is available, the original bidder has obligations to make additional supply of goods or services among others.
The Public Procurement Regulations recently tabled in parliament by the Minister of Finance, Jacob Jusu Saffa was approved and passed into law by parliament.
The Regulations known as the Public Procurement Regulations (PRA), 2020 addressed the gaps between the current Procurement law and the repealed 2006 Regulations.
Similarly, the current Public Procurement Regulations is also not silent about procurement processes in an emergency period.
Various provisions in the Regulations provide for procedures of procurement in an emergency period, evaluation of bid, procedure for negotiation of bid and emergency arrangement for emergency procurement.
Section 119 of PRA, 2016 says where a procuring entity conducts sole sourcing procurement on the grounds of an emergency need, it must confirm that the goods, works or services required are not available from stores, it must identify a suitable bidder and where, time permits, prepare a written request for a bid.
The same law also directs in section 120 that a bid for procurement must be evaluated to determine whether it meets a procurement unit’s technical needs, accept the contractual terms and conditions as well as offers value for money among others.
Section 121 commands a procurement unit to prepare a plan which specifies issues to be negotiated, state the objectives and set maximum and minimum negotiation parametres.
In section 122 of the same law, a procurement unit shall notify a procurement committee and any other awarding authority as soon it identifies a procurement requirement which will be subject to sole source procurement on the grounds of an emergency need.
All cited sections which direct procurement officers and entities on the conduct of procurement activities in an emergency period were never adhered to in the purchase of the 30 vehicles and 100 motor cycles for COVID-19 campaign.
Public concerns have also raised questions about government’s uncontrollable speed in the procurement of the vehicles at the expense of payment of EOC workers such as lab technicians, contact tracers, social mobilisers and others.
The said workers, few days back, staged a sit-down strike over non-payment of their hazard allowances.
A great number of Sierra Leoneans have referred to government deviation from the legally accepted processes of procurement as an act that is too far from corruption.
They have called for an investigation to be conducted later, if not now, into the procurement activities of all those involved in the alleged shaddy deal.

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