A Corruption Watch investigation has uncovered that the Zongo Development Fund (ZoDF) has engaged in alleged procurement malpractices in the purchase of goods, services, and works worth ¢5 million.
The management of ZoDF allegedly superintended procurement breaches such as inflation of contract figures and breaching of the entity head’s threshold.
Corruption Watch established that ¢200,000 of the ¢5 million was spent on a contract for Covid-19 PPEs.
In addition, ZoDF was alleged to have spent more than ¢4.8 million to procure office cabinets and ICT equipment and accessories; recruit contractors for the installation of streetlights and drilling of mechanized boreholes; and the engagement of consultants for various services.
Chief Executive Officer of the Fund, Arafat Sulemana Abdulai conceded in an interview with Corruption Watch that he “went beyond” his threshold in the approval of the ¢200,000 contracts for Covid-19 PPEs.
Sulemana Abdulai, as the “head of entity” of ZoDF, per the Public Procurement Amendment Act, 2016 (Act 914) is permitted to approve procurements that are worth ¢100,000 and below.
Sulemana Abdulai was appointed in September 2019 as ZoDF CEO following the death of the then CEO, Mohammed Baba Alhassan in August 2019. He was previously the technical advisor to the late CEO.
The procurement of the Covid-19 related items, namely bottles of sanitizer, bottles of liquid soap, and bundles of nose masks is one of the major transactions he has overseen.
The contract was awarded to Focus Women Network on March 25, for ¢200,000 after which Sulemana Abdulai wrote to the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) to request for ratification of the contract because he had breached his permissible threshold as head of the entity.
According to our sources, Sulemana Abdulai sidestepped ZoDF’s entity tender committee (ETC) in the award of the contract even though the transaction was beyond the permissible threshold of the head of the entity.
Section 18 (3f) of the Public Procurement law stipulates that the head of entity “shall” refer to the entity tender committee for approval, a procurement above the approval threshold of the head of entity.
According to our sources, the transaction raised eyebrows because of the manner in which the contract was executed. They allege that the purchase, which was not preplanned started off under the price quotation method of procurement but eventually ended up as a single-sourced contract.
In an interview with Corruption Watch on Monday, August 10, 2020, during which he was aided by eleven other officers, Sulemana Abdulai confirmed that having breached his permissible threshold he wrote to the PPA for ratification.
Now, to the matter of spending without an approved procurement plan.
Corruption Watch also reports that auditors examining ZoDF books have, in their preliminary queries, raised questions about the proprietary of spending the ¢4.8 million on procuring office cabinets and ICT equipment and accessories; recruiting contractors for the installation of street lights, and drilling of mechanized boreholes; and engaging consultants for various services because the transactions occurred when the Fund did not have an approved procurement plan.
According to close sources, as of the end of the first quarter of this year, the Fund did not have in place an approved procurement plan for the 2020 financial year. This, according to our sources breaches Section 21 of the Public Procurement Act, 2003 (Act 663) as amended by Act 914 of 2016.
Section 21 of the public procurement law stipulates that a procurement entity “shall” prepare a procurement plan to support its approved programme. The law further requires that a procurement entity shall have its entity tender committee approve its procurement plan for the subsequent year not less than one month to the end of the current year. This means that the ZoDF procurement plan for the year 2020 should have been approved no later than the beginning of December 2019.
To reinforce this provision, the PPA on May 19, 2020, published an advertorial on its website (https://ppa.gov.gh/advertisers-announcements/) to remind public institutions of their obligation to furnish the procurement authority with their procurement plans for the year 2020.
The PPA stated that “In accordance with Section 21 of Act 663 as amended, the Authority is reminding” all entities to submit their procurement plans latest by 29th May 2020.
“The authority indicated that its governing board would not consider “any applications for the use of Sole Source and Restricted Tendering unless the due reference is made to those Packages as captured in their approved procurement plans…”
During our interview with Sulemana Abdulai on August 10, 2020, he said ZoDF has an approved procurement plan for 2020 but could not say when the ZoDF ETC approved the procurement plan.
He also declined to speak on issues pertaining to alleged inflation of office cabinets, citing the presence of auditors who were still reviewing the Fund’s books; therefore, arguing that it would be inappropriate for him to speak on matters raised by auditors in their initial observations.