Zongo Dev’t Fund in GH₵ 5M procurement breach
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 GHC5.0 million. The management of ZoDF allegedly superintended procurement breaches such as inflation of contract figures and breaching of entity head’s threshold.
Corruption Watch established that two hundred thousand Ghana cedis (GHC200,000) of the GHC5.0 million was spent on a contract for COVID-19 PPEs.
In addition, ZoDF was alleged to have spent more than GHC4.8 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 GHC200 thousand contract 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 GHC100,000 and below.
He, however, refused to answer Corruption Watch’s questions on the GHC4.8 million expenditure incurred without a procurement plan, which related to spending on office equipment, street lights, mechanized boreholes and consultancy services.
Nonetheless, auditors examining ZoDF books have, in their preliminary queries, raised questions about the proprietary of spending the GHC4.8 million on those goods, services and works because the transactions occurred when the Fund did not have an approved procurement plan.
Documents Corruption Watch investigators reviewed show that the ZoDF procured these goods, services and works between October 2018 and March 2020.
Notably, before 2019, the Ministry for Inner City and Zongo Development (MICZD) performed procurements on behalf of ZoDF.
GHC200k COVID-19 PPEs contract
Sulemana Abdulai was appointed in September 2019 as ZoDF CEO following the death of the then CEO, Alhaji 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 25th March 2020 for GHC200,000 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 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 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.
Spending without 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 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 due reference is made to those Packages as captured in their approved procurement plans…”
During our interview with Sulemana Abdulai on Monday 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.
Story by Frederick Asiamah, Journalist, Corruption Watch
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