Sun | Aug 18, 2019

How the Education Ministry bypassed procurement guidelines

Published:Tuesday | July 23, 2019 | 7:27 PM

The Auditor General has concluded that the Education Ministry often bypassed the competitive process and breached the procurement guidelines through the use of direct and emergency procurements, even in instances that were not urgent. 

The Auditor General presented the finding in her report on the operations of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information (MoEYI) from 2013/14 - 2017/18, tabled in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

The 32-page report said, of a total of 306 contracts valued at $3.5 billion, the MoEYI incurred $1.3 billion for 122 contracts that were awarded through direct and direct emergency procurements.

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For 68 contracts valuing $893 million -- 43 managed by MoEYI and 25 by National Education Trust -- the emergency and direct contracting methodologies were the result of extreme urgency brought about by unforeseen events and the product or service could not be obtained through limited tender or local competitive bidding before the start of the school term.

"The audit concluded that MoEYI’s procurement activities did not always conform with good practises including proper oversight of planning processes in accordance with fiduciary responsibilities to prevent misuse of Government funds and facilitate achievement of value for money," the report said.

The records indicated that MoEYI’s average annual budget over the five-year period 2013-4 to 2017-18 was $89.9 billion with the ministry, on average, allocating $3.2 billion for the purchase of goods and services and $648 million for capital expenditure relating to major repairs and construction.

Further, the report highlighted that the MoEYI did not put in place adequate support systems to control its purchasing cost in high value expenditure areas.  

MAIN FINDINGS OF AUDITOR GENERAL’S REPORT:
1. Misalignment between procurement and inventory management did not support the efficient supply of textbooks and furniture to enable cost effectiveness.

2. Deficiencies in inventory management and monitoring of textbooks and furniture resulted in inefficient distribution and build-up of unused items.

3. MoEYI awarded contracts for school repairs, maintenance and construction, using direct and emergency methods, which under many circumstances did not constitute emergencies and bypassed regulations.

CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATION
1. The repair of school plants is an ongoing activity as such, MoEYI should put the necessary systems in place to anticipate and plan the related activities to ensure timely execution of the procurement process to enable completion of the works in time for the new school year. This, with the aim to avoid the undue reliance on direct and emergency procurements, which do not guarantee MoEYI obtaining the best economic price.

2. MoEYI must urgently put in place appropriate systems to enable better coordination between procurement and stock management, to facilitate timely planning for contract awards to benefit from greater economic savings through competitive bidding. Of importance, top management should ensure compliance with the Government's Procurement Guidelines and seek to entrench a culture of transparency and accountability in the supplier selection process to facilitate the achievement of value for money. 

3. To facilitate better distribution of textbooks and school furniture, MoEYI should develop an inventory system to identify over and under supplies to allow for redistribution. MoEYI should consider providing its Media Services Unit with the necessary resources to undertake timely audits with a wider scope. On the other hand, the Media Services Unit should provide reports that give better particulars, such as specific items and quantities, to inform MoEYI’s procurement plan as well as allow for redistribution of items among schools.

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