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GAMBIA: MORE THAN 500,000 DALASIS OF COVID-19 FUNDS WERE UNDISBURSED TO THE MEDIA – AUDIT REPORT

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National Audit Office (NAO) 2020 audit report on the Covid-19 funds revealed the confirmation of the funds disbursed to Media Houses. It however also showed that there was unused balance of D585,159.86 from the total amount disbursed.

The NAO indicated that they could not confirm if this balance was subsequently used or paid back to the account as bank statements to verify the balances were not provided. The report further stated that the failure of the grantee to keep and maintain proper and up-to-date records of any transaction carried out is a violation of the grant agreement.

A supplementary appropriation bill was passed by the National Assembly in which D15,000,000.00 was approved as support to the media houses. The support to the media houses was provided through the Ministry of Information Communication and Infrastructure which was delegated to manage the funds and distribute them amongst the media houses – private or community media outlets – print, broadcast or online (newspapers, radios, TV, web).

According to NAO, the money was later transferred to the account that was opened by the Gambia Press Union (GPU) as directed by the Grant Management Committee. Furthermore, the report noted that a compliance audit was performed on the support to media houses mainly on the disbursements of funds to the media houses and whether those funds were utilised by the respective media houses in accordance with the policy put in place

On the non-submission of financial and narrative reports by the grantees, the report states: “No financial and narrative reports were received from some grantees contrary to the provisions of the grant agreement. As such, the use of the fund received for the intended purpose could not be established. Full payment to media houses should only be completed after the submission of financial and narrative report.”

In its conclusion, the NAO states that based on the information and documentation obtained during the audit, the management of covid-19 funds allocated to media houses substantially complied with the laws and regulations that govern them.

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