Serious deficiencies at Sida field office

The Bukina Faso field office of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) has been plagued by deficiencies for several years, according to an internal audit of the office.

Sharp criticism has been raised against the office’s “internal governance and monitoring”.

Suppliers have avoided paying taxes and social fees, unauthorized individuals have replied to official email from private accounts and petrol coupons are missing.

Sida has also lost 118,000 kronor ($15,000) by paying VAT in the country, something which Sida really shouldn’t have to pay.

“We are of the opinion that this has been unsatisfactory. That is the strongest expression we have,” said William Stannervik of Sida’s internal audit department.

Several of the local companies hired by Sida can’t produce documentation that they have paid taxes or social fees. Security company Socokif Techno Security, for example, has refused to provide any records for 2006 through May 2009.

When asked if a Swedish agency, especially one working with development cooperation, shouldn’t ensure that its suppliers pay taxes, Stannervik said reality doesn’t necessarily meet with that ideal as many of the companies hired might be little more than “a gravel floor and a hole in the wall.”

Jan Bjerninger, head of Sida’s long-term programme-based cooperation at Sida, believes that the report is a good thing despite the critique.

“We will review contracts with companies in light of this,” he said.

In addition to tax-related issues, a locally-hired assistant has answered an incoming email, addressed to the embassy leadership. He was reported to have replied from his private email, which was one of the auditors’ most serious concern.

According to unconfirmed information, the assistant who replied to the email was supposedly the head of the security company hired by Sida.

The email reported came from the security guards who were attempting to bring the problem to Sida’s attention. Those suspicions have also been investigated.

The numbers related to petrol coupons don’t add up either. When the accountants balanced the books, the equivalent of 20,000 kronor was missing.

“There was an overlap between two individuals and we have no reason to believe there have been any irregularities,” said Stannervik.

Cecilian Gerdrum, head of the Burkina Faso field office, declined to comment when telephoned by TT.

Sida has dispatched an additional two individuals to the office and has drafted an action plan to address the deficiencies.

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