The National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) under the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management and Meteorology (MECDM) says the Audit Report by the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) is fair and it is committed to implement its recommendations and strengthen its internal procurement and financial controls. Whilst it pointed out areas that were not consistent with Financial Instructions (FI) and normal government procurement procedures, the OAG also reached a conclusion that NDMO was generally compliant with the requirements of the FI and the Procurement and Contract Administration Manual (PCAM) but has often only implemented controls after the procurement has been finalised.
Unlike other disaster operations that we usually deal with, the COVID-19 emergency operation was different on several fronts including the fact that it is the first time we have used our national disaster management arrangements with a global health pandemic, the risks remained active during the operation, it occurred over a longer period and its dynamic nature also heightened operational uncertainties. The NDMO stated that most of the departures from the FI and PCAM also indicated that some requirements of the current FI and PCAM are not practical for emergencies. It says the enormity of the task is unprecedented and the pressure it brought with is huge. In such situations, the objective of protecting the country from COVID-19 and savings lives becomes the priority.
As regards the expenditure of funds before they were appropriated by Parliament, the NDMO wishes to inform the public that, it is a matter outside its remit. Nevertheless, from a practical and operational standpoint, waiting for parliament to appropriate funds before expending will defeat the purpose of timely preparation and response to COVID-19. This includes setting up quarantine stations and kitting them up ahead and in time for incoming flights, and ensuring NDMO has the necessary operational and logistic capabilities to deliver on its responsibilities under the COVID-19 National Preparedness and Response Plan and to implement relevant decisions by the COVID-19 Joint Oversight Committee.
The NDMO has reviewed the Audit Report recommendations and is putting together a plan to implement them in its 2023 annual work plan. The NDMO is also of the view that there is a need for a dedicated procurement system for emergencies that is compliant with FI and PCAM and at the same time cognizant with the onerous circumstances that are associated with declared emergencies and disasters. The NDMO assures the public, that it remains committed to implement its mandate as per the National Disaster Council Act and 2018 National Disaster Management Plan.