Industry Minister, Auditor General criticize each other

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The Office of the Federal Auditor General (OFAG) and the Ministry of Industry (MoI) squabble with each other after the latter dismissed the report presented to parliament by the Auditor General.
The ministry has been unable to adequately defend itself after failing to explain the misuse of 743.797 million birr to OFAG in a timely manner.
While the Auditor General accused the ministry of making purchases outside of national procurement procedure, the MoI argued that it did not contradict procurement standards.
In a letter sent to Capital, the MoI and the Public Account Affairs Standing Committee of the parliament, OFAG explained that the MoI must be held responsible.
The four-page letter signed by Aweke Tenaw, Director of Public Relation of OFAG, said that the ministry did not respond to the Auditor General’s requests for additional information in a timely manner.
“They sent the appropriate information on May 14, after the auditor general had compiled a report for the parliament,” OFAG explained.
“The auditor’s office has to work within an appropriate timeframe to discharge its duty properly. The problems occurred due to the delayed response from the MoI,” the auditor general explained.
The OFAG said that it had sent a letter to the MoI requesting an explanation for its purchases on March 5, 2015. “We also sent the final audit report to the ministry on April 14, 2015,” it added.
“However, they did not respond in a timely fashion,” the auditor said.
The auditor general stated that a letter from State Minister of Industry Dr. Mebrahtu Meles explained that the ministry would settle the matter with the auditor general at the audit exit conference.
Dr. Mebrahtu’s letter to the OFAG reads “We acknowledge that you sent a letter on March 5, seeking further explanation. We will provide detailed explanations, in addition to the information we provided during the auditing period, during the auditing exit conference.”
The OFAG dismissed MoI’s latest defense, saying that the ministry did not meet the auditor general’s requests within the legally permitted timeframe.
An official at MoI explained to the auditor that the ministry made the purchases on the order of a higher government body, to promptly complete the construction of the project.
“A short construction period does not give the ministry the right to make purchases outside of the legal procurement process,” the auditor general argues.
The construction of an industrial zone in Bole Lemi is the source of contention between the two sides. It is the first industrial enclosure to be erected by the government in the eastern outskirt of Addis Ababa.
Auditor General Gemechu Dubiso accused the MoI of purchasing 743.797 million birr worth of construction and consultancy services without announcing bid offers.
However, the MoI argued that it had awarded the project to contractors based on the government body’s preferences and strategies set by top officials.
The ministry argued that it had explained irregularities in project contracts to the auditor general and had attached a note to the procurement process. In a letter written on May 14 to OFAG, Ahmed Abetew, Minister of Industry, stated that in addition to clarifying the ministry’s actions, he expressed his desire to provide further explanations at the exit conference.
An exit conference is customary after auditing, but was foregone in this case. 
In the letter, the minister said that the audit report was conducted ahead of the exit conference.
Melaku     Taye, Public Relations Head of the MoI, told Capital that the procurement was made following legal procedures and that the Public Procurement and Property Administration Agency had approved it. 
The procurement agency stated its approval in a letter sent to the MoI in July 2013. It recognized the order given by the prime minister’s office to complete the construction project within a few months.
A document attached with the letter explains that the procurement process had been overseen by a committee composed of top officials and experts from relevant government offices such as the Ministry of Urban Development, Housing and Construction, and the Addis Ababa City Roads Authority.