21 January 2013

Liberia: Big Stealing At Finance - 500 Pension Checks Disappear

The Informer Newspaper has gathered authoritatively that another big stealing involving pay checks has occurred at the Ministry of Finance.

The Ministry of Finance Sunday (Jan 20) confirmed that more than 500 Pension Checks worth about US$12,000 went missing at the Ministry on Friday, January 18, 2013.

The Ministry said an employee (which name it did not disclose) who was in charge of the checks told senior management Friday evening that "some unknown persons reportedly walked into her office and made away with a bag containing the checks".

A Finance Ministry release also issued yesterday stated that "a stop payment request has been submitted to the Central Bank and other commercial Banks to ensure that checks with marching series numbers cannot be cashed."

The release said authorities of the Ministry of Finance, including the internal security unit, have launched an immediate investigation into the incident. The authorities also notified the Ministry of Justice and the Liberia National Police to investigate the stolen checks incident.

The employee, who was in possession of the stolen checks, has been recommended for suspension without pay pending the outcome of the investigation.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Amara Konneh has called on the police to accelerate the investigation in order for the culprits to be apprehended and prosecuted in accordance with the laws of Liberia.

The Ministry of Finance has been a center of massive corruption in the recent past with checks and payroll scandals being the order of the day. Even after several years of efforts of transforming the system--from manual to computerize--the in many areas of operations, it is still be manipulated to facilitate corruption.

Former Finance Minister (now Foreign Minister) Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan spend years at the Ministry "jarring the still water for crocodiles" (corrupt individuals) to come out, but many did not come out until he left. Under his regime the Public Financial Management Law was passed, while many ghost names were deleted from government's payroll.

Several persons were fired for corruption while many "crocodiles" remained uneasy at the Ministry, until Amara Konneh took over and fired nearly two dozen employees perceived to have been involved in a corruption syndicate.

Konneh is faced with even greater challenged when he has to fight nepotism of which he is accused, the existing corruption and the looming crashing of the current budget. Sources at the Ministry told this paper that they believe that the check was stolen by a "planted individual" with the aim of putting Konneh's effort in disrepute.

"I can confirm to you that this government is really catching hell. No money to underwrite all of our development initiatives; the major investments are not going the right way, millions of dollars expected in the first sector will no longer come as a result of the President's moratorium on the sector, the insider said.

Secret Pension Payment?

Meanwhile the Ministry of Finance Civil Servant Association (MOF-CSA) has alarmed over what it calls the form and manner in which the Senior Management Team is attempting to pension some at least 200 employees of the Ministry of Finance who have diligently rendered services to the Republic of Liberia for over 25.

MOF-CSA said it learned from credible sources that the names of Finance employees pending retirement have already been deleted from the regular payroll without any formal notification to the concerned employees. "Such act is utterly despicable to treat men and women who have served the Government and people of Liberia in dishonorable fashion. They have attained the true status of honorable men and women by any stretch of imagination," release said.

The MOF-CSA challenged Finance officials to observe the traits of good governance as envisaged by the current political dispensation by conducting official business openly and transparently on matters regarding the welfares of employees.

"Paradoxically, the Ministry of Finance is seen publicly preaching transparency and accountability when it cannot even practice their elemental tenets. We are certainly perplex and disappointed about the level of secrecy surrounding the entire pension exercise," the release noted.

The MOF-CSA called on the Senior Management Team "to return to status quo ante by reinstating the names of all concerned on the regular payroll until the procedures required to conduct pension exercise is meticulously followed."

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