8 February 2013

Liberia: Justice Probes 'Shady Money Transaction'

Following claims by the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) that it has retrieved US$163,000 from a local vender, who allegedly defaulted on the delivery of goods and services, there are reports that the matter has taken a different turn with the Justice Ministry taking control of the case.

According to reports, the Justice Ministry is investigating what appears to be a money laundering scheme involving NOCAL and a local sport firm, Boima Folley Sports Business Center. NOCAL and the local vendor had reached an agreement for the sport center to provide sports materials during the recent National County Sports Meet.

The agreement came after NOCAL said a due diligent process was held and the Boima Folley Sports Business Center won the bidding process. However, the Public Relations Consultant for the local vendor, Rhodoxon Fayiah, confirmed that the Justice Ministry is investigating the case between NOCAL and his entity.

A source at the Justice Ministry corroborated this information and said the local vendor and some officials of NOCAL who handled the procurement aspect of the company's sponsorship deal of the National County Sports Meet appeared to have designed the scheme to 'siphon money' from the entity's treasury, using the external bank account of the local sport firm.

Yesterday, Mr. Fayiah told The NEWS that the lawyer representing the local vendor was at the Justice Ministry with his client for the investigation. However, the matter could not continue because officials of NOCAL failed to show up for the second day running.

Fayiah said the money in question was placed into the bank account of the Boima Folley Sports Business Center in Monrovia. After some time, the company informed officials of NOCAL that the goods were ready. However, NOCAL rejected the sports materials, saying the purpose for the materials had elapsed; therefore, they demanded their money back.

Fayiah said the entire transaction exposed when the proprietor of the local vendor rejected an offer from senior NOCAL officials to debit the money placed in his account, ordering him to take US$5,000 for hosting the money in his account and surrender the remaining cash to the named officials for presumed movement into unidentified designated bank account.

Fayiah explained that NOCAL officials refused to take delivery of the sporting consignment when the firm contacted it for delivery. Some senior NOCAL officials alerted the firm that the goods should not be supplied as planned and that the money be returned to the officials with a US$30,000 kickback to the account holder in return for hosting the money in his account.

"My client rejected the offer because it was an irregular transaction and insisted on delivering the goods," Fayah stated.

A source at the Public Procurement Concession Commission (PPCC) said it's not aware of any bidding between NOCAL and the local vendor. Our source said the gloomy nature of the transaction between the oil company and the local vendor is irrefutable considering the fact that there exist no evidence to demonstrate that the procurement contract was subjected to a competitive bidding process as required under the Public Procurement and Concession Act.

NOCAL's officials' failure to respect the PPCC Act in the awarding of procurement contract could point to a calculated conspiracy to milk the company's fund for personal gain and could also be an indication to launder oil money for unspecified reasons.

Under Liberian law, for institution to provide money before the delivery of goods and services is a violation of the Public Financial Management Law and other regulations which demand that goods and services be performed and delivered before payment.

However, it is not clear who specifically at NOCAL authorized the payment of the money to the local vendor before the goods and services were delivered. However, NOCAL Vice President for Administration, Mrs. Vida Mensah, who was the Acting President of the company during the transaction, is alleged to have authorized payment before the goods were delivered.

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