The Management of the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company(LPRC) has admitted that certain procedural errors were made in handling the out of court settlement of the US$1.5million lawsuit filed against it at the Civil Law Court at the Temple of Justice.
The Temple of justice is situated on Capitol Hill, Monrovia. The lawsuit was filed against the LPRC management by the parents of Marcus Larma for wrongful death. It could be recalled that on August 25, 2010, a LPRC vehicle accidentally killed two-year- old Marcus Larma.
The vehicle was driven by one Patrick Flomo, an employee of the entity.The Board of Directors of the LPRC opted for an out-of-court settlement to avoid the risk of paying the US$1.5million.
A just released Special Investigative Report Of the Auditor General on LPRC observed that the Board of Directors of the LPRC along with its Management sanctioned and disbursed double payments of US$30,000 to parents of the late Marcus Larma.
According to the LPRC management,it agrees that certain procedural errors were made in handling the out of court settlement in that "we now realize that at the time of the payment of or prior tothe payment to only one of the parents, Madam Adama Barry, a notice of withdrawal shouldhave been filed by the complaining party, the parents, at the court."
But the LPRC management reiterated that the intent of this out-of-court arrangement was to save the company from paying US$1.2 million. The LPRC management's comments are contained in the just released GAC audit report.
However, Acting Auditor General Winsley Nanka, in his position, said: "I appreciate your acceptance. Please note that as per court documents reviewed, andinterviews held with the complaining party, the LPRC was sued for 1.5 million United StatesDollars and not 1.2 million United States Dollars as contained in your response."
Accordingly, the GAC audit report noted that the Board mandated Madam Nowai Gbilia, one of its members to negotiate an out-of-court settlement with the parents of Marcus Larma. Madam Nowai Gbilia was paid US$5,000 as fee to carry out the negotiation on behalf of the company.
Said the GAC audit report: "Madam Nowai Gbilia acted inappropriately by negotiating with one of the parents of late Marcus Larma, thereby causing Management to make payment to the said parent without the legal representatives of the complaining party and the LPRC's lawyers.
The special financial investigation report further observed that the Board and the Management of the LPRC failed to exercise sufficient due diligence in making the payment."
The GAC report further observed that the approval and disbursement of US$5,000 to Madam Nowai Gbilia for services rendered to the LPRC in connection with the out-of-court settlement, while serving as a board member, was in violation of article 90 (b) of the Liberian constitution.
"This provision states that no person holding public office shall demand and receive any perquisites, emoluments or benefits, directly or indirectly on account of any duty required by Government."
The GAC report further noted that Madam Nowai Gbilia and the other members of the Board were being compensated by the LPRC for serving as Board members; therefore, she was not entitled to any additional compensation for negotiating a settlement between the LPRC and the parents of the deceased child.
The GAC report recommended that Madam Nowai Gbilia should refund the US$5,000 to the LPRC because she was compensated by the LPRC to serve as a Board member; therefore she was not entitled to any additional compensation for providing services to the LPRC.
According to the GAC Report, the LPRC Managing Director, T. Nelson Williams instructed the LPRC Comptroller through a memo dated November 17, 2011to make a third-party payment of US$30,000 to Atty. Witness Doryen, an employee of the LPRC. This instruction was a clear violation of Rule 23 of the Financial Rules of 2009.
"This Rule states that payment for goods and services shall be made only to the vendor/service provider. No payment shall be made to third party. Atty. Witness Doryen is an in-house counsel and employee of the LPRC and should not have been used as the payee in this transaction."
The report indicated that the conduct of the LPRC Board and the Management in the handling of the out-of-court settlement was characterized by compliance deviations, resulting in a loss of US$35,000 to the company. The loss of US$35,000 comprised, the second payment of US$30,000 made to the father of the deceased, and the payment of US$5,000 to a Board member, Madam Nowai Gbilia.
"The compliance committee of the LPRC Board of Directors alluded to this as procedural errors on the part of the Management in making the first out-of-court payment of US$30,000 to Madam Adama Barry."
Therefore, the GAC report recommended that The Board and the Managing Director of the LPRC should be reprimanded by the President for causing the LPRC a financial loss of US$35,000 as a result of hiring the services of Madam Nowai Gbilia, a Board member.
The report mentioned that Madam Adama Barry and Mr. Charles Larma, parents of the deceased child claimed that they received US$17,900,00 and US$6,000.00 respectively, instead of US$60,000.00 portraying mistrust on the part of the LPRC Management and other parties that participated in the out-of-court settlement. Officer Bill S.Thomas, Liberia National Police (LNP) Officer who witnessed the first out-of-court payment receipt was interviewed by the special financial investigation team. Officer Bill S Thomas confirmed Madam Adama Barry's claim that she received US$17,900.
The GAC report further noted that the Managing Director, T. Nelson Williams and Board member Norwai Gbilia followed Madam Adama Barry to LBDI to encash the out of court settlement on December 24, 2010. According to the GAC, Madam Adama Barry should have signed for the check at the LPRC's compound and for the LPRC Management, the transaction should have been completed at that stage. It was unnecessary for the LPRC's officials to follow Madam Adama Barry to the bank, the report said.
Mr. T. Nelson Williams, the report said, claimed Madam Gloria Menjor, the General Manager of the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI) was present when Madam Adama Barry received US$30,000 from board member Madam Gbilia. However, Madam Menjor in an interview with the GAC, denied that she was present when Madam Adama Barry received the US$30,000 from Madam Gbilia.