FrontPageAfrica (Monrovia)

16 May 2014

Liberia: Millions Vanish - Wasteful Spending At Election Commission

Monrovia — The integrity of the National Elections Commission of Liberia (NEC), the body statutorily responsible to supervise national elections has come under sharp spotlight with an audit of that entity uncovering huge spending of funds in payments of questionable allowances, violation of the Public procurement and concession Act of Liberia and other existing laws.

President Ellen Johnson has over the years dismissed some officials of government including former Auditor General Robert Kilby for violation of the PPC Act.

An audit of NEC by the General Auditing Commission of Liberia has uncovered that entity spent more than US$ 6 million under questionable circumstances, violating the PPC Act, overpayment on contracts, awarding of contracts without competitive bidding, payments of transportation allowances to Commissioners and high level staff without material justification, withdrawals and expenditures of funds without supporting documents including vouchers, amongst others wasteful spending.

US$2.6 million spent without bidding

Covering the period 2006/07 to 2011/2012 the audit noted that the NEC spent over US$2.6 million on contracts without evidence of a competitive bidding process in violation of schedule on thresholds #3c and 4c of the PPC Act of 2005 which requires that national competitive bidding shall be held when the estimated value of the procurement is below US$200,000.00 in the case of contracts for the procurement of works and international competitive bidding shall be held when the estimated value of the procurement exceeds US$200,000.00 in the case of contracts for the procurement of works respectively.

Stated the audit report "NEC for the period under review, entered into contracts for constructional works, motor vehicles and printing of electoral materials and ballot papers, with contracts sums of US$960,219.23, US$1,552,633.18 and US$ 118,091.40 respectively."

"We noted no evidence of competitive biddings undertaken, leading to selection of lowest evaluated responsive bidders or a request in all these procurement. Ministries of Finance and Justice did not participate and sign and attest to these contracts as required by the PPC Act, 2005 and 2010 amendment".

The Auditor General recommended that the Board of Commissioners, the former Executive Director John K. Langley and the procurement committee adhere to the PPC Act in all future dealings before obligating public resources in order to maximize economy and efficiency in procurement and to obtain best value for public expenditure.

Over 500K allowance payment

The audit also observed that NEC entered in contracts for construction of warehouses in the 15 counties but the commission made payments exceeding the actual contract cost.

"NEC for the period under audit entered into contractual agreements/memorandum of understanding with firms and individuals for the construction of warehouses/offices within the 15 counties of Liberia for a total contract cost of US$460,219.23. Our analysis of financial records revealed that the NEC paid an amount of LD 396,000.00 and US$314,934.43 in excess of the contract cost of US$428,849.23 for thirteen (13) out of the fifteen (15) counties".

Senior management of NEC including the Chairman, six commissioners and an Executive Director paid US$ 573,000 as transportation allowance despite having an assigned vehicle and also receiving gas slips, the audit noted.

"We observed that the Commissioners and Executive Director of the NEC paid to themselves transportation allowance of US$1,500.00 each on a monthly basis without evidence of any policy regarding such transportation allowance, there was also no evidence of authorization from the President of the Republic of Liberia, the appointing authority of the Board, regarding such allowances. The total transportation allowance paid to the Commissioners and the Executive Director amounted to US$573,000.00 for fiscal year2007/8, 2008/9, 2009/10, 2010/11, 2011/12".

The audit questioned that with the provision of vehicles which are fuelled and serviced by the Commission to the Commissioners and the Executive Director, the payment of additional transportation allowance to the Commissioners ad Executive Director constitutes a violation of NEC enabling enactment, noting that the payment is without substantive justification and could indicate lack of prudence in expending funds much needed to enhance the commission's work.

The audit recommended "The Executive Director, Mr. John Langley, the then Chairman, Cllr. James Fromayan and the then Board of Commissioners, who benefited from the transport allowance payment be made to provide substantive justification backed by evidence why such amounts were paid to officials who were already assigned government vehicles which were fully fueled and serviced by NEC or be made to reimburse the amount of US$573,000.00 in NEC's account".

The audit also noted that examination of financial records revealed that in July 2007 a grant of US$200,000.00 was provided by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) to the commission for the project "Increased Citizen's participation in decision making process but there was no supporting documents pertaining to the expenditure of said project fund availed for audit.

Over 3 million expenditure not supported

The report also stated that total withdrawals of US$3, 789,532.58 could not be accounted for by NEC as payment vouchers along with supporting documents were not availed for audit.

"We further recommend that the amount of US$3,789,532.58 withdrawn from the NEC accounts without any evidence of supporting documentation be accounted for by the following individuals charged with Governance for the periods indicated: Mr. James M. Fromayan (2006-October 2011), Executive Director Mr. John Langley, Comptroller Mr. Anthony Sengbe US$2,752,375.00, Cllr. Elizabeth Nelson (November 2011-March 2013), Executive Director John K. Langley and the Financial Comptroller Mr. Anthony Sengbe US$1,037,157.58" stated the audit.

The audit of NEC is one of several audits conducted by the GAC on ministries and agencies of government.

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