14 June 2017

Liberia: Implementation of Audit Reports Should Not Be Selective

Photo: FrontPage Africa
Ben Sanvee, Chairman of the opposition Liberty Party.
editorial

Since The Inception of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf's administration, it appears that audit reports either from the General Auditing Commission (GAC) or Internal Audit Unit of the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning are implemented selectively.

The Latest Of such selective implementation of audit reports has to do with the Private Sector Development Initiative (PSDI) loan program. Last week, a preliminary report was submitted to President Sirleaf in which Dr. James Kollie, Commissioner of the Liberia Maritime Authority, and several other individuals and businesses were alleged to have defaulted in the repayment of the loan.

President Sirleaf Particularly took interest in the role Dr. Kollie played in the loan program because at the time, he (Kollie) was Deputy Finance Minister for Fiscal Affairs.

According To The report which covers 2014 to current, cash loans amounting to US$965,400,were made to 24 Liberian officials. Regrettably, all or none of those borrowers have paid a cent back to government according to the agreement signed.

The Report Also indicated that additional twelve (12) businesses received the amount of US$545,700, but none of those businesses exist anywhere in Liberia. The loan, through the Private Sector Development Initiative, was intended to have financially strengthened Liberian owned businesses.The repayments would have revolved or be disbursed to other Liberian businesses.PSDI is a project established in 2014 at the MFDP to provide loans to Liberian owned small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs).

The Audit Report disclosed that the project disbursed US$2,274,400 to forty-six (46) borrowers and that Dr. James F. Kollie, former Deputy Minister for Fiscal Affairs (MFDP), signed all the loan approvals while serving in that position.Out of forty-six (46) borrowers, only Garson Incorporated, located on 11th Street, Sinkor, believed to be owned by Dr. James Kollie, paid its obligation of US$150,000 plus US$10,500 interest, amounting to a total repayment of US$160,500. Garson Incorporated's account statement reveals that the Institution has an outstanding obligation of only US$11.00.

With This Portion of the report involving Dr. Kollie, President Sirleaf has termed it as conflict of interest.She expressed shock and said officials at the Ministry of Finance & Development Planning were giving loans to themselves in violation of the law.

The President Believes that while the audit is still ongoing, "We can say with a high degree of confidence that such a scheme set up at the PDSI is clearly a conflict of interest and will be dealt with by the full weight of the law." She subsequently ordered Dr. Kollie to return to Liberia from his official trip.

Our Concern Is whether Dr. Kollie is the only government official implicated in this audit report? Is he the first public official involved in conflict of interest? What happens to the audit report from the General Auditing Commission in which Deputy Minister Loris Shannon and others were linked to scandal in the renovation of the Executive Mansion?

What Surprises Us is that there have been audit reports on the renovation of the Executive Mansion and National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) implicating confidants of the President, yet, no tangible action has been taken.

It Was Alleged in the audit report of the Executive Mansion that officials of the Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs 'connived' and withdrew monies from the government's coffers that were never used for the intended purposes. What has happened to those officials? It has also been reported that NOCAL went bankrupt as a result of mismanagement of the company's fund, but the President did not take seriously all of the reports that exposed misappropriations at NOCAL or order investigations of those responsible, although her son, Robert Sirleaf was Chairman of the Board at the time. Is this not selective justice?

We Are baffled by this kind of selective implementation of the audit reports by President Sirleaf. It tells us that the President does not care about legacy when it comes to the fight against corruption. It is our wish that the President goes after everyone who is alleged to have squandered monies intended for the public good; and should not play a blind eye to some and pursue others.

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