Liberia: Financial Improprieties Claims At Central Agriculture Research Institute

Monrovia — Recent developments at the Central Agricultural Research Institute (CARI) in Suakoko Bong County have left many wondering about why the Research Institute has become so much politicized during this transitional period.

At the moment, the deputy director for administration is undergoing administrative investigation by the Board of Trustees of CARI headed by Mr. Julius Bass for numerous acts ranging from alleged forging of the Director's signature to unauthorized financial transactions in the name of the entity.

Documents presented by Mrs. Findley to the administrative investigation show that she signed payroll behalf on behalf of the director general, Dr. Walter Wiles, awarding bonuses to employees for the month of June 2017, and requesting release of funds from the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning.

However, the director general claims not to be in the know of the bonuses, as he was not in country and did not sanction the unilateral signing of the payroll by his deputy.

Mrs. Findley in defense told the investigative team that management was advised by the finance office that there was excess in the salaries account from the 2016/2017 budget and it was to either allow the monies go back to government or utilize it at CARI.

"The best option as per the Comptroller was to distribute it amongst staff as bonus pay. By allowing the excess monies to go back would jeopardize CARI chance of asking and getting additional funds for salaries hence, I bought his logic and signed on my boss' behalf (Big Mistake). All senior and junior staff got a bonus. It was done across the board, no one person benefited more" she wrote in an email to the head of the Board of Trustees, Mr. Bass.

The document also shows that Mrs. Findley is being investigated for allegedly collaborating with some personnel at the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning to process financial papers on behalf of CARI without the knowledge of the Director General and also rewarding contracts to vendors including printing of T-shirts and procuring of agricultural supplies for the entity.

Among the litany of accusations is the allegation that the deputy director connived with staff at the Rice Mill and allegedly stole a pickup load of rice to her house in SKT community for sale.

However, she denied knowledge and boasted that not a single grain of rice was found at her residence upon inspection by CID officers.

On the issue of requesting funds from the MFDP without the approval of her boss, she wrote in her defense:

"I got a call from MFDP about a letter that needed to be corrected, in good faith, I took the phone to Dr. Wiles' office and had him speak with the caller from MFDP"

". I went to MFDP the following Monday as follow up to the letter, I realized it was an error on a letter I had written (with Dr. Wiles' knowledge and consent), due to the urgency of us getting our US$49K (Civil Works budgeted amount), I omitted a paragraph referencing last year's budgeted amount (see attachment) and corrected the letter and left it with the minister.

My boss was 100% aware and consented to me exerting all effort in getting our US$49K (the US$125K that I lobbied for was allotted & pending the contractor's agreement to commence renovations works on dilapidated buildings."

CARI is a Research Institute and autonomous agency of government with a director who was hired and appointed by the Board of Trustee with tenure of five years.

The current Director has served for a year and a half with three and a half more years on his contract.

CARI's mandate is to undertake applied and adaptive research for enhanced productivity of food, feed, fiber, and other agricultural products in Liberia for the attainment of food security, poverty alleviation, and income generation and for job creation.

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