Liberia: U.S.$314K Misappropriated at Mines and Energy Ministry?

opinion

-- And NIC for over US$200,000; But Joint PAC Reschedules Hearing over Appeals to Provide Documents to Justify Expenditures

The Ministry of Lands, Mines, and Energy has been hooked in a report released by the General Auditing Commission (GAC) for allegedly misappropriating and misapplying US$313,135, during the Fiscal Years (FY) from July 1, 2012, and June 30, 2016. According to the General Auditing Commission (GAC), transactions amounting to US$314,135.33 were expended without documentation.

During a presentation of the AG's Report on the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy in a public hearing at the Joint Chamber of the Capitol on February 26, 2020, the GAC Deputy Auditor General, Mr. Winsley S. Nanka told the Joint Committee on Public Account and Expenditure (PAC) that out of over US$628,000, US$314,135 was expended by the Ministry without substantial financial documents.

He told lawmakers that it was discovered that procurement for goods and services amounting to US$102,799.44 did not meet the applicable procurement requirements; excessive expenditure on fuel and lubricants amounted to US$111,684.54; and an excessive expenditure on Buchanan Coastal Defense Project amounted to US$6,000.00 between approved procurement plan and the payment by LME.

Mr. Nanka indicated that there was a difference of US$11,950 between financial statements and notes to financial statements (2012/2013), which do not have supporting documents including a difference of $25,774.80 between Ledger and Cash Receipts and Payments (2015/2016). "The [authorities of the Ministry] of Lands, Mines, and Energy presented one reconciliation for each fiscal year, reconciliation tested and found to be inaccurate; and reconciliation was not signed and approved by the proper reviewer."

"The Ministry provided land deeds for 49.34 acres of land valued at US$90,000 in Montserrado and Margibi Counties that have not been registered in the archive; US$82,149.25 was expended without evidence of travel advance retirement; US$129,634.50 paid to some individuals without evidence of meeting the applicable procurement requirement (2015/2016) and US$10,416 was given to Independent Diamond Valuator without documentation," Mr. Nanka said in his summary of the AG's Report.

The GAC Deputy Auditor General said there was no evidence that pre-qualified requirements of "Diamond Counselor Int'l" such as professional and technical qualifications and records of past performance before the consultant was hired and that staffs of Government Diamond Office recruited as contractors but paid as consultants, including office assistants and messengers.

He further told members of the Joint PAC Committee that Scholarships for seven staff, whose areas of disciplines did not meet the Ministry's scholarship guidelines such as IT, law and business management. Also, regional offices in Bong, Nimba and Grand Gedeh counties were not functional and there was no evidence of Mining License Reports in Leeward Counties for all categories of miners.

He indicated that several miners operating in Grand Gedeh and Bong Counties have expired licenses; staff in Nimba, Bong, and Grand Gedeh did not maintain attendance records, and the Ministry does not have any Disaster Recovery Plan, Strategic and Operational Plan, IT Strategic Plan, amongst others. The Joint PAC Committee is headed by Representative Edward Karfiah, who chairs the House's Committee on Public Accounts. Other members in Wednesday's PAC hearing were Senator George Tengbeh, Representative Richard Koon, Representative Ben Fofana, Representative Clarence Gahr, and Representative Matthew Zarzar. Wednesday's witnesses comprised senior management teams of the current and past administrations.

The current senior officials in attendance from the Ministry of Mines and Energy were Minister Gesler E. Murray; Deputy Ministers Alexander Blotey, Carlton S. Miller, George Gontor and Emmanuel Sherman; Assistant Ministers Agnes Marshall, Johnson Willabo, Emmanuel Swen, Rexfod Sarteh, and Leona Moore. Also, the Ministry's Comptroller Allen Sumo, Analyst Sylvester Sieh and Internal Auditor Paul Fallah were present.

Former Deputy Ministers Zack Sharpe and Stephen Dorbor led the past senior management team of the Ministry of Lands, Mines, and Energy. The past Minister, Mr. Patrick Sendolo was not in attendance. He served as Minister from February 12, 2012 - 2017. Other members of the past senior management team include Henry Sambolo, Bryan Kpaolo, and George Miller.

The Joint PAC Committee voted to reschedule the public hearing of the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy for three weeks, following a motion by Representative Clarence Gahr to enable the past senior management team (2012-2016) to bring supporting documents on the transaction of US$314,135.33 when they requested for "more time" to address the issue of the US$314K which they have been accused of misapplying and misappropriating.

Meanwhile, the public hearing of the National Investment Commission (NIC) was also rescheduled to appear after two weeks for misappropriating and misapplying over US$200,000. The AG's report covers Fiscal Years from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2016. The current chairman of the NIC, Molewuleh B. Gray, appealed for the rescheduling, in order to allow former Chairmen and Executive Directors of the NIC to justify the transactions. According to the AG's report, payment of US$152,160 made to the workers of Cocopa Rubber Company without a clear rationale for the payment; and LD633,065 and US$14,698 payments were made without adequate supporting documentation.

The report further said payment of LD145,935 was made to individuals/employees of the entity rather than the service providers, as well as US$44,856.00 and LD15,775 expended on foreign travels without evidence that the travel advances were retired. The report further said there is no evidence that petty cash amounting to LD139,630 was replenished; no evidence that consultancy during the period met the required procurement requirement, and there was no evidence that management met the PPCC requirements in the procurement of fuel amounting to LD2,619,120 and US$48,964. The reports indicate that LD3,394,255 was paid for services without evidence of a contract.

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