Liberia: GAC Report Nails Ministry of Defense for Questionable Spending of U.S.$5.8 Million Between Fiscal Years 2013/2014 to 2016/2017

Monrovia — The Ministry of National Defense (MOD) spent US5.8 million between fiscal years 2013/2014 to 2016/2017 without supporting documents such as payment vouchers, requests, invoices, quotations, delivery notes etc. to authenticate the expenditure, audit report released by the General Auditing Commission (GAC) to the National Legislature says.

Additionally, according to the report, during the fiscal year 2016/2017, extract from sample of payment transactions from the Central Bank of Liberia operations bank statements which the GAC obtained from the Central Bank of Liberia shows that payments amounting to US$2,591,505.35 and L$62,451,455 were made to employees and others by management without supporting documents. This amount included multiple payments amounting to US$ 2.1 Million and L$34 Million in the name of J.T.GEGEH. The bank account information was not previously disclosed to the GAC by the Management of MOD during the audit, the report added.

Further, the GAC report says the Ministry of National Defense Management did not -maintain fuel/gasoline distribution logs for the fuel/gasoline procured in the amount of US$ 4.3 million. The information was extracted from the National Budget Fiscal Outturn Report for the periods under audit.

The report noted that a review of the detailed foreign travel ledger presented by the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning showed that 13 payment vouchers amounting to US$174,130.25 appeared not to have been retired as the travel disbursement forms to retire the travels were not attached.

An analysis of the central administration's payroll for the periods by the GAC observed that the MoD management deducted National Social Security and Welfare Corporation (NASSCORP) contributions in the amount of US$54,670.78 and L$1,145,211.08 from administrative staff during the periods under audit. However, the GAC report says management only remitted US$3,965.33 to NASSCORP. The DOD Management provided no evidence that it remitted the difference to the NASSCORP.

The GAC observed from a review of MoD's personnel files, central administration payrolls, as well as, interviews conducted with key personnel that there were various instances where employees of the office of the Comptroller and Department of Maintenance of Acquisition Logistics and Transport (D-MALT) of the Ministry diverted monies intended for the Ministry to their personal accounts in the amount of US$8,547.91. This was achieved by maintaining former employees' names on the payroll and replacing the former employees' account numbers with the account numbers of current employees. Additionally, it was revealed that employees involved in this practice were suspended and subsequently asked to fully restitute the amounts illegally acquired. There was no evidence the said amount had been restituted, the report said.

The Management of the Ministry of National Defense did not prepare Cash Basis IPSAS financial statements, the prescribed financial reporting framework established by the Government of Liberia in 2009. during the periods under audit, says the report.

The report also noted from the review of MOD's fixed asset records that management did not provide a full list of contributions and donations made to the Ministry by various individuals and institutions.

There was no evidence that the MoD management prepared monthly bank reconciliation for the periods under audit, although the MoD maintained four (4) bank accounts with three banking institutions.

The GAC report observed that the MoD management did not put into operations various policies and procedures manuals for the smooth operation of the ministry including procurement guidelines, Asset management policy training and development policy, employee reward and recognition program policy, Retention Policy and Accounting Manual & Policy.

In response to the GAC findings, the MOD Management says that "it cannot fully agree or disagree with the findings of the audit since the authorizing officials during the period of the audit are currently before the Courts, Ministry of Justice and the Presidential Special Task Force. Additionally, the current administration did not find it expedient to invite those officials for further discussions into the matter to avoid interference with judicial proceedings. Notwithstanding, this administration has constituted various internal committees to fully implement the recommendation made by your teams, to ensure compliance and develop integrity within our administrative processes, policies, and procedures".

Due to significant scope limitation, the GAC has not been able to obtain sufficient appropriate audit the evidence to provide a basis for an audit conclusion, the GAC concluded.

However, a FrontPageAfrica investigation shows that the GAC audit covered receipts and expenditure for the Ministry of National Defense received from the national budget and not the Armed Forces of Liberia contributory Pension Funds which currently serves as a basis of litigation between the Government of Liberia and former Defense Officials.

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