Liberia: GAC, Nyenswah in the Ring

-over alleged financial malpractices

Latest report released by the General Auditing Commission (GAC) indicts the former Director General of the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL) Mr. Tolbert Nyensawh, currently in the United States of 'double dipping' as well as other financial and administrative malpractices, but Nyenswah denies.

The GAC is the country's supreme auditing institution responsible for auditing government revenue and spending. It is the independent constitutional external auditor of Liberia, which supports Legislative oversight over the management of public resources. It also serves the people of Liberia by conducting quality and timely financial, compliance and performance audits.

But while the Commission is considered as a credible public auditing institution, the former NPHIL boss has challenged the report against him, describing it as "false and misleading."

According to the GAC report released recently, Nyenswah received salaries from NPHIL and the Ministry of Health, amounting to US$24,000.00 and L$624,000.00, respectively but he dismisses the revelation as complete fallacy and lacking facts.

The report continues that the former NPHIL boss, prior to his appointment as Deputy Minister of Health, was paid by both entities for three months, running from January to April 2017.

It details the Ministry of Health paid US$10,803.13 and L$297,532.34, while NPHIL paid US$24,000.00 and L$624,000.00 in net salaries to Nyenswah. The GAC wants the monies refunded to the Government of Liberia.

Furthermore, the GAC reports that transactions for various goods and services were processed and paid without supporting documents in the amounts of US$136,556.12 and L$15,345,949.02 thru government funding to the NPHIL under Nyenswah's administration.

"Management did not maintain payment vouchers along with the necessary supporting documents for several transactions in the amount of US$354,611.25 recorded in the ledgers of World Health Organization (WHO) Funds provided to NPHIL. The GAC says it requested the documents several times from Management during the conduct of the audit but management did not provide the documents," the report says.

The GAC also observed that the NPHIL Management did not remit to the Consolidated Account in keeping with the Public Financial Management (PFM) Act of 2009 unspent/closing cash balance of US$219,749.55 left in its bank accounts. The PFM requires that amounts not spent or committed by spending entities by the end of each fiscal year should be sent to the consolidated fund for reallocation.

It also states the NPHIL Management made payment in the amount of L$162,000.00 from the Government of Liberia funds to an employee of NPHIL for catering services instead of the caterer. Further, the Management of NPHIL made payments in the amount of US$29,155.00 from World Health Organization Funds in the names of employees of NPHIL for subsequent disbursements to the service providers/beneficiaries rather than make the payments directly to the providers or their authorized representatives as required by the Public Financial Management Act of 2009.

"Payments for fuel/gasoline and scratch card in the amounts of US$25,255.53 and US$129,887.55 were made from UNICEF and World Health Organization Funds respectively without evidence of distribution to the end users," the report adds.

However, in response, the former NPHIL head debunks and thrashes the entire GAC report, saying, "It is only good for the newspapers' headlines' as he did not at any point in time receive any double payment of salaries.

"There are well-known and indisputable FACTs that no wrongdoing carried out here. The Auditor General did not do a thorough work. These allegations are ploy, frivolous, sensational, and present alternative facts. These kinds of audit reports are only good for the newspapers headlines. PERIOD!" Nyenswah counters.

He also challenges report by the GAC that NPHIL Management did not maintain payment vouchers along with the necessary supporting documents for several transactions in the amount of US$354,611.25 recorded in the ledgers of World Health Organization (WHO) Funds to the Institute.

"This is another fallacy. When working with international organizations like the UN Agencies, USAID, US-CDC, etc., work plans and budgets are approved on an annual or bi-annual basis and funds as disbursed in trenches based on the approved work plan. Aside from the initial disbursement, all other disbursements are predicated upon the successful completion of the task (as per the work plan for that quarter) and full narrative report is accompanied by a full financial liquidation of funds received. It is only after these financial reports and supporting documents have be verified and certified by the partners that you receive funding for the subsequent period," he responds.

"If the GAC's assertion is true, NPHIL would not have received approximate US$1.5M from WHO alone, in several trenches of disbursements, during the period under review. Additionally, these international partners, on a routine basis, send their financial experts and auditors to check their account and books with us. That is why most of the partners insist on government agencies keeping a separate and distinct account for their funding. NPHIL's integrity, when it comes to its financial management, attracted the interest of lots of partners to the entity.

If the GAC is referring to the audit conducted when I was DG of NPHIL from January 2017 to October 2019, in which my Deputy DG for Administration and I addressed all concerns of the auditors and adduced all relevant supporting documents, then this assertion is false and misleading. However, if this assertion refers to the second audit conducted by GAC in 2020 after my Deputy for Administration and I had left the country, (Sources at GAC told me that the GAC carried away documents from NPHIL and conducted an exclusive audit at their office after I had left the country), then I cannot address these concerns as I was not in the country by then," Nyenswah clarifies.

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