A Global Fund Investigative Report debunks claim by the Program Manager for the National Aids Control Program at the Ministry of Health that four payments totaling US$23,285 were made to the Liberian media for radio advertisement, public relations and events in February 2019.
Global Fund establishes that all four payments exhibit evidence of fraudulent practices, including conflict of interest, as shareholder also served as Director of Communications at the Ministry of Health.
It notes in March 2020, a MoH Internal Audit review found that awarding the contract constituted a conflict of interest, as there was no Request for Quotations and evidence of a competitive bidding process, noting that only two contained quotations from other bidders, which were dated after contract was signed with entities that did not physically exist.
The findings are just a tip of the iceberg of how institutions here, both public and private siphon funds budgeted for media activities, subjecting media houses and the Liberian press generally to poverty thus, forcing them out of business.
Private institutions, NGOs, government ministries and agencies annually budget funds for publicity activities that never reach the media, but they give performance reports that said monies were expended on the media.
Diverting and misappropriating media funds is tantamount to suffocating the Liberian media to death, which is pure wickedness. Yet these same entities expect the media to cover their publicity-seeking programs and activities.
Some cruel institutions even go further by placing advertisements in the media without making payment even after services are provided, leaving struggling media entities in debt and inability to pay taxes, staff, rental and other commitments.
Often, the media is referred to as watchdog and Fourth Estate, but treatments meted are deliberately meant to undermine its potency both professionally and financially.
In the case involving the National Aids Control Program, Global Fund further reveals that additional 19 payments were made purportedly for advertisements totaling US$32,918 without any evidence of scripts or audio files of the radio messages developed, or adverts delivered to radio stations or aired, noting that such lack of evidence of delivery of services was also noted by MoH internal audit.
This is not only criminal but discourages donors from supporting major development programs that directly benefit ordinary Liberians, particularly critical health issues such as HIV and Aids.
It is not only saddening but a big disgrace that both the NACP and the Ministry of Health, which should tread on accountability and transparency in handling donors' funds are caught right-handed in corruption and broad day theft against the media that these institutions rely on to propagate their programs and policies.