Buchanan, Grand Bassa County – An audit report by the General Auditing Commission (GAC) has established that there were several irregularities in the sale of scrapped irons by the administration of Grand Bassa County between June 2014 and July 2016.
“US$89,203.00 generated from the sales of scrap metals to African Business Import & Export and Varney Scrap Group/ North Star was not reflected in the county accounting records.
This amount represents variance between deposits per LBDI bank statements and the County accounting records” – GAC Report
The audit was conducted when Etweda A. Cooper served as Superintendent of the county, while Sylvester W. Taylor served as Chairman and later Eddie L. Williams, the county information officer, acted as Chairman on the county’s scrap committee.
Concerns from people of the county over the management of the scrap proceeds made the administration of Cooper unpopular in Buchanan even before she was forced to resign.
The report stated that during the period, Grand Bassa County Administration made payments amounting to US$95,000.00 from the scrap account without adequate supporting documentation.
“US$89,203.00 generated from the sales of scrap metals to African Business Import & Export and Varney Scrap Group/ North Star was not reflected in the county accounting records. This amount represents variance between deposits per LBDI bank statements and the County accounting records,” the report stated.
Instead of following the mandate of President Sirleaf as stated in an agreement between the county and Arcelor Mittal which called for the opening of an Escrow account at the Central Bank of Liberia, the county administration opened the account at the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI).
When former Grand Bassa Senator Gbehzongar Findley wrote President Sirleaf requesting the sale of scrap materials left behind by defunct steel company LAMCO which were within the Arcelor Mittal concession area in the port city of Buchanan, the President consented and ordered that the proceeds be used for support to education initiatives in the county.
“The proceeds obtained from the sale of scrap metal will specifically be used for education and literacy projects for the exclusive benefit of the local communities within Grand Bassa County,” the report quoted the President’s mandate.
Many students seeking financial aid in Grand Bassa were optimistic that the sale of the scrap would have helped them acquire education.
The audit report also stated that President Sirleaf mandated that a transparent bidding process be undertaken to obtain a contracted dealer, the proceeds of the scrap be deposited in a Central Bank escrow account with full details provided to the leaders and people of Grand Bassa County.
“The people of Grand Bassa, through their leaders and in consultation with the Management of Arcelor Mittal, will decide on projects to be financed by the sales of the scrap metal, the Minister of Finance and Development Planning will authorize the Central Bank of Liberia to release the funds to the County to be managed similarly as County Development Funds,” the report said.
When the administration was often questioned by journalists to provide documents to prove how the sale of the scrap was being done, the committee in charge of the scrap irons often reneged on their promise to make available the information even though the agreement to sell the scrap called for the administration to make available detail of the sale to the people of Grand Bassa County.
According to the report, the county administration did not keep accurate books and records which made it impossible for the GAC to determine whether revenue from the scrap sales were prompt and accurate.
“Importantly, confirmation revealed that 807.46 tons of scrap metals were lifted by vendors and were not disclosed to the GAC by the County Administration,” the audit report added.
Continued the report: “The Grand Bassa County Administration expended US$92,932.75 generated from the sales of scrap on expenditure items other than the expenditure stated in Section 3.4 of the MOU between the County Administration and Arcelor Mittal.”
Although the administration claims huge amount was expended on county council sittings and the county meet games, the report says documentations to justify these transactions were not made available.
“Based on the audit work performed and because of the significance of the matter noted , it cannot conclude that the activities and financial transactions of the Grand Bassa County Administration Scrap Funds is in compliance with laws, regulations and contracts terms and conditions,” the report concluded.
The GAC has however submitted the report to the Legislature.