Liberia’s Auditing Commission Hooks Temple of Justice Peacebuilding Fund
Monrovia – A report by the General Auditing Commission (GAC) on the Temple of Justice-Peace Building Fund (TOJ-PBF) for the period, July 2012 to June 2015, has shown several amounts unaccounted for.
Report by Bettie K. Johnson-Mbayo, [email protected]
“The management of the TOJ-PBF (Temple of Justice-Peace Building Fund) Project could not provide evidence of a procurement plan for the expenditure of US$246,362.25 for the renovation of Upper Buchannan Circuit Court and US$100,000 for the construction of the Toe Town Magisterial Court,” said GAC.
The ToJ-PBF was a three-year joint program established in May 2011 among the Liberian government, United Nations and international partners to enhance access to justice and security due to the consequences of the 14-year civil conflict.
The project amounted to US$412,062 and was approved on July 1, 2012 through September 30, 2015 with an implementation plan of four years.
During the period under audit, US$412,062 was disbursed and used by the ToJ.
The GAC discovered that US$9,000 was disbursed between 2012/2013 to public defenders without the approval of the court administrator while the project management didn’t withhold and remit the income taxes of US$13,450 into the government revenue account.
The report said the management of the TOJ-PBF project could not provide evidence of a procurement plan for the expenditure of US$246,362.25 for the renovation of Upper Buchanan Circuit Court and US$100,000 for the construction of the Toe Town Magisterial Court.
“Additionally, the procurement process for the hiring of contractors for both the renovation of the Upper Buchannan Circuit Court and the construction of the Toe Town Magisterial Court appeared not to have met the requirement of the PPC Act,” the audit added.
It revealed that there was no evidence of bid packages and bid evaluation reports for the period under review 2012/2013.
The GAC report said physical verification of the Upper Buchanan Court renovated by the Twin Business Group, at the cost of US$246,362.25, showed leakages on the roof and removed sliding windows which resulted to continuous flooding in the building.
“The electronic injector pump, which is responsible to pump water throughout the building, appears to have been damaged without been replaced/repaired,” it observed.
The GAC named Cllr. Elizabeth J. Nelson, court administrator; Cllr. Ernestine Morgan-Awar, assistant court administrator; John Sarkorh, comptroller; John T. Toryor, procurement director; David Badio, (in house) architectural consultant and Eugene P. Merchant, chief accountant as key personnel of the project.
Responding to the audit, ToJ said all payees signed the payroll and reference payments are reflected on the bank statements, something which the GAC recommended that the management should ensure that all vouchers are signed by the relevant authorities to assure the regularity of the transactions.
“Payment without authorization is a breach of financial discipline as defined by Regulation A.20 of the PFM Act of 2009 for which management should be held accountable.
“The documents were provided by management for audit purpose which is unrelated to the disbursement of November and December 2012 allowances without the authority of the court administrator. Therefore, we maintain our findings,” GAC said.
Remit to GOL revenue
The GAC ordered that the TOJ-PBF project management should withhold and remit the public defenders’ income taxes of US$13,450 into government account.
”The 1986 constitution, article 72(a) referenced by management specifically exempted justices and all other Judges from taxation on their benefits and allowances. The constitution didn’t make reference to other auxiliary staff.
“Therefore, the TOJ-PBF project management should withhold and remit the public defenders income taxes of US$13,450 into GOL revenue account for the period 2012/13 through 2013/14.”
But the judiciary said it believed that all staffers of the judiciary were exempted from the taxation since they are extension of the justices and judges.