Damning Audit Report Signals Challenge for Liberia’s Second Oldest County


Buchanan, Grand Bassa County – When the General Auditing Commission released audit reports for Grand Bassa County covering fiscal years July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2015, locals back in the county bemoaned the enormous challenges created by the financial mismanagement.

The report, released a week ago in Monrovia, is the second in the last eight years discovering massive violation of Public Procurement and Concession requirements during the award of contracts in the county.

Back in February 2012, an audit on ArcelorMittal Social Development Fund to the county linked former Superintendent, Julia Duncan- Cassell. Now Minister of Gender and Development, Cassell was criticized and labeled corrupt for allegedly making payment for projects to non-existing firms.

The final days of Duncan-Cassell’s administration were eclipsed by allegations of misappropriation when locals in Buchanan – mainly youths – criticized her administration for failing to complete development projects. She was never prosecuted, although many claimed the audit report had indicted her.

Her successor, Etweeda Cooper inherited a challenging task but she too struggled to allay the disappointment of Bassonians (people of Bassa) and at the same time faild to initiate development projects.

Even before Madam Cooper resigned, there were concerns about misappropriation of funds and discrepancy in the implementation of several projects including roads, clinics and schools. An audit was initiated in September 2015, but the public perception against the Cooper led administration intensified, with some predicting that the outcome of any GAC report will be swept under the carpet.

The GAC report says over US$1million was allegedly disbursed by the county administration, under the watch of Cooper without supporting documentation.

The report added that the administration violated provisions in the Public Financial Management regulations saying “payments without adequate supporting documentation cast doubt on the regularity of the transactions and undermine public sector accountability and transparency”.

Stated the report: “For the 2015 fiscal year, the Grand Bassa County Administration had available in the county bank account US$565,522.58 and L$171,086.00 respectively to fund activities for the period. In the same period, the county disbursed US$555,177.31 on administrative, programs and project expenditure.”

Unlike the repeated allegations of mismanagement of the county funds, there have also been concerns about disunity and political infighting amongst county officials and legislative caucus members.

Superintendent’s Defense

But when current Superintendent Levi Demmah read a statement in Buchanan City on August 26, 2016, he argues that the leadership ‘have a strong spirit of collaboration and mutual respect’, which he added has helped to move the county forward while promising a more resilient financial management system.

Demmah is a financier, who during his first speech highlighted the significance of upholding the PFM law, now faces an increasing daunting task of savaging the county’s development drive. Bad roads, unfinished projects and poor health care in rural Grand Bassa are some challenges.

Reporting on the status of the county alongside members of the county legislative caucus during a recent news conference, he said US$749,333.77 out of US$2.4 million that was resoluted for county’s project for 2014/2015 and 2015/2016 was made available by the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning . Supt Demmah said the book balance shows that US$163,211.27 is unspent, but did not say how the remaining of the US$2.4 million will be sourced.

Although Dammah’s report intends to measure projects and their implementations, there are more concerns about providing a detail report on the sale of scrap irons.

“Some of our citizens have pushed for detail disclosure on the scrap account, when in fact it is under audit,” Demmah said in a statement. He claimed that attempt to talk about the scrap will undermined the ongoing audit.

Even before Demmah’s administration, there was uproar from members of the public, some asserting that funds generated from the sale of the scrap iron, originally intended to fund scholarship initiatives, were being allegedly squandered by members of the committee. For Demmah, he faces criticism for overspending on the 2015 national county meet and his critics accused him of being autocratic.

Administrative mismanagement in Grand Bassa County, as indicated in the past and recent GAC audit reports, observers say, have created constraints for the swift implementation of projects in the county.