Liberia: ‘Financial Malpractice’ Sparks Concern Over Use of Over L$2M at Nat’l Disaster Management Agency

Executive Director Henry O. Williams, National Disaster Management Agency

Monrovia – Authorities of the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) are struggling to clarify the alleged disbursement of a huge sum of monies to selected employees in the name of overtime.

A FrontPageAfrica investigation has uncovered that 30 out of 61 employees received payments and documents obtained by FPA show that the extra payments were made in the staff bank accounts.

The selected staff received between L$150,000 and L$162,000 while senior management staff received L$250,000. The reported overtime covered the months of June and July which summed up to US$8,943.13 and L$1,687,395.09.

But the situation went haywire after the Executive Director Henry O. Williams released a handwritten memo instructing the staff to return the monies paid in their respective accounts.

The memo, dated August 7, 2019 reads: “All employees that observe that you have [the] extra money in your account please withdraw amount and give to the Deputy for Operation.”

The directive from Mr. Williams then sparked serious outrage about the use of the monies and his decision to pay to selected staff, while there remain concerns about the standards used to select the benficiaries and the manner the cash was ditched out.

The Executive Director of the NDMA has since come under fire as some staff accused him of collecting the money and using it for his personal use.

“For me I am not giving that particular money back because he used us to get it from wherever he got it from; he lied to the donors that we work overtime and the people sent the money in our accounts then he wants us to withdraw it and give it to him,” an employee speaking on anonymity said.

Many of the employees said they were taken by surprise when the payments were made to their accounts. And when they demanded justification for the distribution of the money, Director Williams instructed his deputy for Operations to take seize of the situation.

According to an inter-memo seen by FPA, Augustine F. Tamba, Deputy Director for Operations, issued a directive, putting a freeze on the usage of the money.

Reads the memo: “Based on a note in my possession from the Executive Director, Hon. Henry O. Williams, dated August 7, 2019, instructing staffers who have observed extra money from the 2nd to 7th August 2019, in their accounts to withdraw and pay same to me, I hereby instruct all those concerned to put a halt to withdrawing the money and freeze usage of said amount from their accounts as further instigation is ongoing to ascertain the justification of the acquisition and subsequent distribution of the amounts to staffers accounts in the name of overtime”.

It’s unclear whether the human Resource Director Boakai Sirleaf and the Deputy for Operations were aware of the decision or standard used to determine staff who were qualified for the overtime.

But sources at the agency say the comptroller, Rolando Woheel and Ahmed B. Sheriff, the Deputy Director for Administration along with the Executive Director are under pressure for allegedly manipulating the list.

“Overtime is a normal practice in government cycle but the manipulation of the listing for the benefit of a few confidants is an unacceptable act,” said an official of the Labor Ministry.     

It can be recalled that the Chair of the Liberian Senate Committee on Public Enterprise and Autonomous Agencies, Hon. J. Milton Teajay accused NDMA leadership of massive corruption and deceptive patronage at the NDMA.

Senator Teajay, who is considered the champion for the passage of the disaster management Act in 2016, made the comments during an ECOWAS sponsored Disaster Management training in June this year.

Senator Teajay threatened to withhold NDMA’s 2019/2020 budget until the issue of corruption at the NDMA was curbed or the leadership changed.

Meanwhile, FPA has also gathered that Mr. Williams awarded an International scholarship to one Cynthia Davis, who was reportedly dismissed from the agency for what was termed as double-dipping from the government.

Ms. Davis was accused of receiving salaries from the National Public Health Institute and the NDMA whilst doing a full-time job at the ECOWAS Secretariat.

It was alleged that Ms. Davis’ dismissal letter was withdrawn by NDMA boss, and the content changed to enable her benefit from a Japanese government scholarship intended to enable staff of the NDMA to obtain professional studies in Disaster Management.

NDMA is reportedly overstaffed with several unqualified employees. According to the original plan from the UNDP, the UN agency that provides extra support to the agency, the NDMA should be staffed with 20 technical staff instead of the current 61 employees. Williams has refused to respond to the allegations when he was contacted by this paper. He had earlier promised to provide documents to explain his action to no avail.