Commerce Ministry Officials Boycott Legislative Hearing of Audit Reports
Monrovia – Several past and current officials of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry on Wednesday, February 8 failed to appear before the joint Legislative Public Account Committee (PAC) to answer why they should not be recommended for punishment, following their indictment in the General Auditing Commission’s Audit report.
Report by Henry Karmo – [email protected]
Former Commerce Minister, Miatta Beysolow, current minister Axel Addy, Andrew Paygar, Daniel Dean, Filiman Sanyon and Steve Flahn Paye failed to show up at the PAC hearing.
The absence of the officials, former and current, was done without any prior notice or notice of excuse, according to the joint committee chairman, Representative Thomas Fallah.
He expressed disappointment in their actions, something which, he said, could amount to contempt.
Rep. Fallah told FrontPageAfrica that Minister Addy and others had received four separate communications inviting them to the committee’s hearing but have turned it down.
The Montsorrado County lawmaker displayed three letters dated May 6, May 19 and June 2, 2016 which were sent by his predecessor, Representative Ben Fofana.
The most recent was sent by him February 1, 2017.
What the GAC report Revealed?
On May 1, 2010, the Auditor General commissioned an audit on the sale of a consignment of rice donated to the Government of Liberia by the Japanese Government as required by Sections 53.1 and 53.3 of the Executive Law of 1972.
The audit covered the fiscal period 1 May 2009 to 31 December 2009.
In 2008, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf held a bilateral consultation with the Japanese Ambassador accredited to Ghana for food aid to Liberia.
The talk was held at the Japanese Embassy near Accra. On 18 August 2008, a bilateral agreement was signed between the Governments of Japan and Liberia for Japan Food Aid to Liberia.
As a result of the talk, the Japanese Government, following the signing of the bilateral agreement and the exchange of diplomatic notes, dispatched a chartered vessel “Atlantis Pride” loaded with a gross weight of 8,641.1734 metric tons (288,012 bags) of 30kg rice to the Liberia Produce Marketing Corporation (LPMC) through the Freeport of Monrovia.
Auditor General’s recommendations call for Commerce Minister Miata Beysolow and the Inter-ministerial Committee on the Japan 2008 KR Rice to provide material justification for change in pricing scheme from US$14.012 to US$11.50, causing a loss of US$712,732.27 on the sales of 283,731 bags and that failure to provide material justification, they should individually and jointly be held to restitute the money in full.
The audit report states that in connection with the overall shortfall of US$772,645.55, the government deposited US$400,000.00 as part payment for the variance, leaving a balance to be paid of US$372,645.55, thereby holding the Liberian government responsible for US$334,046.59.
At the same time, the report said LPMC and Sea Trans are held responsible for the balance amount and recommended that The Government of Liberia through the Inter Ministerial Committee should immediately deposit its portion of the shortfall into the Japan Food Aid 2008 account at CBL.
The report suggests that deposit by the ministerial council in the CBL account was to meet the contractual agreement and pave the way for the next round of donation.
“Commence Minister, Miata Beysolow should be made to provide material justification for taking US$400,000.00 from the Special Rice Fund and depositing it into Food Aid 2008 Japanese Donated Rice account,” the GAC report states.
“As the payment voucher attached to check number 683752 indicated only as cost associated with monitoring of sale and proceeds when Japanese Government paid for procurement and secretariat services and Fouta and UCI obtained fees (overhead expenses and contractors and distributors margins) through the Memorandum. This amount was deposited into the account on 4 June 2010.”
In 2016, Criminal Court “C” at the Temple of Justice dismissed former Commerce Minister Beysolow indictment and quashed all charges against her on grounds that her indictment was marred with gross procedural errors.
The former commerce boss was brought under the jurisdiction of the court on February 22, 2016 when the Grand Jury of Montserrado County charged her with economic sabotage, misapplication of entrusted property, criminal conspiracy and criminal facilitation and violation of the Public Procurement & Concession Commission (PPCC) processes and procedures.
She was indicted by the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) alongside the former Managing Director of the Liberia Petroleum Refinery Company (LPRC), T. Nelson Williams, Director of Price Analysis at the Commerce Ministry, Steven Flahn Paye, former LPRC Deputy boss for Operation, Aaron Wheagar and the CEO of the Aminata & Sons Inc, Siaka Tulay.
The former officials’ indictment was based on the sale of the Japanese Oil grant to the Liberian Government. The grant was valued at over US$13 million.
According to the indictment, the government and people of Liberia did not benefit from the proceeds from the sale, accusing the defendants of jointly conspiring to rob the country and its people of money generated from the oil sale.