Monrovia – Former Libtelco Managing Director, Sebastian Muah who also served as Deputy Minister for Budget again finds himself entangled in another suspected financial malpractice.
Report by Lennart Dodoo [email protected]
Findings from a preliminary internal audit report on the Private Sector Development Initiatives (PSDI) has discovered that Mr. Muah along with Dede D. Sandiman, former Acting Comptroller & Accountant General served as signatories to an operational account titled Liberia Private Sector Economic Growth (LPSEGF) account (A/C number 001USD21322281101).
The LPSEGF account was opened under the PSDI program.
The preliminary audit report: “During the review, we observed that PSDI ran an Operational account titled Liberia Private Sector Economic Growth account (A/C number 001USD21322281101).
From 2014 to 2016, US$4,111,450.00 was credited to this account at different intervals.
Of the US$4,111,450.00, US$1,665,454.91 was transferred to the PSDI loan account for loan disbursements, while the balance of US$2,445,995.09 was withdrawn on multiple checks transactions.
Our attention is drawn to a specific LBDI cheque number 133866, valued US$ 1,648,037.00. We observed that the cheque was written as debit to the LPSEGF account and correspondingly deposited to another account called GOL Operational account (a/c number 02-2-0530000182) at CBL.”
According to the findings of this report, On January 6, 2014, Mr. Sandiman, in his capacity as Acting Comptroller & Accountant General wrote Mrs. Gloria Menjor, General Manager of LBDI to open at LBDI an account called Liberia Private Sector Economic Growth Fund account (LPSEGF).
Muah and Sandiman were signatories “A” and “B” respectively. The account application form also mentioned Madam Angela Cassell-Bush as signatory to the account but the signature card only carries Muah and Sandiman.
It was observed that during the period in which Muah and Sendiman served as signatories to the account, a total amount of US$1,648,037.04 was withdrawn from the LPSEGF account to GOL Operational Account (A/C no. 02/205/300001/82) at CBL.
“On June 24, 2014, LBDI cheque number 133866-valued US$ 1,648,037.00 was withdrawn from LPSEGF account and deposited in GOL Operation Account (number 02-2-0-530000-182).
“Sebastian Muah and Mr. Dede D. Sandiman signed the cheque, while one Mr. Victor Blama made the deposit. We did not get additional documents to inform us as to how the US$ 1.6M was spent,” the report indicated.
It remains unclear how the US$1.6 million was spent as the auditors have called on Muah and Sandiman to provide documents to support how the amount was spent.
The pair are also to be investigated for the withdrawal of US$63,850.00 from the account.
On June 21, 2014, cheque number 133865-valued US$ 63,850.00 signed by former Minister Muah and Dede D. Sandiman was withdrawn by Mandella Boimah.
On June 20, 2014, Mr. Amos Z. Koukou obtained an approval from Dr. Kollie to pay the sum of US$63,850.00 for Private Sector development Surveys in three (3) counties (Bong, Lofa and Nimba).
There is no report to prove that there was a survey, moreover, an invoice valued US$ 25,000.00 for printing 1,000 PSDI Booklets was seen attached to the survey documents but there was no competitive procurement process, the preliminary audit report indicated.
“Sebastian Muah, Dede D. Sandiman, Ralph Sonkarlay and Mendela Boimah should be investigated for the US$63,850.00 paid from the project without any evidence of work performed,” the recommended.
On August 21, 2014, about a month after the withdrawal was made, the report indicated that Amara M. Konneh, former Minister, MFDP wrote LBDI and instructed the removal of Madam Cassell-Bush and Muah from all Government of Liberia accounts domiciled at LBDI.
He further designated Mr. Edward Eesiah, former Deputy Minister for Administration, MFDP as temporary signatory “A”.
Also, on October 14, 2014, Sandiman wrote LBDI, instructing the Bank to remove his signature and that of Mr. Eesiah from the LPSEGF signature-mandate card and replace same with Dr. James F. Kollie as “A” and Sekou A. Sanoe as “B”.
On separate occasions, Dr. Kollie designated Alieu F. Nyei as temporary signatory to the account.
Last Thursday, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf expressed shock over the preliminary revelations coming out of the audit.
She immediately recalled Dr. James Kollie, former Deputy Minister for Fiscal Affairs at MFDP from his official travel to answer to questions relating to the audit.
She promised to ensure that appropriate actions are taken where necessary after the audit is complete.
President Sirleaf: “I have ordered the principal administrator of the program during the audit period, Commissioner of Maritime Affairs, Hon. James Kollie to return to Liberia from his official trip to assist in the audit and answer all of the issues associated with it.”
“The Minister of Finance is to have a full audit report on my desk within two weeks for further action.”
“We remain seized of this matter and will leave no stone unturned in the interest of the nation.”
In response Dr. Kollie insisted that he has done nothing wrong and promised to cooperate with the auditing team.
Dr. Kollie: “Although I was the subject of the audit, contrary to best practice, and until only a few days ago, I was never notified or interviewed by the auditors.”
“My first encounter with the auditors was on June 2, a day after the draft report was issued”.
“Of course, these are challenging political times for our country.”
“As such, it is easier to pass public judgments before we hear all the facts, and or muddle what ought to be important professional engagements with political motivations. I fully understand that this is the country in which we live and these are ongoing consequences of a life in public service.”
However, I wish to assure the country and our international partners that I served the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning with dedication and professionalism, and conducted businesses there within the boundaries of the law and acceptable best practices.”
“As such I intend to cooperate fully, as I have always done, to assist in satisfying this ongoing audit as well as reconfirm my continued commitment to financial probity and high standards of accountability in our country.”