Monrovia – The Liberian Government has expressed serious concern over reports of 2.7 million Swiss Franc scandals at the Liberia National Red Cross during the Ebola crisis that plagued the country in 2014, vowing to bring culprits to justice.
The Government said report emanating from the Red Cross that 2.7 Million Swiss Francs was lost to fraud during the epidemic in Liberia is of grave concern and reflects the country’s image.
A communication issued by the Ministry of Information Culture and Tourism Wednesday noted that the report found evidence of fraud related to inflated prices of relief items, payroll, and payment of volunteers’ incentives.
The International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) admitted that 2.7M Swiss Francs remain unaccounted and being investigated, while it is confirmed that some US$200,000 were fraudulently applied.
In a recent exclusive interview with the BBC, the Secretary General of IFRC, Elhadj As Sy, said, “In Liberia, we estimate about US$200,000 which were fraudulent – confirmed – and we are further investigating over a million dollar that can still be at risk.”
The investigation found that in Liberia the prices of relief goods and payrolls were inflated to the tune of US$2.6M.
The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said it was “outraged” by what it had uncovered, and was strengthening its efforts to fight corruption, including introducing cash spending limits in “high-risk settings.”
It also plans to send trained auditors along with emergency operations teams.
Other measures will include additional staff training and “the establishment of a dedicated and independent internal investigation function.”
“These cases must not in any way diminish the tremendous courage and dedication of thousands of volunteers and staff during the Ebola response.”
“They played a critical and widely recognized role in containing and ending the outbreak, and preventing further spread of the Ebola virus internationally,” said Dr. Jemilah Mahmood, the IFRC under secretary general for partnerships.
But government stated that these resources named by the International Federation of Red Cross were provided during the Ebola response by the international relief outlets and not directly handled by any institution of government.
The statement maintained that the resources were solely handed by Red Cross and local auxiliaries who played key role during the Ebola crisis.
The Government, however, acknowledged Red Cross support to the Ebola response and recovery.
The Liberian government named social mobilization, active case search, emotional and psychological support and cross border surveillance as cardinal support provided by the Red Cross which aided in handling the Ebola crisis.
“The Government acknowledges, with thanks, the Red Cross support to the Ebola response and recovery which included social mobilization, active case search, emotional and psychological support and cross border surveillance,” the statement said.
Meanwhile, authority in Liberia said it welcomes the ICRC investigation and will support all efforts aimed at bringing the culprits to justice.