Liberia Agriculture Corp. Plunging In Early Corruption?
New Managing Director Dr. John S. Flomo Allegedly Involved in Financial Malpractice
Monrovia – Documents in the possession of this newspaper reveal that there are serious financial malpractices and other ethical problems taking place at the Liberia Agriculture Commodity Regulatory Authority (LACRA). These serious financial mishaps are taking place under the watch of Dr. John S. Flomo, Jr.
Report by Bettie K. Johnson-Mbayo, [email protected]
The entity’s July 2018 approved payroll by the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) shows that there are 44 employees, including the three directors — Ronald Mends-Cole, Deputy for Administration and Musa Konneh, Deputy for Operations and Technical Services.
LACRA’s approved payroll shows that its Director Flomo was to receive L$146,631.50 as net salary for July and US$1,889.63 as allowance for the same month. Mends-Cole and Konneh each were to receive L$141,761.39 and US$1,619.08, respectively for the same month.
But a reported orchestrated payroll by the agency’s directors shows that Flomo is now receiving L$305,000 as basic salary and US$1,920 as 80 percent allowance; both Konneh and Mends-Cole are receiving L$261,500 as basic salary and US$1,440 as 80 percent allowance.
The basic salary in Liberian dollars for Flomo is L$305,000 plus a 20 percent converted into Liberian dollars, from his main allowance, increased his total Liberian dollar to 381,708.8 as net Liberian dollars for the month. For Mends-Cole and Konneh, they are receiving L$319,031.6 as net Liberian dollars because the 20 percent allowance from the main allowance has increased their amounts.
The increment in the remunerations of the directors has resulted to the reduction of employees’ salaries. For example one Emmanuel Grant, Deputy Chief of Inspection, whose GOL approved salary is in the tune of L$35,156.03 and US$155.05.
But on the orchestrated payroll from LACRA, it reveals that this person’s Liberian dollar salary has dropped to L$9,000 and when the 20 percent portion of the main allowance is converted into Liberian dollars (L$3196.00) and added to his basic salary, his new net Liberian dollar salary now drops to L$12196.2. Also, his net US dollar allowance of US$155.05 from the government has dropped, too, to US$80 as his 80 percent allowance.
Responding to FrontPageAfrica’s inquiry, Flomo denied our findings, adding: “No one at the entity is overpaid.”
According to him, the salaries for LACRA employees are low and below the national average.
“Whatever my deputies and I are earning is in line with the law,” he also added.
“Are you telling me that my salary is over L$300,000 instead of L$146,000? That is not true. That document is faked,” he challenged.
However, he agreed that Mends-Cole and Konneh’s salaries, as shown in the orchestrated payroll, is L$319 respectively instead of L$142. These figures from the document he termed as ‘fake’ when it comes to his personal figures.
According to Flomo, the Finance Ministry doesn’t set salary for the corporation. He further stated that the Public Financial Management (PFM) Law does not determine the salary for autonomous agencies.
He indicated that LACRA, being an autonomous agency, sets its own budget and salary plan and communicate it to the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning.
“We have a payroll that is paid by MFDP; if those payrolls are against the PFM Law, the MFDP will not pay it,” he quipped.
Began Job before Confirmation
Flomo was to take over the entity in mid-July after he received the letter of appointment on July 13, 2018 from President George Manneh Weah.
However, there is document also in possession of this newspaper that shows that he had long started acting as the head of the entity before the President told him that his appointment took effect as of Tuesday, July 10, 2018.
To show that he started working before he was appointed, he requested on July 5, 2018, among other things, several documents from Konneh, including employment policy, a copy of staff files, financial policy, spending plan, budget and financial report. He also asked for payroll, all contracts, assets listing, procurement current plan and reports on activities.
The July 5, 2018 letter, which bears Flomo’s signature, is marked: REF: OPS/2018/07/00001.
He told FPA, “I wanted to know the finances, and have an idea of what the institution is about. I don’t think that was wrong.”
However, he could not respond to why the letter was signed by him as Managing Director even though he hadn’t been officially appointed.
This newspaper was also credibly informed that when the three heads were assuming their respective positions, each brought into the entity unspecified number of persons, who were added to the original 44 persons on the GOL payroll.
The approved payroll from MFDP is 44 legitimate employees, but an additional payroll from LACRA signed by Flomo dated 28/7/2018 shows that 24 persons were added. These are the people that they brought in.
The document further reveals that the payroll was created July 30, 2018, but Flomo reportedly backdated the document two days and affixed his signature.
Flomo told this newspaper that he does not know the exact number of additional employees but consented that people were added.
“The deputy directors came in with few staff and I came in with few staff. We added few staff to the Quality Control Department and we created an International Office to deal with investors; so we employed people in that department.”
He justified, “When you are appointed you come in with new staff; someone who will be your secretary, special assistant and security.”
For Konneh: “Because every new person brought in their staff. But I can’t give you the exact number. I am not the head of employment and I can’t tell you if they are employed.”
Tussle Over Payment of New Employees
There was report that when the additional payroll was done, the comptroller refused to sign it. However, Flomo signed the additional payroll despite the refusal of Comptroller Aloysius Howe to add the “new employees” to the payroll.
It is further reported that Howe’s refusal was on ground that the new workers had only worked for 11 days instead of 15 days to be entitled to salary.
In a communication dated July 30, 2018, Flomo instructed Howe to do the entity payroll in two segments, those with United Bank of Africa (UBA) accounts and new employees that do not have the UBA accounts.
“You were instructed that you should do direct deposit for those with UBA accounts and do a buck check for payment of employees without account numbers. Despite this instruction from the executive team, you decided to do salary for employees with UBA accounts and did not do payment for those without accounts.”
The communication continues, “I am writing again to instruct that you immediately report to my office to do the buck check for payment of those employees you have not paid so that we can process payment and pay them today before 2:00pm.”
On July 31, 2018 another communication ordered Howe again to pay the additional employees using checks with the appropriate indicated amounts on “LACRA Additional Payroll”.
According to Flomo, the salary was for the month of July.
Copies of checks in possession of FPA, show that each of the additional employees received their salaries through cash.
Flomo in response said all LACRA payrolls are signed by him, but documents showed that the July payroll recognized by MFDP was signed by Konneh and Howe on grounds that he (Flomo) was not confirmed, but he single-handedly signed the additional payroll.
Suspended and Salary on Hold
Apparently, Howe’s initial refusal has caused him his position. He and one Esiaka Sheriff, General Service Director, salaries were put on hold and are currently serving an indefinite suspension.
Flomo said the action against the two is based on their inability to perform their duties.
A letter sent to the two reads: “A unanimous decision has been reached by management to suspend you for time indefinite without pay after numerous attempts to undermine the progress of the LACRA. The senior management team has agreed to take measures that will put to stop your unauthorized actions that have the propensity to bring the entity to public ridicule, if not probably examined by the public.”
“The management team has observed your persistent violations of the entity’s regulations through unauthorized and unwarranted insinuations and gross disrespect to the senior management team.”
Both men were suspended from work without pay and benefits indefinitely beginning September 1, 2018. They will only be reinstated back to work after writing a letter of apology. But the management would have to formally accept their letter.
Comptroller Change to Accountant
Sources at LACRA said Flomo has brought in a man identify as George Cooper to serve as the new comptroller, replacing Aloysius Howe.
Cooper, who had been recruited from the Nimba County Service Center, confirmed via phone that he was brought in as comptroller by Flomo to replace Howe.
Flomo told FPA that he had transferred Howe to Senior Accountant position.
“When I came to the entity, he was working as probation. We reviewed some of the works he has done. He doesn’t know accounting, comptroller job and he did not have a budget. He was running the institution without a financial policy and those are violations of the PFM law,”
“We try to get him on par [with fellow professionals] but he was very recalcitrant and disrespectful, so we had to transfer him,” Flomo stated.