Liberia: Asset Recovery Team Alleges Double Payments of over US$500 Million in Last 10 Years at Finance Ministry

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Monrovia – The Investigation, Restitution and Assets Recovery Team (IRRT) set up by the Solicitor General of the Republic of Liberia, Syrenius Cephus and headed by Cllr. Arthur Johnson says they have gathered evidence that the Ministry of Finance & Development Planning made double payments to vendors in both US and Liberian Dollars on the same amount owed vendors.

“The asset recovery team is presently investigating the expenditure by the Government of Liberia up to 2017. This investigation has revealed that over US$500 million and more than L$1 billion were all expended through the Ministry of Finance.” 

Addressing a news conference on Friday, August 2, the head of the IRRT Cllr. Arthur Johnson said that the expenditure was done by paying vendors in Liberian dollars on a discount basis and the same amount was paid in US dollars which did not go to the vendor. 

“For example, if John Brown is a vendor who sees that the Government of Liberia owes him US$200,000, he is then paid on a discount basis in Liberia dollars and the Government of Liberia up to 2017 paid the same US$200,000 or more in US dollars and that money did not go to the vendor again,” he explained.

According to him, the investigation has also established that some of the vendors were understated and the variance cannot be accounted for.

“We have the evidence, the checks, the account numbers, the summary of the payments and the name of purported individuals and institutions that were alleged to have received these amounts,” Cllr. Johnson disclosed.

Cllr. Johnson further stated that for the purpose of the investigation, the names of individuals and institutions which were discovered in the findings would not be disclosed.

Meanwhile, he is urging the former Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Amara Konneh to come back to Liberia so as to go ahead with the investigation instead of using his lawyer or the media to get at the IRRT.

The head of the IRRT is, meanwhile, calling on all well-meaning Liberians who know of properties linked to any of the persons of interest in or out of Liberia to report to the team.

Meanwhile, observers are concerned why the investigation team has decided to place much emphasis on former Finance Minister Amara Konneh, instead of being wholistic in their approach.

Konneh became Minister of Finance and Development Planning Minister in February 2012 until April 30, 2016. This means, the investigation by the asset recovery team covers periods before Konneh became minister and periods after he left office.

Some argue that it would be good to invite all the former finance ministers because no single person served those entire 10 years: Antoinette Sayeh (2006 – 2008); Augustine K. Ngafuan (2008 – 2012); Amara Konneh (2012 – 2016) and Boima S. Kamara (2016 – 2018), and the members of the Debt Management Committee that include the Central Bank of Liberia, Ministry of Justice and Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs.

The allegations of double payments by the Ministry of Finance was first brought to the lime light in 2006 in a KPMG audit report. During that period, Konneh was not Finance Minister.

Impeccable sources at the General Auditing Commission hinted FrontPageAfrica that the Commission has conducted audit for the period Konneh served as Finance Minister, but did not observe the allegation being made the Solicitor General’s team.

“If the GAC did miss such and IRRT can present to the Liberia an irrefutable evidence to back up their claims, then it was a big miss because for US$500 million, the equivalent an entire fiscal year budget, and L$1 billion to leave the Consolidated Account without being detected by auditors would be a massive failure of the system,” a GAC source said.

In April 2010, former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf set up a Debt Management Committee to regulate public finance transactions, in keeping with Section 28 (4) of the Public Finance Management Act of 2009. The Committee is chaired by the Minister of Finance.  Its members included the Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia; the Ministers of State for Presidential Affairs, Justice, and Planning & Economic Affairs. Except Government securities which are handled by the Central Bank of Liberia, the Committee was responsible for approving all central government loan agreements in keeping with the Public Finance Management Act of 2009.

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