Liberia: GAC Audit Finds that Money Intended to Feed Prisoners Were Diverted to Security Operations in Gbarpolu During the 2020 Special Senatorial Elections
MONROVIA – A follow-up audit report on the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) Management of the Prison System in Liberia submitted to the National Legislature on November 17, 2021 by the General Auditing Commission (GAC) shows that the Ministry has not satisfactorily implemented recommendations advanced by the General Auditing Commission (GAC) for the efficient management of the Prison system in Liberia
GAC provided a total of 15 recommendations to the Ministry of Justice for implementation. From the analysis of these recommendations, the GAC noted that 10 out of the 15 recommendations were partially implemented while 5 were not implemented at all
During follow-up interview and documents reviewed relating to the in-adequacy of restraint
equipment for wardens and correctional officers of the Bureau of Corrections and Rehabilitation,
the GAC was informed that only six (6) handcuffs were given to Monrovia Central Prison in 2020. There was no record on how many restraint devices were sent to the remaining 14 prison/detention centers around the country, according to the report.
During interviews the GAC conducted with the superintendent of Monrovia Central Prison, he disclosed that the quality of food given to inmates was substandard due to the limited support received by the prison center. He further noted that hand pumps are very seldom chlorinated; thus, posing a health risk to inmates.
Further, the Food Services Officer at MCP informed the GAC that inmates had not been fed fish/meat since January 2021 to June 2021 due to the cut in their monthly feeding budget from US$5,000.00 to US$3,000.00. It was also established by the GAC that the inmates were fed only once a day, contrary to the GAC’s recommendation that inmates be fed at least twice a daily.
The GAC noted from visit of the Monrovia Central Prison that the facility had not been improved and additional cell blocks were not built within the MCP to accommodate the high increase of inmates as recommended in the previous audit report. The GAC’s visit of the Monrovia Central Prison and the various prisons around Liberia in April, 2021 prisons shows that the Monrovia Central Prison which was intended to accommodate 374 inmates, has had a prison population of 1,236 as of the field visit, the report said.
From review of MOJ’s internal documents, the GAC noted that the BCR opened 15 accounts at commercial banks for all financial transactions. Subsistence payments to prison centers from 2016-2019 were directed through those accounts. However, from 2020 to 2021, the MOJ reverted to the old method of financial transactions by transferring monthly prisons subsistence payments in the name of individuals prison officials in violation of provisions of the Public Procurement Commission and Concessions Act of 2005 as amended and restated in 2010 and the Public Financial Management Act of 2009, the report said.
Also, GAC’s review of MOJ’s departmental funds request documents revealed that on November 02, 2020, a payment request was made for the amount of US$19,000 as replenishment for prison subsistence funds that were diverted to security operations to cover the Gbarpolu County Mid-Term senatorial elections.
During an interview conducted with the superintendent of MCP, the GAC was informed that when communicable diseases are uncovered, the inmates with such diseases are immediately transferred to an isolation area referred to as “sick bay” and the authority at the clinic is informed immediately. The clinic officer in charge (OIC) at MCP also confirmed that inmates with communicable diseases are transferred to the sick bay for treatment.
However, contrary to the Superintendent and the clinic OIC’s assertion, The GAC observed that the holding area at the Monrovia Central Prison for inmates with suspected or communicable diseases are no longer used for the intended purpose of housing sick inmates with communicable diseases. According to the GAC report, all inmates with communicable diseases are transferred to other cell blocks of the general prison population; a situation that poses serious danger to the rest of the inmates.
The Sick Bay (holding area) is now being used as a quarantine center where new inmates are held for a period of fourteen (14) days; to be observed for Covid symptoms, before they are transferred to other prison blocks. Furthermore, the the GAC noted that none of the wards in the Sick Bay had mattresses, blankets, mosquito nets, etc. for the sick inmates. Meanwhile, the Officer In Charge at the clinic informed the GAC that the shortage of required drugs to treat malaria, scabies and laceration, sicknesses commonly found amongst inmates is posing serious health challenge to operation of the prison system.