Liberia: House Probes LISGIS over Allegation of Corruption￼
Capitol Hill, Monrovia – The plenary of the House of Representatives has voted unanimously to set up a specialized committee to investigate the management of the Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS) for allegations of corruption made by one of the deputy director generals of the institution.
The decision was reached at the end of a three-hour grilling of the LISGIS’ officials by the House following a motion proffered by Rep. Johnson N. Gwaikolo (District #9, Nimba County), the Chairman of the Committee on Rules, Order and Administration.
He said: “Having heard from the witnesses we invited based on the communication from one of our colleagues, knowing that we have oversight responsibilities that cannot be relegated to any other process… that this House of Representatives wants to get to the bottom of the allegations that have been promulgated for which we have gone back and forth, I move Mr. Speaker, if I can obtain a second, that in order to get to the real substance, that this matter be passed on to a specialized committee…”
The Deputy Director General for Statistics and Data Processing, Mr. G. Alex Williams has been making series of allegations against the management of LISGIS; accusing the institution’s top management of misapplying the fund intended for the conduct of the 2022 National Housing and Population Census.
This led the House to invite the management of LISGIS- including those that were accused and the accuser. Plenary’s decision was based on a communication from Rep. Richard Koon (District #11, Montserrado County).
Rep. Koon, in his communication, said while the Legislature was on break, Mr. Williams was heard on several media institutions accusing the management of the institution of fraudulent acts. And as the people’s Representatives, the House should exercise its oversight responsibilities to invite both sides for questioning and his request was granted.
Appearing before the House on Tuesday, Mr. Williams made the repeated allegations against the top management including LISGIS’ Director General, Prof. Francis Wreh, Mr. Wilmot Smith, Deputy Director General for Information and Coordination and Mr. Lawrence George, Deputy Director General for Administration.
Mr. Williams, among other things, alleged that out of US$1.8million deposited into the account of LISGIS by Government of Liberia, management could only account for US$700, 000 to the basket fund managed UNFPA; prompting international partners to withhold their support for the upcoming census. He also said Mr. Wreh and his deputies including George and Smith made series of illegal withdrawals from LISGIS’ account and carried out procurement transactions outside of the Public Procurement Concession Commission (PPCC).
However, taking the witness’ stand separately, the accused officials denied the allegations against them and said there was no corruption at LISGIS.
LISGIS’s Director General Prof. Wreh said that Mr. Williams’ statements are totally untrue and his action is a smear campaign intended the tarnish his and his deputies’ reputation.
“There is no corruption at LISGIS,” he said. He noted that there was no money siphoned and that the Government through LISGIS has deposited more than US$3 million to the census basket fund managed by UNFPA, and the partners including the World Bank, UNFPA and the Swedish Government are all supporting the process. He assured the lawmakers that the census will be conducted this year.
His deputies – Smith and George also refuted the claims made by their colleague.
Following a lengthy cross-examinations from both parties, plenary, acting on the motion by Rep. Johnson Gwaikolo voted to forward the LISGIS’ officials to a specialized committee for further investigation and report within two weeks.