LIBERIA: National Security Agency Probing NPHIL Lab Workers Over Leaks of COVID-19 Test Results

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NSA PROBING COVID-19 TEST LEAKS: Dr. Mosoko Fallah, head of NPHIL did not reply to a FrontPageAfrica inquiry on the matter but Mr. J. Henric Pearson, head of the NSA confirmed the report, when an inquiry was made, that the investigation was underway.

Monrovia – The National Security Agency on Wednesday began investigating lab technicians at the National Public Health Institute over recent leaks of testing results to the media.

Dr. Mosoko Fallah, head of NPHIL did not reply to a FrontPageAfrica inquiry on the matter but Mr. J. Henric Pearson, head of the NSA confirmed the report, when an inquiry was made, that the investigation was underway.

Two sources told FPA Wednesday that employees were called in one by one and phones reportedly searched for call logs information regarding the possibility for leaks.

The National Security Agency (NSA) is an apolitical government intelligence institution that is solely tasked with the gathering/collection, analyzing and dissemination of national security information for decision/policy makers including the President of the Republic of Liberia. The Agency is committed to Service, Knowing that our citizens, friends and allies are relying on us for our dedication, fulfillment and commitment to serve in pursuit of excellence in our critical mission. The Agency is committed to ensuring that all NSA personnel are respected, valued and included for their diverse backgrounds, experiences, skills and contributions to our mission and culture.

The National Public Health Institute is the coordinating arm for the Ministry of Health. Its purpose is to detect and respond to outbreaks.

Section 6.2 of the Confidentiality Provision in the NPHIL Act states:

All patient related research information or findings, processes, research techniques or plans shall be kept confidential, except as provided herein;

All information received by the relevant parties herein shall be kept confidential

Members of the Board of Directors , the Director General, officers, employees and staffs of NPHIL shall treat al information obtained in the course of their employment and or engagement with NPHIL, strictly confidential, not to be disclosed to any third party and shall not use it for any other purpose other than for the purpose of this act. 

Any breach of the above confidentiality provision shall be punishable in accordance with the Public Health Law and/or the Penal Law of Liberia or their amendatory Acts. However, the issue is being debated globally in efforts to differentiate between public health ethics of contact tracing in a public health situation versus the public has a right to know in the situation of outbreak.

NPHIL shall ensure that its officers, employees, and all associates treat partners’ information as confidential except as provided under paragraph(a) above, nothing in this section shall be construed as an exception to the provisions and intent of the Public Information Act of 2010, or defeating the information sharing of this act.

Any breach of the above confidentiality provision shall be punishable in accordance with the Public Health Law and/or the Penal Law of Liberia or their amendatory Acts. 

Right-to-Know vs. Public Safety

However, the issue is being debated globally in efforts to differentiate between public health ethics of contact tracing in a public health situation versus the public has a right to know in the situation of outbreak.

Contact tracing involves interviewing individuals for private information—including information on their household partners, friends, and others. Some experts say, the information obtained in these investigations is used to prevent further transmission of infection and therefore serves a public good.

Additionally, the contact information is requested only for the suspected interval of exposure, and therefore is proportional.  There is no need to obtain personal information outside the exposure interval.

Section 12 of the Public Health Law of Liberia speaks extensively on the urgency that must be attached to reporting diseases and also the issue of patient confidentiality. According to this section, all diseases are required to be reported 24 hours after diagnosis. And within 24 hours after diagnosis, a report shall be made to the Minister [of Health] of all cases of persons, including carriers, affected with or who show evidence of any notifiable diseases or conditions of public health importance with epidemic potential.


Section 12.3.4:  “The reports required by this section shall be in writing and shall contain the full name, age, and sex and address of the person affected and all the facts known concerning the disease or condition, including the date of the onset of the illness, any available information as to the probable place and source of infection and any other information concerning the case required by the Minister for the protection of public health. These reports shall be made on forms furnished by the Minister or shall contain all the information required by such forms. They shall be sent by the most expeditious means.”

Section 12.4. which speaks to confidentiality of required reports and records states:

“Reports and records required by the provisions of section 12.3 shall not be subject to inspection by persons other than authorized personnel of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, or by the Minister of Justice when such reports and records involve an investigation of an offense, except that the person to whom any such record relates or his legal representative, by signing a written consent may authorize the Minister to open the record to inspection. These reports and records are subject to subpoena issued by an order of the court; but shall be treated as confidential communications whose divulgence is prohibited when such privileged status is applicable under the law. However, this section shall not prevent authorized personnel of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare from furnishing appropriate information to a physician or institution providing examination or treatment to a person suspected of or affected with a notifiable disease or condition or other reportable disease or condition, or to any person when necessary for the protection of health. A person or institution to whom such information is furnished or to whom access to such records has been given, shall not divulge any part thereof so as to disclose the identity of the person to whom such information or record relates, except insofar as such disclosure is necessary for the treatment of a case or carrier or for the protection of the health of others.”

Motives of Probe Under Scrutiny

It is not clear what caused the sudden investigation, but it does come amid the recent positive test results of several senior officials of the George Weah-led government including Minister of Justice Frank Musah Dean and Information Minister Lenn Eugene Nagbe.

It also comes as pressure continues to mount on the status of President Weah.

The Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Mr. Nathaniel McGill on  dismissed reports that President George Manneh Weah has tested positive for the deadly COVID-19 virus. 


Responding to a FrontPageAfrica inquiry Tuesday evening, Minister McGill said: “The President is well and healthy. He had a series of meetings today and he is doing just fine.”


Speculations have heightened since the death last Thursday of Mr. Marcus Soko, head of the Drug Enforcement Agency(DEA). 


Soko was among some thirty government officials who reportedly attended a Joint Security meeting on April 11, 2020. Several government officials who were in that meeting have tested positive. 

The speculation over President Weah’s status heightened after Minister Nagbe’s second test result came back positive Monday night. 


The minister was in close proximity of the president last Thursday, April 23, 2020 when the President addressed the virtual extraordinary session of the Authority of Ecowas Heads of State, focusing on the impact of COVID-19 on member states. 


The minister sat on the President’s left while Presidential advisor Emmanuel Shaw sat on the right. Foreign Minister Gbezohnga Findley, who sat behind the president told FPA Tuesday that he took his test today and is awaiting the results.


On Monday, Health authorities confirmed the testing of thirty-one senior government officials with three being confirmed positive of COVID-19, many of those were in the April 11 meeting of senior security officials’ briefing on the deadly virus in Liberia.


Speaking at a news conference in Monrovia Monday, National Public Institute of Liberia Director General Dr. Mosoka Fallah said, the thirty-one senior government officials came in contact with the late LDEA boss Marcus Soko, stating that, members of the joint security including their families are currently being tested and monitored.

Nation Divided Over Name Calling

The meeting presided over by Justice Minister Dean also included representatives from the Ministry of National Defense, the National Security Agency(NSA), the Drug Enforcement Agency(DEA), the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization, the National Security Advisor to the President; representatives from the Armed Forces of Liberia, the Executive Committee on Corona Virus (ECOC), headed by Broh and Senators Steven Zargo(Liberty Party, Lofa), Jonathan L. Kaipay(Liberty Party, Grand Bassa) and Conmany Wisseh(Unity Party, River Gee). Information Minister Lenn Eugene Nagbe was also in attendance.

It is unclear what the NSA or NPHIL intends to do with the results of the ongoing investigation but the controversy comes as Liberia’s COVID-19 infections have risen to 141 as more and more healthcare workers continue to endure challenges battling the killer virus. To date, a total of 32 healthcare workers have been infected, with 31 of those recorded in Montserrado County. Margibi has recorded the other infection.  Nationally, a total of 16 person have died so far.

The NSA probe at NPHIL is likely to resurrect debate over the naming of the COVID-19 infected. While some like Information Minister Nagbe and Justice Minister Dean have voluntarily come out to announce their results, others are not so warm to the idea.

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