Liberia: ‘No US$2m Moved to Secret Account’ – Ecobank Explains Account in Ivory Coast
MONROVIA – The Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Samuel Tweah, is not a signatory to the LISGIS’ Census Account with Ecobank, neither did he transfer any money from LISGIS’ account to a private account in Cote d’Ivoire, Ecobank Liberia has clarified.
By Lennart Dodoo
The clarification from the bank comes amid an allegation from dismissed Deputy Director General for Statistics at LISGIS, Alex Williams, who claimed on Spoon FM last week that the Finance Minister who chairs LISGIS Board had transferred a sum of US$2m from LISGIS account to his private Ecobank account 6100005514, in neighboring Ivory Coast.
Williams was dismissed along with the Deputy Director General for Operations, Wilmot Smith, by President Weah last week after several flaws impeding the start of the 2022 national census on November 11 became very glaring.
The flaws that marred the process ranged from questionable recruitment of enumerators, inadequate deployment of census materials to payment of enumerators.
The 2022 national population and housing census would be the first in 15 years. The Constitution of Liberia requires that a census be held after every 10 years.
After his dismissal, Williams accused Min. Tweah of committing fraud at LISGIS and at the same time misinforming the President about the realities at the census house.
However, Min. Tweah who did not take the allegation lightly wrote Ecobank Liberia requesting the bank to investigate and provide clarity on the allegations made against him.
In a November 17, 2022 communication addressed to the Managing Director of Ecobank Liberia, Mr. George Mensah Asante, Mr. Tweah stated, “…the baseless allegation is damaging and has compelled me to kindly request Ecobank to provide me with the facts pursuant to the account in question. As I am only a signatory to a personal account I have with Ecobank in Liberia, I do not have the means to withdraw funds from any account of a Government Ministry or Agency, and I am completely perplexed as to why Mr. Williams chose to lob such an allegation against me, knowing factually that as Minister I do not administer the day-to-day financial affairs of LISGIS or any other Government agency.”
Minister Tweah further contended that in his capacity as Finance Minister, he approves transfers of public monies to various government ministries and agencies under the Public Finance Management Law under established and its general regulations.
He stated in his communication that these transfers under the PFM law follow established PFM procedures and protocols to access resources from designated US dollar and Liberian dollar bank accounts at various financial institutions or banks.
Min. Tweah: “Mr. Managing Director, it may interest you to note that this malignant misinformation provided equally tends to compromise the integrity of ECOBANK since it seems to imply that persons who are non-signatories to Ecobank accounts may be able to move monies from such accounts either through some form of collusion or breach of banking internal controls or through digital hacking. Your investigation into these possibilities or impossibilities can establish the facts and place them where they ought to be, relevant to the allegation against me as Minister of Finance and Development Planning and Chairman of the Board of LISGIS.”
Providing clarity to the transaction amid the allegation, Ecobank Liberia stated that the account number 6100005514 Mr. Williams referred to by Williams is a transit account created by Ecobank Côte d’Ivoire, the affiliate bank of Ecobank Liberia, for the specific transfer of US$10,000 on March 18, 2022 to AVIANET CONSULTING, to transport tablets to Liberia.
This transfer, according to Ecobank, was done through AVIANET’s bank in La Cote d’Ivoire called Banque Atlantic de Côte d’Ivoire.
Ecobank explained that whenever Ecobank Liberia sends US dollars to La Côte d’Ivoire it routes the payment through its affiliate bank called Ecobank Côte d’Ivoire, which creates a Transit Account in Ecobank Côte d’Ivoire to complete the transaction to another bank. In this case, on March 18, 2022, Ecobank Cote d’Ivoire created Transit Account 6100005514 to transfer US$10,000 to a bank account belonging to AVIANET Consulting at Banque Atlantic de Côte d’Ivoire. The US$10,000 transferred equals CFA 5.69 million. As such 6100005514 is Not a LISGIS Account in Côte d’Ivoire and neither is Minister Tweah associated with such an account.
While Ecobank said it could not release the account information of AVIANET Consulting since it’s a third party, it provided an invoice from AVIANET amounting to CFA 49, 959, 750 (US$86,267) – the amount LISGIS was supposed to pay for AVIANET Consulting for transporting tablets to be used for the 2022 national population and housing census. All payments by LISIGS towards the US$86,227 for the transportation of the tablets were routed through the transit account in Cote d’Ivoire.