Liberia: SOS’s Children’s Village Accused of “Wrongful Dismissal”
.... “Allieu came to SOS Liberia with a clean record of excellence from the multiple international jobs in which he served at senior levels,” Legal counsel for Augustine Allieu, a former SOS staff in a complaint to the Ministry of Labour.
A former senior staff of the SOS Children’s Villages has accused the world's largest non-governmental organization, which focused on supporting children without parental care and families, of wrongful dismissal.
The staff — Augustine Allieu -- a former Country Director of the SOS Children's Villages in Liberia who was relieved of his position on allegations of administrative and financial malpractices.”
The decision by SOS grew out of an internal audit it claimed implicated the former national director as well as findings from other staff. But Allieu’s lawyers, in a complaint to the Ministry of Labour, filed on Sept. 9, denied the SOS audit report accusation — terming it as “unsubstantiated” and “unfounded” part of which was based on “staff perception.”
Allieu’s lawyers claimed that the entire audit process and content were manipulated and that the motive was personal against him.
“One of the audit team members and conductor of the staff perception survey currently serves in his position as acting national director. The audit report, among other things, claimed that Allieu approved and utilized salary loans and salary advance without approval and contrary to policy, which is not true,” the Allieu September 9 letter said.
“It also accused him of committing the crime of using counterfeit banknote(s), something they failed to report to the government authorities.”
According to Allieu’s lawyers, the SOS audit was rebuffed by their client in a nine-page response, but strangely the receiving authority based in Dakar, Senegal, where the audit team is based at the SOS Regional Office, refused his side of the story and suspended him from work.
The suspension culminated in a termination letter dated April 12, five years after he was hired on July 10, 2017. Allieu, a Sierra Leonean national and expatriate worked for the SOS, having served leadership posts at several international NGOs in Liberia and Sierra Leone.
He once served as Head of Programme Strategy at Plan International, West, and Central Africa Region and as Country Director at Plan International Sierra Leone, and Country Director at Plan International Liberia in succession. Allieu also served as Head of Programs at the Catholic Relief Services Liberia Program.
“The draft audit report shared for [our] client’s response, which was used as one of the basis to terminate his services, was much different from the one that was finally published and used for his dismissal,” Allieu lawyers claimed.
“When the plotters found that their claims were not strong enough to merit termination, they launched a factitious post-audit internal investigation whose outcome was predetermined. It was in this other audit and or ‘purported staff perception survey,’ that Allieu, who was no longer around to respond to, was accused of “sexual harassment, intimidation, bullying, and threats against some of his staff.”
“The investigation, referenced here, did not accord him due process and fairness, as he was never given the opportunity to respond to the opinions of the carefully selected group of staff spoken to, of which said outcome cannot constitute automatic guilt,” the lawyers said. “Without the result of a hearing judgment on criminal or serious allegations, no one should be condemned. This is a violation of his constitutional rights.”
Among other things, Allieu’s lawyers said that their client’s accusers’ prejudice is also be seen in the use of an over four-year-old “unsubstantiated sexual harassment allegation to make a case for dismissal.”
And while the auditing was going on, Allieu's lawyers said he was being accused of allegedly raping a 16-year-old minor and then, placed under police investigation along with two other male staff of the SOS for the alleged rape act. The Liberia National Police investigation culminated in the performance of a paternity test on the alleged rape victim's baby, to determine who fathered the baby.
“That DNA results obtained from John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital through the Minister of Justice established that ‘Allieu’ is excluded; [and] not the father of "baby" because the probability is 0.00%. [And] that the allegation of Rape against Augustine Allieu was unfounded,” a report from the police Women and Children Protection Section (WACPS) said.
And for Allieu's lawyers, the rape allegation intended to tie their client up in the criminal justice system so that he does not have the chance or time to bring an unfair dismissal complaint against SOS.
The lawyers further stated that since Alllieu started working at SOS in 2017 before his dismissal, he was never at any point in time given any warning letter.
“Allieu came to SOS Liberia with a clean record of excellence from the multiple international jobs in which he served at senior levels,” the lawyer said.