The Ministry of Finance has, with immediate effect, suspended six (6) of its employees including the Comptroller and Accounting General of Liberia, Mr. Boom Wilson, and his Deputy Comptroller General for Accounting Services, Mr. Siafa Chowoe, for “failure to exercise due diligence in the discharge of their respective duties.”
The action against these employees, according to the Ministry, was based on preliminary information indicating that they were either negligent or complacent in the discharge of their functions leading to the processing of payments that were fraught with abnormalities.
While the Ministry does not have all of the facts surrounding the disbursements of about US$250,000 against the government’s threshold by a spending entity, the authorities believe that it is prudent and wise to take immediate actions to protect the integrity and sanctity of the public financial management system the which the Ministry so highly values.
In a statement issued Tuesday, the Ministry noted that even though the payments in question came from agencies that are directly linked to the Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS) and have the authority to process their own vouchers, the employees of the Ministry of Finance should have been more careful in approving documents that had not met the full compliance requirements.
The Ministry of Finance noted that the contract submitted along with payment requests by the two spending entities were above the normal threshold of US$250,000 that required the approval of the Minister of Finance and attestation by the Minister of Justice which is consistent with Section 24-4 of the Public Financial Management Law of Liberia.
“In this case, however,” the Ministry said “those processes were not followed by the employees who instead, processed the alleged forged contract documents and processed them in the system up to check release stage at which point the abnormalities were noticed and payments subsequently stopped.”
According to the Ministry of Finance, some of the abnormalities related to the alleged forged contracts include defacements and crossing out of facts and writing over a contract that was consummated and executed in last fiscal year (2012/13); the dates on one of the contracts “July 2015” predates the current budget period (FY 2013/14); and the attestations and acclamations on the two alleged contracts were done by individuals, some of whom are no longer in government.
The Ministry of Finance authorities observed that it is unusual that the date of the execution of one of the agreements would predate the letter of “no objection” from the Public Procurement &Concession Commission (PPCC) that was issued on December 10, 2013.
Meanwhile, authorities of the Ministry of Finance have launched an investigation into the matter, vowing not to relent in taking appropriate actions to ensure that such behavior is fully punished and discouraged.
According to the Ministry, fiscal discipline, transparency, and accountability can play a critical role in helping to curtail corruption and raise the needed resources to finance Liberia’s development agenda.
The Ministry insisted that it regards transparency in government operations, an important precondition for macro-economic stability, good governance, and overall fiscal integrity. Further information available to this paper puts the monetary value of the contract to about US$2.5 million. The Ministry of Finance is yet the release the names of the other employees linked to the latest bogus deal.