for ‘Misapplied’ US$55,000, L$2M
The General Auditing Commission (GAC) has accused the Director-General of the National Commission on Higher Education (NCHE) of a lack of vision and the failure to establish anti-fraud internal controls, to track financial and administrative performances that have led to the disappearance of over US$55,000 and L$2 million from the entity’s coffer over the years.
In the GAC’s report, for the period of July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013, Auditor General Yusador S. Gaye said those who should be held liable during the period under the audit for the administrative and financial affairs of the Commission, include Dr. Michael P. Slawon, the Director-General (August 2006 to January 2018).
Others are Dr. Kadiker Rex Dahn, Deputy Director General (October, 2013 to January, 2018), Mr. David S. Dahn, Deputy Director for Administration and Fiscal Affairs, (July, 2008 to present) and Mrs.. Esther M. Tolbert, Finance Officer (May, 2004 to present).
The Joint Committee on Public Account and Expenditure of the House of Representatives and the Senate in a joint chambers of the legislature on Monday, April 16, held a one-day public hearing with the four officials the GAC indicted in its report.
Following the conclusion of the meeting with the indicted NCHE’s officials, the lawmakers said they would recommend their findings to their respective Plenary to either validate or reject the audit report.
According to the GAC’s report, a copy of which is in the possession of this newspaper, the GAC has said it has observed during the conduct of the audit that authorities of the NCHE, headed by Dr. Slawon, raised vouchers amounting to US$55,725 and L$2,265,045 respectively without the use of a “Pre-numbered sequential voucher system.”
This financial system poses serious problems if one of the vouchers in a particular system gets missing. In order to make sure that all the vouchers are present, the cashier will give his/her own numbering to each document he/she receives following a particular sequence; but afterwards, the cashier will use his/her own numbering system to track different documents.
The GAC stated that there is an irregular (off-the-book) expenditure, of which the NCHE authorities made payments to employees such as loans, going to school packages on self-found scholarships and bonuses to employees in the amount of US$6,890 and L$1,005,845 without evidence of a written agreement or policy to justify that such transactions ever took place at that entity.
“There was no evidence that the amount of US$2,700 and L$381,840 loaned to employees had been repaid,” the report observed.
The GAC further discovered Pre-numbered Vouchers amounting to US$166,161.65 cents and L$3,688,790 without the use of a Pre-numbered sequential voucher system. The NCHE procured fuel amounting to L$1,615,508 from Super Petroleum Company and US$37,102.03 cents from various businesses without evidence of procurement committee minutes, bid advertisements, bid documents submitted by vendors, contract and the required three quotations.
Also, “uncommitted cash balance was discovered in which the NCHE authorities had cash balances of US$46,819.24 and L$1,639,446 in its operations’ accounts at the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) at the end of the fiscal periods that were not re-deposited into Government of Liberia (GoL) Consolidated Fund account for re-appropriation as required.”
“The NCHE management made payments of US$27,469 and L$897,390 to employees/individuals rather than the service provider of goods or services, which processes did not maintain fixed assets registry that would show a list of coded assets, date of purchase, cost, location, assignee and current condition.”
The NCHE management did not disclose the total amount of US$1,822.18 in its book of records for the period under audit and authorities under the signatures of Dr. Slawon, David S. Dahn, and Mrs. Tolbert, Finance Officer withdrew the amount of US$1,700 from the operational fund without providing evidence of the purpose of the withdrawals, but without the involvement of Dr. Rex Dahn, the deputy director-general,” the report said.
Meanwhile, during Monday’s public hearings, Dr. Slawon and the other two employees admitted to the lack of internal control systems, but said they have resolved to improve the system this year.
The former NCHE director-general told the lawmakers, “Though they do not collect the US$500 registration fees from higher institutions, they have instituted an acceptable internal control, which requires the approval of senior staff before any cheque is raised.”
But Dr. Kadiker Rex Dahn said he has written so many communications to Dr. Slawon, the Civil Service Agency and other relevant ministries about the lack of internal control and irregularities in the NCHE, “but those authorities are yet to take the appropriate measures to curb the suspected financial malpractices instituted at the entity.”
The GAC was represented by Winsley S. Nanka, deputy auditor general, at Monday’s public hearing.