A confidential forensic audit report carried out by the Internal Audit Bureau (IAB) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ International Economic Cooperation and Integration (IECI) Department on the Japanese Grant Project for the period June 1, 2014, to July 31, 2015, discovered that the amount of L$19,079,815 (US$227,140,65 at the exchange rate of 84) was misappropriated.
The report found out that only a single signature was required to withdraw from the project account. The audit also revealed that signature specimen prepared to effect a withdrawal from the project accounts at the Afriland First Bank indicates that two of the signatories, in the persons of Deputy Minister Elias Shoniyin and Project Manager Augustine Nyanplu, had the exclusive power to singly approve checks for encashment.
Shoniyin informed the auditors that he was not aware of any of the signatories possessing exclusive rights to approve checks singly, as this was never the intent of the project, according to the report.
However, documents in the position of the auditors showed that Minister Shoniyin was fully aware of the exclusive power of single signatory right to withdraw from the project account.
This information refutes information published by the Daily Observer that quoted Minister Shoniyin as saying that Thomas Kaydor, a short-term former Deputy Minister for the IECI Department, and Augustine Nyanplu, manager of the project, were in charge of managing the fund.
Documents in the possession of the Daily Observer link Minister Shoniyin and Nyanplu for the losses to the government.
In its recommendations, the report said, “The Project Manager, Mr. Augustine Y. Nyanplu and the Deputy Minister for International Economic Cooperation and Integration, B. Elias Shoniyin should account for the funds misappropriated from the Project Account. This should be done within one month after the issuance of this report.”
After he left office, Kaydor said he sent a lengthy letter to former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf indicating that: “The Department does not have established policy on the selection of staff that should benefit from Top-up allowances, scratch cards, and gasoline; there is no evidence to indicate monthly withholding on allowances; aggregate allowances paid exceeded the approved budget for the period June to December 2014; procurement of the project’s vehicle valued US$49,000 did not go through an approved procurement method; moreover, the payment check was written in the name of Augustine Nyanplu, Senior Desk Officer (IECI); the required PPCC procurement methods were not met for most of the transactions carried out by the department; and that transactions were not routed through the main financial system, they were not routed through Internal Audit Bureau for vetting, and procurements were solely initiated and completed by the department without the intervention of the financial bureau of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”
A completed General Auditing Commission report on the case revealed several fraudulent actions by Augustine Nyanplu, who is reported to have left the country for the USA. The GAC report acknowledged that Nyanplu altered signatures and phone numbers to avoid any verification from co-signers to the account, which included Minister Shoniyin and Elizabeth Johnson Sirleaf.
However, a review of the various reports (GAC, MFA Forensic Report) did not link Kaydor to any action of financial impropriety. It was also revealed that a second signatory arrangement was required as the result of the appointment of Thomas Kaydor as Deputy Minister for International Economic Cooperation and Integration and Dr. Wede Elliot Brownell as Deputy Minister for Administration, Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Thomas Kaydor replaced Elias B. Shoniyin and Dr. Brownell replaced Elizabeth Johnson Sirleaf.
In a letter to the Daily Observer after last Friday’s report titled ‘Shoniyin Refutes Involvement in Japanese Grant Fraud,’ Kaydor categorically objected to Shoniyin’s claim that he (Kaydor) managed the fund along with Nyanplu.
He wrote, “This information is false, misleading and unscientific. I like to reveal that the Forensic Audit Report and the GAC Final Report on the grant found Mr. Shoniyin and his handpicked Project Manager (Augustine Nyanplu) responsible for withdrawing funds from the bank without adequate supporting documents. Mr. Shoniyin himself has confirmed that they acted wrongly as indicated in his response to the GAC Final Report. Both Audits have found out that L$21,394,360 was disbursed without adequate supporting documents. Also, the reports found Mr. Shoniyin guilty of singularly signing checks in the amount of $9,620.12 U.S. and cashing them for his personal use.”
In last Friday’s publication in the Daily Observer, Minister Shoniyin said his “hands are clean” and he was not involved in any fraud as far as the Japanese Grant was concerned.
In June 2014, the Japanese Government provided a grant valued at US$731,422 to fund a project titled: “Institutional and Human Resource Support for Efficient Operation” of the Department of International Economic Cooperation and Integration (IECI), Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in response to the bilateral consultations between the Governments of Liberia and Japan in 2008.