The Auditor General’s Report on the audit of the International Economic Cooperation and Integration (IECI) Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has linked the Ministry to “misapplying and swindling” L$20,195,625 of a Japanese Grants for Human and Capacity Building.
According to the audit report, the value of the grants was L$37,063,107.
The project was approved on April 22, 2014, with an implementation plan of two years. The audit covered the period, June 2014 to October 2015.
According to the auditor’s report, the IECI Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was responsible for the management of the “IECI Human and Capacity Building Project.”
The primary purpose of the project was to hire, retain and train a professional staff with the necessary skills to increase efficiency within the IECI Department.
On Friday, during a public hearing on the report, the Joint Public Accounts Committee of the Legislature questioned Foreign Affairs Minister Marjon V. Kamara; Elias Shoniyin, Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister and former Deputy Minister for IECI Department; and Thomas Kaydor, former Deputy Minister for IECI Department.
The GAC report said it uncovered during the audit that the IECI Project Management made payments for various transactions amounting to L$21,394,360 without adequate supporting documentation to substantiate the integrity of the transactions.
“The Management of the IECI Project should provide the necessary supporting documentation for the total of L$21,394,360 expended without support,” the report recommended.
“Payments without adequate supporting documentation could cast doubts on the regularity of the transactions and undermine public sector accountability and transparency.”
Besides the Japanese Grants for Human and Capacity Building, the Japanese Government also funded two programs: Food Aid (rice) and Non-Project Grant (petroleum).
“The primary purpose of the Japanese Commodity Grants Monetization and Counterpart Value funding program is to aid socioeconomic development programs in Liberia with the primary activities to purchase and subsequently sell, at a discount, commodities such as rice and petroleum.
“In essence, the commodities are converted to liquidity or money, the proceeds are initially deposited at the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) then subsequently deployed into the Liberian economy to fund approved socioeconomic development projects,” the report said.
In response, Mr. Shoniyin said that of the L$21,394,360 expenditure, the Project Manager/Accountant, Augustine Nyanplue, absconded with L$20,507,370, and has currently surfaced in the U.S.
Shoniyin told the lawmakers that Mr. Nyanplue, as part of his responsibilities, managed all accounting records and other administrative documentations during the execution of the project, and should account for the L$20,507,370.
He said: “Out of the remaining expenditure, L$795,880 was approved and has been accounted for by Monie Momolu as indicated from the attached supporting documents; and L$105,600 was authorized for media coverage and paid out to Horatio Bobby, but formal documents from media outlets are difficult to get.”
Shoniyin argued that the Japanese Grants were not only for Human and Capacity Building, but to also build institutions, and in so doing, IEIC staff benefitted through increments to their “allowances.”
He revealed that the other expenditure included the salaries and other benefits of Mr. Kaydor, the Deputy Minister designate for IECI Department while “acting” and the financial aid of a ministry staff, but denied the GAC’s allegation of salary advancements and the loan schemes to staff.
Minister Kamara said the Justice Ministry has been formally informed and is aware of Nyanplue’s escape from the country.
However, Mr. Kaydor maintained that all transactions carried out during his tenure have all the necessary supporting documents.
“All transactions that lack supporting documents therefore remain the sole responsibility of my predecessor and his management team,” he said.
Nevertheless the Auditor General said that the documents provided by the IECI Project Management could only support L$1,198,735, out of the total amount of L$21,394,360 thereby, leaving a variance of L$20,195,625.
In conclusive statements, the three key witnesses admitted that the project was a failure.
Members of the joint committee are expected to review the witnesses’ responses and make recommendations to the Executive for action.