Since the General Auditing Commission made public its findings in the audit of the Ebola funds where over US$792,000 in financial irregularities were revealed, Liberians from all spheres of life are divided, with some terming the audit as unnecessary given the extreme situation that the country was faced with at the time.
Since the onset of the Ebola virus outbreak, the international community, humanitarian organizations, private corporations and citizens have sent the Liberian government relief funds to aid in controlling the spread of the virus.
This outpouring of financial assistance amounted to US$15.1 million, through the National Ebola Task Force, later known as the Incident Management System between August 1 and October 31, 2014.
The voluminous GAC report though, did not indict any individual of stealing the Ebola funds, but reported on procedural errors that may have led to some corrupt activities with financial management procedures.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has been urged to ensure that those responsible should be brought to justice.
“Such acts of corruption will never end until harsh measures are taken against those that are involved,” Munah Tarlor said during a call in radio program last Saturday evening.
While many Liberians are not condoning the alleged acts of corruption as contained in the GAC report, some are saying that there was no way that the funds could have been (more efficiently) expended with all of the financial procedural arrangements, especially (under) the critical conditions and the devastating effects of the virus on Liberia.
“My brother, let us not be hypocrites to ourselves here. There was no way that the government would have followed all the procedures that we are talking about here,” Julius Kanneh said on a local station in Monrovia on Wednesday.
Another male caller, James Kayon said, “We were in a national health crisis and those who are even talking now were saying that government was doing little to respond and we saw our leaders taking bold steps to act.”
GAC noted that there were payments without supporting documentation. Government agencies conducted business transactions with their employees (e.g. an employee of the department being paid as a separate business entity to provide catering services). There were special allowances distributed with no procedures in place or documentation.
All funds received from government agencies, business partners of the government and citizens were to be deposited into the National Ebola Trust Fund at the Central Bank of Liberia and that Fund was managed by the IMS. The IMS dispensed a total of $10.7 million of the $15.1 million with the following individuals responsible for managing the account: Tolbert Nyenswah – Manager, Dorbor Jallah – Deputy Manager, Saah N’Tow – Deputy Manager, Andre Pope – Special Comptroller and Wede Elliott-Brownell – Special Comptroller
The report indicated that the IMS made payments for Ebola awareness to two NGOs, the Inter-Religious Council of Liberia and Samaritan’s Purse, in the amounts of US$85,000 and US$89,617 respectively. These were never reconciled with financial reports as required by Public Financial Management regulations.
The following vendors received payments for which no contracts were in place: H&A Corporation – US$38,220, for 165 KV generators; James N. Davies & Son – US$19,584, for 1,200 bags of rice; Africa Motors – US$31,360, for 15 passenger buses and
payments to implementing partner agencies.
The report said remitting funds from the government of Liberia’s account makes it difficult to report accurately actual amounts sent to the following agencies: Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ministry of National Defense, Bureau of Immigration & Naturalization, Liberia National Police
The report stated that wage payments to 52 officers in three counties appeared to have been over reported. The difference in payments sent and received is LD94,500 (US$1,125).
The auditors found that 68 officers were paid for services in 10 counties where they were never assigned.
“The response from the National Ebola Trust Fund management team was that the personnel in question were on “covert temporary assignment” and that they were each stationed to several different counties.
In another instance, the National Ebola Trust Fund provided US$672,000 USD to the Ministry of National Defense without supporting documentation for how these funds were distributed.