The Ministry of Finance & Development’s Internal Audit Agency’s (IAA) investigation into the alleged financial management malpractices that has caused the dismissal of two employees has refuted Minister Boima Kamara’s claim that the two men misinformed the Comptroller and Accountant General, Hanson Kiazolu, that he gave his approval for the opening of the account in the disbursement of US$81,265.
At a press conference last Wednesday, Minister Kamara told journalists that Mr. Emmanuel Togba and Herbert Sorbor stole US$82,000 from a US$1m project fund intended for the upgrading of the Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS).
However, an investigation by the IAA, involving the Reforms Coordination Unit (RCU) at the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, has established that the Comptroller and Accountant General (CAG), Hanson Kiazolu, was aware and participated in the transactions relating to the execution of the
Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS) upgrade project.
The report said, contrary to what Minister Kamara has told the media, the Comptroller General Kiazolu authorized the opening of the program’s accounts at the Afriland First Bank without informing the Minister.
The IAA said there was a breach of the public financial management regulations that was overlooked by the RCU Coordinator and the CAG while opening the IFMIS Upgrade Account.
“It is instructive to note that this breach of the regulation had existed in MFDP during the previous administration. Moreover, there was also significant breach of existing controls relating to disbursements amounting to US$81,265,” the report said.
Minister Kamara on February 8 fired Mr. Emmanuel Togba, the Coordinator of RCU, and Deputy Herbert Sorbor for the money which auditors said was spent outside requisite financial controls.
The IAA findings further said: “The investigation revealed that the RCU Head, Mr. Emmanuel Togba, sent a written communication to the Comptroller and Accountant General, (CAG) Mr. Hanson Kiazolu, to open checking accounts for the PFM Reforms – IFMIS Upgrade at Afriland Bank. We noted that the account (*OZOI 197102-06) was opened based on written instruction from the CAG (Kiazolu) to the bank and that the CAG (Kiazolu) copied the Deputy Minister for Fiscal Affairs, Mr. Adolphus Forkpa.”
According to the report, this has always been part of the bank’s transaction profile of the Comptroller General as required by law on spending entities.
The audit revealed that US$10, 000 intended for the IFMIS upgrade was paid to nine individuals for completion of reconciliation and closing balances and preparation of the Consolidated Financial Statement at the request of Comptroller General Kiazolu.
The report also said US$8,000 was disbursed as ‘Christmas bonus’ to motivate staff for IFMIS related work on checks released from the office of the Comptroller General, Hanson Kiazolu. The check number is 00239392.
According to the IAA, there was also a US$49,840 payment made on December 30, 2016 representing procurement of assorted goods, with Kiazolu’s involvement.
Meanwhile, Mr. Kamara has ordered Togba and Sorbor to restitute the US 82,000 disbursed from the project account, or face prosecution.
On Sunday the two affected officials in a statement accused Minister Kamara of attempting to sway public attention from “his dismal performance in the management of the economy and attempting to capitalize on the prevailing public anger about corruption by linking us to the wave of corruption he presides over at the ministry.”
The two men said in their statement: “We are obligated to provide the following information to clear our good names, protect our professional characters, by pointing out the falsity of the claims against us.”
They said the accounts were opened by and through the appropriate authority and channels supported by laws and practices that predated their employment. “We opened the accounts within the governing laws because we know that the Finance Ministry has always been an institution of law and not of persons. In addition to being supported by law, precedence, norms, and practices, the opening of these accounts was done by the Comptroller and Accountant-General of Liberia (Mr. Kiazolu) based on our request.”
They said all withdrawals from the accounts under discussion were made in consultation with the Comptroller and Accountant General of Liberia, who is component manager for IFMIS under the Integrated Public Financial Management Reform Project (IPFMRP).
They said Minister Kamara did the appropriate thing by commissioning an audit of the RCU and “we fully cooperated with the audit because we had thought that the learned minister was interested in finding facts that would inform any objective analysis and decision(s). Interestingly, however, the findings of the audit (whatever they may be) were not mentioned by him in his diatribe against us.
“The Internal Audit Agency (IAA) auditors did present their findings to the minister prior to his hasty decisions. Why, then, did he deliberately leave out the auditors’ findings and recommendations? Don’t his actions imply that he had expected something dramatically different from what the auditors’ findings and recommendations turned out to be?”
They also accused Minister Kamara for assigning himself the roles and functions of the judiciary, justice and immigration by rendering judgment against them without due process rights as Liberian citizens.