Citing ‘clear conflict of interest’, Pres. Sirleaf Demands Audit at MFDP
By Alvin Worzi
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf yesterday issued a two-week ultimatum to the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFPD), demanding an audit of the management of the ministry’s Private Sector Initiative (PSI), meant to empower businesspeople.
The audit, the president said, will cover the period from 2014 up to the present and is being conducted by the Internal Audit Agency (IAA).
Meanwhile, President Sirleaf has also ordered Dr. James Kollie, the commissioner at the Liberia Maritime Authority (LMA), to return home from a trip abroad to help with the investigation.
The president made the announcement yesterday in a brief radio broadcast, announcing the discovery of a scheme of conflict of interest where officials awarded loans to themselves with money that was set aside to empower Liberian-owned businesses. She instructed Finance Minister Boima Kamara to probe the management of the PSI.
“Kamara revealed some shocking results, which showed that officials at the MFDP were making loans to themselves in violation of the law,” the president said, adding: “While the process is still ongoing, we can say with a high degree of confidence, based on preliminary findings that such a scheme setup at the PSI is clearly a conflict of interest and has to be dealt with the full weight of the law.”
Based on that finding, Madam Sirleaf emphasized, “I have ordered the principal administrator of the program during the audit period, Commissioner of Maritime Affairs James Kollie, to return to Liberia from his official duties to assist during the audit and answer all of the issues associated with it.”
She disclosed that she has instructed “Minister Kamara to have a full report at my office within two weeks, in order to determine further what action is necessary.
“My office remains keen on the matter and will leave no stone unturned to ensure that Liberia’s interest is protected.”
It may be recalled that in 2012, Dr. Kollie served as Deputy Minister of Finance for Revenue at the erstwhile Ministry of Finance, in which capacity he supervised implementation of the country’s revenue and finance law relative to all revenue generating activities including Customs and Excise, Real Property and Internal Revenue. Dr. Kollie also represented the Minister of Finance at negotiations involving fiscal issues relative to revenue generation.
He was later appointed Deputy Minister for Fiscal Affairs when the MOF merged with the Ministry of Planning and Development, now Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP), in 2014.
As Deputy Minister for Fiscal Affairs (DMFA) of the MFDP, Dr. Kollie was responsible to develop fiscal policy, manage the financial resources of Liberia, develop and administer the financial rules and regulations of the republic, as well as oversee and execute all matters relating to government accounting, including pay, pensions and other allowances.
The duties of the DMFA also include the supervision of matters concerning framing of proposals regarding tax and non-tax revenues and tax reforms as part of fiscal consolidation; to coordinate with and generally perform all such services relative to the management of government finances as may be required by law; the implementation of expenditure proposals of ministries and agencies of government as appropriated in the budget; and to perform other functions as may be assigned by the Minister, as well as imposed by law.
In July 2014, Amara M. Konneh was appointed the first Minister of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP), having previously served concurrently as Minister of Planning and Economic Affairs and Minister of Finance from January 2012 to June 2014.