‘GSA Did Not Misapply US$1.75M’

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GSA boss Mary Broh; Senator George Tengbeh.jpg
The Senate Ways, Means, Finance & Budget Committee has declared as impossible an allegation that the General Services Agency (GSA), misapplied or misappropriated the amount of US$1,750,320.00 of its 2011/2012 national budget said to have been given for washing cars under the Fleet Management Policy.
 
According to a report presented to the plenary last week by the 15-member committee on Ways, Means, Finance & Budget: “It is impossible to have either applied or misapplied the money that the ministry or agency does not have as approved in their budgets for the period under review. The GSA’s total co-budget was US$1,670, 161.00 for which 64% (US$910,029.00) accounts for personnel costs, leaving a balance of approximately 26% as goods and services.”
 
The committee’s report also discovered that the contingency budget of the GSA in the 2011/2012 national budget under review was US$553,925.00 of which US$153,923.00 accounts for the operational budget, while US$400,000.00 accounts for the budget of projects.
 
The committee continued: “It is not possible to have a line item in the co-budget that would account for US$1,750,320.00. Under the same 2011/2012 budget, the GSA contingency budget was US$553,925.00; therefore, it is impossible to have applied or misapplied US$1,750,320.00 against such a budget as line item on the entire budget or operational budget.
 
“Based on these logical findings as a result of the analysis and review of instruments related to the 2011/2012 budget and the Fleet Management Policy of the GSA, the committee…is convinced that there is no evidence of any misapplication by GSA of its 2011/2012 budgets.”
 
The Sumo Kupee-Chaired committee then recommended that: “As for the issue of misapplication or misappropriation, it is incredible. The committee therefore recommends that the matter of such be first brought to the attention of the committee before reverting to plenary.”
 
A mid-January communication written by Senator George T. Tengbeh, Junior Senator of Lofa County,  for a full investigation into what he termed the “misappropriation” of US$1,750,320.
 
The amount was said to have been set aside for car washing under a "Fleet Management Policy"; but according to Senator Tengbeh, thanks to an investigation, "no carwash in the Republic of Liberia has received said amount.”

Senator Tengbeh’s letter read: “During the recess period, lots of issues were identified which claimed our attention. One of these issues is the alleged "misappropriation" of US$1,750,320 of the 2011/2012 budget that was said to have been given for car washing under the Fleet Management Policy. Our investigation revealed that no car wash in this country received such an amount.”

He concluded: “In view of the above, distinguished colleagues, we request a full investigation into the matter to determine the whereabouts of this amount.”

In reaction, Senator Isaac Nyenabo of Grand Gedeh intervened to point out that the organ that deals with misappropriations in the Chamber is the Public Accounts Committee:

“…in [the] case of misapplication of items, the Ways, Means and Finance Committee comes [in]to play for inquiry and investigation. This communication talks about misappropriation; and the constitutional committee [concerned] is the Public Accounts Committee,” Nyenabo explained.

The Grand Gedeh County Senior Senator then suggested that plenary dispatch the letter to the right committee.

But in their reaction, some members of that august body observed that the name given the communication was incorrect; that instead of "misappropriation", which would require reference to the Public Accounts Committee, the Senator should have used the word “misapplied.”

The Senate, at only its second day sitting, refused to act on the communication from  Senator Tengbeh until it was rewritten and re-phrased.

Amid the controversy, the presiding officer of Thursday’s plenary, President of the Senate and Vice President of Liberia, Joseph N. Boakai, decided to end the debate. Describing Tengbeh's communication as a serious matter, Boakai called for contact with the author of the letter.

Following a few minutes of dialogue with VP Boakai, Senator Tengbeh agreed with his colleagues that the word "misappropriation" should be replaced with "misapplied.”

Given the final decision, presiding officer Boakai ordered the communication withdrawn and rewritten to address the actual intent. That decision was unanimously agreed to.

The verbage of the communication was then downgraded to “misapplication" with the consent of the author.

Senator Tengbeh also requested the Senate plenary to invite the GSA Director General, Madam Mary Broh, to make a comprehensive report on the controversial US$1,750,320 in the 2011/2012 national budget said to have been given for car washing under the Fleet Management Policy.

The Lofa County Junior Senator requested “the indulgence of the honorable Senate to have the Director General of the General Services Agency (GSA) appear before the Senate plenary to make a comprehensive report on the use of the amount for washing cars. The amount for car washers could not be accounted for as the beneficiaries were not identified or provided for in the report according to the Senator contained in “The Fleet Management Policy which falls under the GSA’s authority.”

“He continued: “We believe that accountability, transparency and value for money in the use of public funds are essential elements for good governance.”

It was at that juncture the Senate voted and sent the communication to the committee on Ways, Means, Finance & Budget.

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