Prosecution Hangs Over Former NIC Officials

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The joint Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the 53rd Legislature, comprising members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, is considering proposing the “prosecution” of former top officials of the National Investment Commission (NIC) suspected of embezzling about US$1.4 million and flouting procurement laws which led to the loss of nearly US$1 million, the Daily Observer has reliably gathered.

The joint Public Accounts Committee, chaired by Montserrado County District #5 Representative Thomas Fallah and co-chaired by Grand Gedeh Senator Alphonso Gaye, is expected to write “Plenaries” of the House and Senate for approval, and thereafter write President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to effect the prosecution.

The Committee’s advice for a prosecution stemmed from the end of two separate public hearings into the Auditor General’s Report of the National Investment Commission’s (NIC) financial statements for the fiscal periods, July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2013.

According to reliable sources, the joint PAC is expected to recommend that the ‘indicted officials’ be arrested and tried for their alleged corruption.

An audit report of the NIC by the General Auditing Commission (GAC) disclosed that the former Chairman (O. Natty B. Davis), the Executive Director (Ciata A. Bishop) and Comptroller (Nathaniel Kohn) could neither account for nor provide vouchers, general ledgers and financial statements to support expenditures amounting to US$1,478,700 for two fiscal years (US$686,985.47 for FY2010/2011 and US$719,796 for FY2011/2012).

“Management’s failure to provide financial records to support the expenditure made during the fiscal years increases the risk of fraud, waste and abuse,” the GAC’s report said.

“It is the responsibility of the NIC management to preserve its assets and the records of its transactions by either backing up data or storing pertinent transaction records to mitigate the risk of loss.

“The NIC management exposed Government assets to risk by its failure to take steps that could have prevented damage to Government’s properties. The management of NIC failed to secure Government properties and transaction records entrusted to it, therefore the management should be held accountable.”

In Friday’s public hearing at the joint Chambers of the Capitol Building, Mr. Davis admitted the institution’s failure to provide vouchers, general ledgers and financial statements to support expenditure amounting US$686,985.47 (2010/2011) and US$719,796.00 (2011/2012), but blamed the lack of quality staff and the building which housed the NIC.

“Upon my assumption as head of the NIC, we met an institution that was barely nonfunctional. The National investment Commission was housed within the national archive and portion of said building was occupied by the archive and many of the employees because there was nowhere for them to sit and no desk and equipment to work with and were sitting under a tree,” Mr. Davis said.

The NIC former Administrative Officer who still works at the NIC as Director of Finance & Administration told the PAC’s Grisper G. Garteh that an effort by the NIC to renovate the roof on the portion of the building the documents were, a heavy downpour of rain destroyed the documents, making them unable to provide what the GAC asked for.

His assertion was supported by former Comptroller Nathaniel Kohn, who is now serving as Project Director.

Supporting his former colleagues’ claim, Mr. Davis concurred that during the year under the audit, staffers of the Commission were constrained to operate from under a tree in the compound of the Commission, making it difficult to locate documentations.

“Upon my ascension as head of the NIC, we met an institution that was barely functional,” he said.

The House’s Press Bureau on its Facebook page said the joint PAC investigation on the NIC covered the following: expenditure without books and records; IPSAS Cash Basis Financial Reporting Framework; Cash and Bank Balances; the Monrovia Industrial Park (MIP) Leases; and the Overtime Payments.

It said the probe also included the non-compliance of the Public Procurement Concession Commission (PPCC) and Travel Ordinance; Consultancy Contracts not in Compliance with PPCC Act; the Third Party Payment made to NIC Employees; Procurement of Fuel; Strategic and Operational Plans; Disaster Recovery Plan; Risk Assessment Process and the Internal Audit Unit.

“Meanwhile, the PAC is expected to recommend its findings to the Executive for action,” the House’s Press Bureau said

Those who faced the Legislature’s investigation included former and current officials. They are: Natty B. Davis, George Wisner, Ciata Bishop, James Boker, Grisper Garteh, Therenna Reeves, Nathaniel Kohn, Quinton Tunis, Sam Doe, Alex Sowor, Rene Mapleh, Pearletta Grimes and Boimah Gibson.

Meanwhile, the Daily Observer has also learned that Mr. Davis and three others are planning to seek legal redress, if the Legislature recommends their arrest or charge.

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