The Senate Committee on Autonomous Agencies and Commissions has directed the General Auditing Commission (GAC) to conduct a timely and exhaustive investigation, to determine if any laws, criminal or civil, have been broken and/or violated in the management of the finances of the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA).
The chairman of the Senate committee on Autonomous Agencies and Commission Senator J. Milton Teahjay in a communication to the GAC Commissioner, Madame Yusador S. Gaye, cited a seven-count allegation that prompted his committee’s directive.
Teahjay, who was addressing reporters at his Capitol Building office, specifically referred to allegations that NDMA Executive Director Henry O. Williams has withdrawn various amounts of money from the bank accounts of the agency, and has used those amounts to his own advantage against the benefit of the agency; and also received direct cash payment from Plan International and the office of the President of Liberia for the recent Nimba landslide disaster.
According to the Senate committee, Mr. Williams used the donations without going through the agency’s banking procedure “so as to undermine transparency and accountability.”
The second count of the GAC’s investigation reports that Mr. Williams inherited a bank balance of the NDMA account of US$281,517 for workers’ compensation, but, instead of paying workers, withdrew said amount and, along with his comptroller, utilized the money to his personal advantage without paying the workers, who are yet to receive their March and April pay, even though money was disbursed to the NDMA by the Ministry of Finance.
Mr. Williams is also accused of using institutional financial resources to send abroad a dismissed female friend of his, Ms. Gemeh B. Roberts, to Japan for foreign studies for a master’s degree, which was intended for a qualified worker of the agency.
He is being investigated for making two separate questionable withdrawals from the agency’s account; US$7,812 for minor repairs on a Toyota Land Cruiser, when the actual amount needed was US$1,500 while, at the same time, Mr. Williams and his comptroller are accused of defrauding the agency of US$6,312 “through dubious arrangements.”
Without regard for the protocols of the Public Procurement and Concession Commission, Mr. Williams again, with his financial comptroller, withdrew from the operational bank account of the agency the amount of US$36,000 under the pretext of putting tiles on the floor of the entity; but only spent US$14,000 and pocketed the remainder, while the tiling of the building is yet to be completed.
The Senate Committee said it has learned that the amount of L$2,000,000 was disbursed by the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning to the NDMA for workers who sacrificed working odd hours during emergency disaster situations; “regrettably, in the apportionment of this amount, Mr. Williams, again disproportionately disbursed the money to himself and his cronies, leaving out all the workers who actually and verifiably participated in disaster relief activities in various affected communities – Logan Town, New Kru Town, Nimba County, etc.”
“In view of the magnitude of these allegations reportedly by the media, the Senate Committee on Autonomous Agencies and Commissions, which also has the constitutional oversight over your agency, hereby directs that you proceed, to the extent possible, to conduct a timely and exhaustive investigation so as to determine if any laws, criminal or civil, have been broken and/or violated by these behaviors herein cited. The committee would appreciate were you to report back to it in a timely fashion, preferably by or before September 27, 2019,” the Senate’s communication concluded.