..As restitution for Ineligible Expenditures
Following series of letters from international partners concerning the George Weah Administration’s mishandling of donor funds, a World Bank letter, dated March 11, 2019, has called on Finance Minister Samuel Tweah to repay the amount of US$3,285,750 of “ineligible expenditures” back to the Bank’s account.
The Daily Observer could not independently authenticate the letter. However Mr. Michael Sahr, a communications officer at the World Bank Liberia office, told the Daily Observer that the Bank was “working on a statement” concerning the letter, “to be released soon.”
The World Bank’s letter, a copy of which is in the possession of the Daily Observer, carbon copies (CC) to top leadership of ministries of Finance, Health, Gender, Children and Social Protection, Civil Service Agency, Forestry Development Authority, and the Liberia Water Sewer Corporation (LWSC).
The money, according to the bank, includes US$35,750 worth of “stolen laptops” and unapproved debit of US$2 million, both from the Ebola Emergency Response Project; while the rest came from other unapproved debits from the Liberia Social Safety Nets Project under the Ministry of Health (US$500.000); Public Sector Modernization Project (US$500,000); Liberia Forest Sector Project under the FDA (US$200,000) and the Liberia Urban Water Supply Project (US$50,000).
The letter, signed by Dr. Henry Kerali, World Bank Country Director for Liberia, Africa Region, said: “We refer to the letter on the Ineligible Expenditure of the above projects, dated on February 7, 2019, and your reply on February 28, 2019.
“Therefore, we are concerned that the reply only came to us on the refund deadline date, February 28, 2019. This, notwithstanding, we take note of the proposal to extend the deadline to March 31, 2019. We will extend the same in our system, and consequently urge that you meet the revised set deadline,” the letter said.
It further added, “We also note your request to replenish the project accounts with the amounts that were ineligible on this request; we would like to bring to your attention that once the refunds are declared ineligible and invoices issued; the only option for the government is to refund the money to the banking details provided in the invoices.
“Further, we also note that the Government of Liberia (GoL) has started replenishing the project accounts with sums of money amounting to US$100,000, $200,000 and $50,000, respectively for Public Sector Modernization Project (P143064) credit IDA 53590, Liberia Forest Sector Project (P154114) credit or TF A2427 and Liberia Urban Water Project (P155947) credit IDA 57740.
“We wish to emphasize that this is non-compliant with the instructions as per the expenditures amount in line with the respective issued invoices to refund the total ineligible expenditures amount in line with the respective issued invoices as attached to our original to our original letter dated February 7, 2019. Upon receipt, refunds made to the World Bank will be credited to the respective Financing Accounts,” the letter added.
The letter continues, “This is to request you refund to the World Bank the amounts totaling US$3,285,750 for the reported ineligible expenditure by making a payment back to the bank through details that are provided in the invoices attached to this letter and confirm the refund on or before March 31, 2019. Should your team have any questions relating to the invoices, please contact [email protected]
“We look forward to receiving the refunds within the specified time frame avoid the World Bank invoking the remedies stipulated in the applicable financing agreements of each project.”
Although the ministry is yet to respond to bank’s request for the money in question, the Minister of Information on Thursday, told a news conference in Monrovia that the Government strategy, under its Pro-poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development, is to borrow, money under the scheme: “Dig hole, cover hole,” a Liberian parlance, which means to borrow money from different accounts to fulfill its obligations to an unrelated accounts payable.