Three Individuals who deserve our Thanks and Praise for serving with integrity and high ethical standards.

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As a supporter of the General Auditing Commission of the Republic of Liberia, I had absolutely no doubt about the audit report that the Auditor General recently published regarding the National Ebola Task Force/ Incident Management System (IMS) for the period of August 1 to October 31, 2014, until I had the opportunity to carefully read and analyze the report.. Again, I have no doubt that the report was done professionally and written in good faith; however, it was totally unfair to three honest and hardworking individuals.

As an anti-corruption activist who also happens to be a financial expert, I read the entire 96-page report, and was quite alarmed and consequently decided to do my own investigation. I was alarmed when I read on page 8 of the report, “For the period under audit, financial activities and the conduct of the affairs of the National Ebola Trust Fund (NETF) were marred by financial irregularities and material control deficiencies for a number of transactions carried out by the Incident Management System and the eight (8) Implementing Partners of the NETF. These irregularities were the result of the Incident Management System and the Implementing Partners not fully adhering to the Public Financial Management Act of 2009, Public Procurement & Concession Act of 2010, IPSAS Cash Basis of Accounting, the Ebola Trust Fund Financial & Procurement policy and other applicable laws and regulations.”

I had always hoped that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf would appoint Liberians with great integrity and high ethical standards to serve the Liberian people during one of the darkest days on the National Ebola Task Force/ Incident Management System (IMS) during the deadly Ebola crisis. I was very happy and satisfied of the three appointees: Mr. Tolbert Nyenswah, Mr. James Dorbor Jallah and Dr. Wede Elliott Brownell. These were three individuals with great integrity, high professional and ethical standards.

In the heat of the deadly Ebola battle, when hundreds of Liberian were dying daily, it would have been extremely difficult to hold both the NETF and IMS to the same standard as when we are not in the midst of a national epidemic. During the Ebola outbreak we urgently needed to inform the world about our suffering, in order to obtain urgently needed assistance. Though it would have been almost impossible by others, Mr. Tolbert Nyenswah, Mr. James Dorbor Jallah and Dr. Wede Elliott Brownell were expected and exhibited the highest standards of honesty serving the Liberian people at the National Ebola Task Force/ Incident Management System (IMS).

Nonetheless, these are the findings of my investigation.

 

        Topic                                           GAC Finding                                                    Context

GAC finding Context 2.1.1

Payment of US $30,050 (US $15,025 per month for two months) without supporting documentation.

Payment was made through bank transfer from CBL for services rendered to Liberia through MICAT. GAC was provided invoices and bank transfer documents and informed that the best information on this undertaking would be obtained from MICAT because it was the GOL lead on this activity, but it (GAC) failed to do this on grounds that they were constrained by time and that the check was signed by the National Task Force on Ebola (NTFE) or the Incident Management System (IMS).  BTP Advisors assisted in drafting and disseminating the “Letter to the World” that President Sirleaf eventually sent out to the global community which resulted in the overwhelming support received from the international community that has greatly contributed to our country’s achievement in the fight against Ebola. An investment of US $30,050 by Liberia has resulted in contributions in the multi-million dollar range for the sub-region.

2.1.2 No Financial Reports and supporting documents

 

 

 

2.1.2 No Financial Reports and supporting documents – continues

Payments of US $89,617.04 and US $85,000 were made to two NGOs Samaritan’s Purse and Inter-Religious Council, respectively. The NGOs did not submit an expenditure report.

These were payments made by CBL checks based on the authorization of the President emanating from commitments she had made to the NGOs as co-share of the running cost of ETU (Samaritan’s Purse, ELWA-1 where two US doctors and a nurse were infected with Ebola) and support for social mobilization efforts (Inter-Religious Council). The letters from the President’s Office were presented to the GAC with explanations, but the GAC failed to contact the MOS on this on grounds of time constraint and the fact that the checks were signed by NTFE (or IMS).

2.1.3 Payment without Contracts

 

The following items were procured without contracts and in violation of Section 66 (4) of the PPC Act

 

 

  • One 165 KVA Generator from H & A Corporation for US $38,220

 

  • 1,200 (25-kg) bags of rice from James N. Davies & Sons, Inc. for US $19,584

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • One 15-seated bus from Africa Motors for US $31,360

Given the urgency of the situations it would have caused more lives of our people to wait for the signing of contracts before procuring these items. These explanations were provided to the GAC, but apparently they were considered immaterial.

 

  • The generator was procured during the height of the pandemic when the generator at the LIBR (the only Ebola testing lab in the country at the time) had gone down.

 

  • The rice was also procured during the height of the outbreak on credit at a time when the trust fund was not fully functional and there was urgent need for food at ETUs and for quarantined families. This transaction occurred just before WFP provided its first consignment of food to the response, and was still used none-the-less. The report of the distribution with signed delivery notes was provided by the GSA to the GAC.

 

  • The bus was procured during a strike action by nurses who had refused to work in ETUs until certain demands were met including the purchase of a bus.

2.1.4 Amounts Received by IPs

US$1,551,379.25 was disbursed to four (4) IPs directly from GOL Account in the month of August 2014 without being channeled through the NETF Account

These were payments made by the Ministry of Finance directly to the four agencies (MIA, MOD, BIN, and LNP) prior to the operationalization of the Trust Fund. The NTFE (or IMS) can only be held to account for monies passed through the Trust Fund. In this case, the monies in question were not passed through the Trust Fund as observed by the GAC, so the admonition of the Auditor General should be directed to the authority that executed the transfers and not the NTFE (or IMS). It is noteworthy that the payments in question were later reimbursed by the Trust Fund once it became operational.  

Note: Due to the need to immediately eradicate the Ebola virus from Liberia, the government of Liberia made the following payments that didn’t pass before the Ebola Task Force, because it wasn’t functional at the time of the payment.

  1. Ministry of Internal Affairs                   $484,970.50
  2. Ministry of Defense                                    $352,358.75
  3. Bureau of Immigration                                $357,484.00
  4. Liberia National Police                                $356,601.00

The agencies listed above have to properly account for the funds distributed to them. However, do we uphold the implementation of the law to the letter, while our people were dying from a deadly virus in large numbers?

We had anticipated that the team headed by Mr. Tolbert Nyenswah, James Dorbor Jallah and Dr. Wede Elliott-Brownell would have been congratulated for doing an exceptional job, due to the fact that they were volunteers and effectively/honestly managed the resources given to their care.  As the result of the hard work of the President of the Republic of Liberia, the following were achieved:

  • The spread of the deadly Ebola virus has come to a halt, while our neighbors in Guinea and Sierra Leone are finding it difficult to bring the virus under control.
  • Liberian borders are now reopening and our citizens are benefiting financially from cross border trading.
  • Businesses are doing exceptionally well.
  • International airlines are resuming flights to and from Liberia.
  • Schools have reopened and our children are once again being educated.

Public officials that demonstrated exemplary characteristics of efficient, honesty, collaborative and effective public service during our uphill battle during the deadly Ebola crisis deserves our thanks and commendation.

About the Author:

Rufus S. Berry II, MBA – is an anti-corruption activist and Managing Partner/CEO of B&G, a financial and management consulting firm. Mr. Berry is the author of many articles including: “Preemptive Health Measures will save Thousands of Liberian Lives: Ban Smoking in Public Places”, and “Shame on Liberia’s Ministry of Health for Harboring an Alleged Child Molester and Fugitive from Justice”.

Mr. Berry can be reached at +231-886-362332 or [email protected]

 

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