.... CENTAL tells Pres. Weah amid allegations of corruption at LISGIS
The Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL), has called on President George M. Weah to “stand on the side of the constitution and for the Liberian people” amid allegations of corruption across all government agencies.
CENTAL’s said over the last few days, it had observed with disappointment, accusations, and counter-accusations of significant corruption among some public officials at the country’s statistical house -- Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS).
“For instance, LISGIS Director-General, Francis Wreh, had retracted an initial statement that US$1 million was transferred to the census account, noting that only US$700,000 was transferred thereto, while the $300,000 was retained by LISGIS for census operation,” noted Anderson D. Miamen, CENTAL Executive Director. “We cannot help but wonder why monies intended for the census account maintained by UNFPA were retained by LISGIS and subsequently misapplied by LISGIS officials to the detriment of the country, as the allegations now depict.”
“Leaked documents containing bank transactions and checks, if valid, are sufficient to give weight to the allegations as well as to warrant stern administrative sanctions by the President," he said. "We urge President Weah to show genuine political will and commitment in the fight against corruption, as the public is yet to see much from the Presidency in this regard.”
“As mere utterances do not constitute a show of commitment, Liberians look forward to seeing timely, decisive, and impartial actions from the President against public officials at the center of grave corruption allegations, including the current saga at LISIGIS.”
The corruption allegation against LISGIS came to light after FrontPage Africa reported that out of US$1.8 million received by LISGIS from the government of Liberia as a share of the budget to conduct the delayed national housing and population census, only US$ 700,000 has been transferred by LISGIS to the Census account, which is being managed by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
FPA investigation established that to date, the remaining US$300,000 remains unaccounted for. Also, FPA gathered that Prof. Wreh has been making withdrawals from the LISGIS census account unilaterally and converting the same into personal use and in some instances, amounts withdrawn are distributed among him and his principal deputies.
One of such instances was when a cheque of US$50,000 was written and withdrawn in the name of Abigail T. Monboe who works as an accountant in the finance office. The check was raised without any voucher. The money was allegedly shared among the Director Wreh, Deputy for Administration Lawrence George, and the Deputy Director General for Information & Coordination, Wilmot Smith.
The Census Coordinator and Deputy Director-General for Statistics and Data Processing at LISGIS Alex G. Williams had confirmed the allegations and further implicated the management of LISGIS in the scandal characterized by irregular payments that are at odds with Liberian Laws. Williams further disclosed that corruption is the main reason why Liberia has not substantially fulfilled its undertaking to contribute to the census cost and that the census cannot be held until such contribution is made.
The CENTAL boss then challenged the Liberian leader to demonstrate zero tolerance for corruption and bad governance in his administration, especially in this instant case by suspending the officials at the center of the reported corrupt practices, pending outcomes of the ongoing investigation by the LACC into the matter.
Miamen added that the allegations at LISGIS point to abuse of taxpayers’ money as a well flagrant disregard of internal control procedures, and direct abuse of the constitutional, particular provisions on holding of the national census, for which the money that has been allegedly stolen was meant.
He further said that these alleged unorthodox dealings do not only signal corruption, but undermine partners’ and citizens’ confidence in the governance process, undermine Liberia’s democracy, and indicate a flagrant disregard for public financial management and procurement laws by public officials.
Meanwhile, the CENTAL boss had disclosed that the LISGIS officials implicated in this Corruption saga are not fully cooperating with the LACC -- as such, Liberians expect that President Weah would not turn a blind eye to these happenings in an attempt to protect his officials and to create the impression that the government is corruption-free.
“On the contrary, such would only portray a lack of courage and will on the part of the President to genuinely fight against corruption. Also, the country cannot afford another postponement of the census, and persons seeking to undermine it and related democratic processes must be held fully accountable.
“We reiterate further that these and previous allegations and confirmed incidences of Corruption continue to discredit the country’s ability to effectively and efficiently manage major activities and processes, thereby increasingly constraining international partners to seek better ways to help the Liberian people,” stressed CENTAL Executive Director.
CENTAL meanwhile has called on President Weah to protect Williams who, from many indications, appears to be the whistleblower in this matter.
“If the battle against corruption must be won, persons who divulge such information are deserving of protection by the state, especially so when legal instruments to guarantee their full protection have already been proposed by the Executive,” he said.