-As CENTAL Recommends Punitive Action Against MOJ Minister
The Executive Director of the Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL), Anderson Miamen, has described as ‘inconclusive’ the recent report released by the General Auditing Commission (GAC) with regards to the US$25million mop-up exercise conducted by the Technical Economic Management Team, headed by Finance and Development Planning Minister, Samuel D. Tweah.
Addressing the media recently in Monrovia recently, Miamen noted that CENTAL appreciates the Government of Liberia (including the GAC) and all those who worked or contributed to the report, such as the Presidential Investigation Team (PIT) and the United States Government through Kroll Associates, Inc./Kroll. Kindly accept our gratitude for all your efforts thus far.
According to him, the “Auditor-General’s Report of Factual Findings” comes as a surprise. Because it can be recalled that on March 7, 2019, the public was informed that the Ministry of Justice, by directive of President George Manneh Weah, had requested the GAC to conduct an “investigative audit” into how the US$25million earmarked for the mopping-up of excess Liberian dollars was expended.
The CENTAL Executive Director maintained that said Presidential mandate grew out of the PIT’s report, which called for a “forensic investigation” of the entire mop-up exercise as well as the report done by Kroll. But despite this Presidential order for an “investigative audit”, the GAC proceeded to conduct an Agreed Upon Procedure (AUP) Engagement.
Hence, CENTAL said it is their considered opinion that the “forensic investigation” as recommended by the PIT in order that culpable individuals are identified, similarly as in the case of the like of Charles Sirleaf and others.
He further argued that the Kroll report had already shed some light when it indicated that “the approach taken by the CBL to implement the USD Mop-Up Exercise, whereby small teams of bank personnel directly purchased LRD banknotes from local businesses and foreign exchange bureaus in exchange for USD notes, created an enhanced level of risk with respect to: potential misappropriation of banknotes; potential opportunities for money laundering and potential execution of transactions with illegal businesses and that consequently, there is a risk that significant funds were unaccounted for by the CBL.
Miamen further argued that the report released by the GAC cannot suffice as an “investigative audit” in light of the circumstances that gave rise to commissioning of the audit.
He continued: “This is so because the Government’s selection of an AUP, as against a Forensic Audit, so clearly limits the GAC to report on factual findings without expressing any assurance, thus shifting the said role to the Government or public to draw their own conclusions.”
CENTAL in her recommendation further that the GAC ought to have continued from where the PIT and Kroll stopped. In other words, it should have gone beyond the limits imposed on the PIT and Kroll investigations by time, scope, and financial resources. Yet, the Government of Liberia, through the Minister of Justice, settled for a procedure that does not mirror that which was prescribed by the PIT and Kroll.
“We wonder why the Minister of Justice, Cllr. Frank M. Dean, who approved the PIT report (including recommendations) as Chairman of the PIT Steering Committee, would discard the recommendations in favor of a less stringent and basically procedural engagement. We also cannot fathom why the GAC provided an AUP as an alternative approach to the President’s directive for an “investigative audit”, being fully aware of the scope limitations of said procedure,” Miamen ponders.
He continued: “Finally, the GAC report has presented facts that have claimed our attention. It states that US$491,769.00 was purportedly sold to fifteen (15) entities, but that the said entities have denied participating in the exercise.”
Therefore, CENTAL recommended that the GAC be allowed an additional three-week period to conduct said forensic investigation building on preliminary information in its possession. That President Weah takes appropriate administrative action against the Minister of Justice, Cllr. Frank M. Dean, for failing to ensure that the Presidential directive relating to an “investigative audit” was considered and adhered to when he (Mr. Dean) engaged the services of the GAC as an officer of the President.
The CENTAL Executive Director meanwhile thanked President Weah for his commitment, thus far, and call on him to heed their recommendations as we collectively strive to build a better Liberia.