Finance Ministry Tightens ‘Screws’

-Comptroller Says It Is US$30,000

The Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) says it has put into place more stringent measures as it conducts investigations into the unaccounted amount of US$30,000.00 and not US$6M as earlier reported.

It was reported on Saturday that what is believed to be a syndicate at the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning-MFDP and other financial institutions has been defrauding government of several thousand dollars.

The latest occurred at the GN bank when about LD$6M and US$68,000.00 were withdrawn at various branches of the bank from the “Unapplied Account”, But its Clara Town branch was the main point of withdrawal, due to its strong liquidity base.)

The syndicate, according to sources at the NSA,   has been operating for some time on the   “Unapplied Accounts” at various commercial banks in the country.

But recently, the office of the Comptroller General Janga A. Kowo, suspected suspicious transactions; which prompted him to invite the National Security Agency (NSA) to conduct investigations.

“Due to rigid monitoring policy we instituted here, it led us to uncover this act. It could have been more if we had not put into place   some of those measures. Maybe it has been ongoing for years. We met some of those people (who are under investigation) here and we did not want to remove them,” Mr. Kowo told this paper late Saturday.

 “Based on our invitation, the NSA came in and started to conduct its investigations. Up to now, a number of employees have been arrested here and that of GN Bank, which is in question,” he added.

“Unapplied Account” is a special Government of Liberia account established to effect payments to government employees.

Prior to the discovery of this ‘syndicate’, some officials of the Ministry of Finance paid several visits to the bank-GN Bank to carry out investigations Finance Ministry source said.

Those accounts are owned by the Ministry for the purpose of salaries that are not credited to employees’ account and later returned to the government due to either, account name mismatch, wrong account number, duplicated entries, etc on the payroll, and rejected by bank  system as invalid during automated processing. 

He said the amount in questions, which is missing from government’s account, is about L$6m (about US$30,000) and not US$6M as was earlier reported.  Sources at the bank confirmed the amount.

He said, that they are waiting for the outcome of the investigations from the NSA before they know the next course of action. “But for now, we do not want to say anything. What we have done here is to put into place a tighter and rigorous procedures here.

A source close to the investigation said, they are expected to release their report shortly.  “My intel told me that they have gone far with the investigations and should give their report soon.”

The source confirmed that two check books were missing from the Ministry which were used to forge the signatures of officials at the Ministry to withdraw. But the Ministry has informed   to cease all transactions on said account.

Mr. Kowo said, as a person from transparency background (he previously worked with the General Auditing Commission as one of its senior auditors), he was concern about public funds.

“When it comes to public money, we have to be very careful. Every penny must be accounted for at this ministry. We will do everything to get to the bottom of this matter. Maybe this has been ongoing for some time,” he said.

In relations to expenditure, the Deputy Minister for Expenditure at the Finance Ministry, Mr. Samora Wolokolie told New Republic via phone Saturday that, he was concerned about the transactions. He however could not deny nor confirm the missing of check books. He added, that it was unfortunate that the person at Treasury, could not be vigilant.  TNR

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