MONROVIA-Investigations conducted by this paper have revealed that over US$6m dollars has been unaccounted for at the Ministry of Finance, planning and Development and two check books missing.
Multiple sources at the Ministry of Finance Planning and Development-MFPD as well as the National Security Agency-NSA; the country’s spy agency, said this has affected the government’s coffers greatly.
The amount is said to be in relations to a special account created at various commercial banks in the country known as “unapplied Account.”
“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 have paid several visits to the bank, GN Bank, Finance source said.
Those accounts are owned by the Ministry of MFDP for the purpose of salaries that are not credited to employees’ account to be 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. Normally, when that is done, an official advice is sent to MFDP with the details. The Ministry then issues a check to the employee to draw their salary against the account after reconciling with the parent institution,” an NSA official who declined to be name told New Republic.
“But this particular one is associated with GN Bank and the Ministry of Finance. This is a complete syndicate that has opened. It has been ongoing for years. Some top officials at the Ministry and the Bank are connected to this unaccounted amount,” the source further said.
Another NSA source said, at the end of every year, the government can close those accounts and open new ones. Whatever amount left in those accounts, no one knows what is done with them and who can withdraw them.
At Finance Ministry, a senior officer told this paper that the comptroller wrote the bank to put a freeze to the account.
“The comptroller wrote that the bank should put a freeze on the account, both USD and LD. The bank did.”
“From this Ministry stand of view, an agreed commission of about USD 0.35 cent is given to each bank for transaction processed. But GN bank wrote us that they have not been paid for sometime and they needed their commission.”
However, an NSA investigator informed New Republic that the The bank informed the Compeller General’s office about the discrepancies they have seen. The Comptroller, Mr. Janga Kowo admitted receiving the letter from the bank, but said they would get back to the bank later. The same was with Samora Wolokolie on the same amount.”
Due to that gravity of the amount involved, the NSA has to effect investigation into the matter.
“So, we have to send our team of investigators to both Finance and the Bank. We made some arrest already. Like some officials from Finance ministry have been brought in for questioning. From the bank, others were arrested as well.
Those at the center of the ‘syndicate’ are from the Comptroller office and Samora Wolokollie’s office. Samora Wolokolie is the Deputy Minister for Expenditure at the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Development.
Our preliminary investigation established that a number of payments may have been fraudulent as checks used were from stolen checkbooks which were not reported to the bank. The signatures we saw from Finance on the checks are center of investigation,” one source said from NSA.
“Not only that, but also, two check books went missing. This is serious. That is one of the reasons the NSA is conducting this investigation. What makes it more complicated is that anyone can go to any commercial bank to withdraw money from any of the accounts. So, we are talking about more than US$6m and over L$5million as well too,” the source at NSA said.
“Some people from the bank like branch manager and some tellers are undergoing investigation. From the Ministry of Finance are; Mr. Emmanuel Bryant, madam Lorpu Sworh, director of Treasury along with others, are in for questioning.”
“Sources at Finance said what is bad on our part is that those accounts have not been audited for over years. Usually it is done after six months or a year. But nothing has happened.
“From our records, i think we should have some balance of over LD$26Million for them . But will double check and revert to you,” a Finance Ministry source said.
When called the Deputy Finance minister for Expenditure Wolokollie for comments, his phone rang with no answer. But when the comptroller General of Liberia, Kowo was called, he responded and said his office was conducting investigation and would give further details later.
When contacted the bank for comments, officials at the bank said: “we heard that some ministry of Finance people went to the bank for some form of reconciliation matter. Our official and others are working on that. But when we get more details, we will inform you.”