>Liberia: SCANDAL IN THE ARMY


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WHO’S EATING THE SOLDIERS’ FOOD?Obtained documents reveal Huge Losses Reflected In Contract Deal Between the Ministry of National Defense And Lebanese Rice Supplier (SWAT), Cutting Food Supply Intended For New Army’s SoldiersNat Bayjay, nbayjay@frontpageafrica.com

Source: FrontPage  Africa

Monrovia –

Documents obtained by FrontPageAfrica reveal one of several ways the Government continues to incur losses resulting from dubious transactions. The documents show that scanty transactions between the Ministry of National Defense and the Supplying West African Trading, Incorporated (SWAT) has led to acute cut-down of food supplies meant for the country’s new soldiers encamped at military barracks.

According to the documents, an amount of US$282,000 was paid as first installment to SWAT-a Lebanese business rice supplier- for 9,400 bags of rice for the soldiers without full delivery. Investigation further revealed that only 800 bags were delivered.

Payment Without Full-Delivery

A receipt dated February 14, 2011 with voucher number MOD: 203-000146 shows that the amount of US$282,000 was paid to SWAT. A delivery note with two different dates of February 14, 2011 and February 18, 2011 confirmed the rice was delivered; however, delivery of the 9,400 bags of rice could not be confirmed to auditors of the General Auditing Commission (GAC) who had gone to commission an audit of the Ministry.

The revelation is a major violation of both the regulations of the 2009 enacted Public Finance Management (PFM) and the 2005 approved Public Procurement and Concessions Commission (PPCC) which require that full payment must be made only when delivery is made in full for work duly performed.

Part 10 of the PFM Act captured under ‘Responsibility for Accuracy of Vouchers’ states: “ Any public officer, including a Minister and head of any government institution, commission, board who signs a voucher, a check, a document or record pertaining to accounts shall ensure that:

(a) There is sufficient evidence that payment is being made for work duly performed, goods delivered or services duly received in accordance with the contract and the price to be paid is also in accordance with the contract.

The PFM’s procurement method used is in line with the provisions of the PPCC Act.

Section 34 of the PPCC under ‘Description of Goods, Works and Services’ states: “(1) To the extent possible, any specifications, plans, drawings, designs and requirements or descriptions of goods, works or services shall be based on the relevant objective technical and quality characteristics, and performance of the goods, works or services to be procured.”

The action of both partners to make full payment without full delivery of the goods also contravenes Part 9 of the PFM under Payment Vouchers which states that payments, except for statutory transfers and debt service, shall be supported by invoices, bills and other documents in addition to the payment vouchers.

Procurement experts also told FPA that the action is a complete falsification of records which also contravenes PFM’s Section N.3. (Falsification of Records) which states: “(1) No public officer shall willfully make or sign a false entry in a document, book or computerized system or willfully make or sign a false certificate or returns, whether it is the duty or not of the person to make an entry, certificate or return.”

Criminal Offense

The action between the pair, according to the PFM is a criminal offense punishable under regulations provided for under the Act. Section N.3. under ‘Falsification of Records’ states: “(2) Anyone who contravenes sub-regulation (1) commits a criminal offence punishable under these regulations.’

A contract entered into between the Ministry and the Lebanese firm with several branches in the country awarded the latter the lucrative contract to supply 18,800 bags of Chinese white rice of 50 kilograms each. The amount of US$282,000 was the first installment for 9,400 bags of rice out of which less than 1,000 bags were delivered but with full payment made.

The purchase-and-sale contract signed November 1, 2010 with Defense Minister Brownie J. Samukai, Jr and George N. Nehme respectively representing the Ministry and SWAT has an eight-month duration that would see soldiers at the Edward Binyah Kesseley Barracks in Schiefflin, Margibi County and Camp Tubman Military Barracks in Gbarnga, Bong County being supplied over two installment payments that would amount to US$564,000. The amount constitutes each bag being sold at US$27 and additional US$3 for storage and transportation costs.

According to the contract, the Lebanese firm and the Ministry “mutually agree that delivery and pick-up of the rice shall be on the first day of each month” beginning last November.

Did Minister Order ‘Show of Insolence’ Staged By SWAT?

A letter in possession of FPA solicits from Defense Minister Samukai if he ever instructed the owners of SWAT to not cooperate with anyone including auditors who could go in search of clarity on the scanty transaction.

Dated March 4, 2011 and addressed to the Minister, the GAC’s Attorney-At-Law, Cornelius Flomo Wennah, the letter requested for the Minister to appear last week Monday before the Commission to clarify whether he ordered the man in charge at SWAT to not cooperate with the Commission’s auditors.

“In view of the foregoing facts, we ask that you kindly use your good offices to prevail on the management of SWAT to cooperate with the GAC by coming to the offices by or before Monday, March 7, 2011 at 3pm to have us gather information on the delivery notes as well as carry out investigation on the recipients or leave us with no alternative but to have the management of SWAT forwarded to the Ministry of Justice for appropriate action”, the letter states.

FPA’s enquiry into whether the Defense Minister honored the Commission’s request shows negative as he had not done so up to press time.

The GAC, according to the documents, has ordered an immediate halt to all payments to SWAT pending compliance.

Efforts made to verify the Ministry’s role in the delivery notes issue only resulted into David K. Dahn, the Assistant Minister for Public Affairs promising a deeper enquiry into the matter. He requested to contact “relevant authorities” at the Ministry in order to give the Ministry’s official response-something that was never done up to press time.

SWAT Snubs FPA

When FPA established contacts with SWAT, an angry voice on the cellphone responded: “My friend, I’m very busy!!” and hung out. The furious voice came after two other attempted calls were placed to mobile numbers owned by the Lebanese entity who directed FPA to the last number that would adequately “address the issue”.

Alleged refusal on the part of the SWAT to not cooperate with the GAC is in gross violation of the Executive Law of 1972. Section 3.3, (b) states among others that the “Auditor General has the authority to perform audits of all property accounts and transactions of government agencies and organizations and that such audits shall be conducted as far as practicable at the place or places where the property and records are located.”

How ‘Chopping’ Solders’ Food Could Factor Into Barracks’ Desertion

Ongoing efforts by the GAC to ascertain why delivery notes were issued by SWAT without full supply of goods are beginning to reawaken some possible reasons why reports dominated the media some time ago about the desertion of the barracks by some of the newly trained armed personnel.

One of such disturbing report was that the barracks lacked sufficient food supply, reportedly leading to some of the soldiers resorting to eating plums (mangoes) and subsequently leaving the camps. The Defense Ministry was to later deny the reports in a bid to ensure that the restructured army’s reputation is not being dampened in addition to reports that the huge expectations that attracted many young Liberians to enlist into the new Armed Forces were far below the results being yielded

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