>Liberia: U.S18 Million Gone – Finance Officials Have No Documents


>Source: All Africa

Officials at the Ministry of Finance say they do not have records for an estimated US18m out of US$29,948,027 earmarked for Domestic Debt, according to the General Auditing Commission (GAC).

A GAC audit report released last week and which concerns the Domestic Public Debt of Liberia, is said to be the first of its kind to be conducted by the GAC under outgoing Auditor General John Morlu.

According to the report covering a three-year period (2006-2009), a total of US$29,948,027 was set aside for the Debt Management Unit (DMU) at the Finance Ministry in order to settle claims and arrears of domestic debt.

Unfortunately, the audit document indicates, the DMU was able to only account for a little over US$9 million, sending the rest of the money – that is, more than US$18 million – into the sea of wastefulness and corruption.

The report: “For the three fiscal years under review, a total of US$29,948,027 was appropriated for the settlement of domestic debt claims and arrears. However, of the total appropriated, US$27,671,152.91 (as per the fiscal outturns) was reported spent on settlement of domestic debt claims and arrears. The Debt Management Unit (DMU) of the Ministry of Finance was able to provide supporting documentation to account for ONLY US$9,051,375.07 of the US$27,671,152.91 reported spent on debt payments. This created undocumented and unjustified payments of US$18,619,777.84. These undocumented and unjustified payments represented 67 percent of the domestic debt reported as being paid for the period under audit.”

Meanwhile, when the Auditor General requested that full documentation be provided in order to acquit the undocumented expenditure, Deputy Minister for Debt Management and Expenditure, Mr. Arthur Fumbah responded, “The DMU has been able to locate additional payment vouchers covering period 2007, 2008 and 2009 amounting to US$3,376,331.76 and LD$118,209,196.34. The DMU is in the process of locating more vouchers.”

However, the GAC, through AG Morlu, expressed disappointment that financial documents and records, as basic as vouchers and approved allotments, which are historical documents and should be made available for audit upon request, cannot be provided by the Ministry of Finance, saying: “If I am to accept the amounts presented by the DME, then it is therefore unacceptable that US$15,221,532.92 was purportedly spent over the course of three years for domestic debt payment, yet the most basic and first source records such as vouchers and approved allotments cannot be located by the Ministry of Finance. The US$3,465,383.51 and L$118,259,196.78 vouchers provided are not sufficient to account for the unsupported domestic debt payments made. The vouchers presented do not have underlying records to provide assurance for the amounts presented by the DME.”

It may be recalled that in the 2008 US State Department Human Rights Report, the US government said that corruption was at most levels of the Sirleaf-led administration. In its 2009 Report, it said that corruption was at all levels of the Government. Then in its 2010 Report, it says that corruption has been exacerbated and it pervades all levels of the Sirleaf administration with impunity.

The US government also expressed frustration over the fact that, in spite of former AG Morlu’s effort to promote transparency, accountability and financial probity, the government is not really helping to enhance the process, with Hon. Bruce Wharton, deputy assistant secretary of State for African Affairs, noting: “Liberia’s Auditor General has aggressively and thoroughly tracked government revenue from practically every ministry, but the government follow-up has been very disappointing.”

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