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Liberia: Audit Finds Over $1.71 Billion Unaccounted for by Government

The Liberian government watchdog agency, the General Auditing Commission, GAC has found two ministries implicated in over $1.7 billion (US Dollars) scandal. The Auditing Commission’s gruesome indictment of the country’s Finance and Agriculture ministries come in the agency’s report to the National Legislature and President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

According to a local Liberian daily, GNN, the report, in 2009 and 2010, the International Development Association (IDA) of the World Bank and four other donors including Germany, Norway, Britain, and the United States  provided to the Liberian government a total of  US$39.18 million to finance the repurchase of Liberia’s external commercial debts, estimated at USD 1.71 billion as of June 2007.

The Ministry of Finance, the implementing agency, did not submit to the, government’s watchdog agency (GAC) original documentation to justify the debts repurchased. The Finance Ministry on the other hand refute the allegation insisting that the documentation in question were not available as the result of past destabilization of the country.

The ministry maintained that the debt repurchased payments made to debt claimants and seven of the payments were effected into accounts not backed by the payment instructions of the debt holders with the payments amounting to US$ 27,225,068.61 adding that all documentation relative to the debts repurchased indicated that the debts were external and the purchasers of the debts were not within the borders of Liberia.

The report also disclosed that the justification of the debts could not be authenticated and the Debt Relief Operation Financial Statement submitted for audit was without designated accounts and accounting policies, as are required to be disclosed under the Terms of Reference for the audit.

In the invitation letter to the debt holders, it was stipulated that they were required to submit their claims against the Liberian government with the relevant documentations proving the debts owed.  The watchdog agency Acting Auditing General conveyed that seventeen out of the 26 debt claims submitted did not document their claims in an appropriate fashion and the Finance Ministry too did not have the original documents on the debts.

The Bureau of National Fisheries (BNF), the institution under the MOA responsible for managing and regulating all fishery resources within Liberia, or the MOA did not pursue a mechanism to enforce the payment of revenues by the public. The inadequate controls over the revenue collection by Ministry of Agriculture were reflected in the revenue reported by the Management of the Bureau of National Fisheries.

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