Liberia Corruption Bombshell: President Orders Maritime Head to Return Home
Published On 13 Jun, 2017

 

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President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf says she’s startled by shocking revelations coming out of an ongoing audit process of the Private Sector Development Initiative (PSDI) at the Ministry of Finance & Development Planning (MFDP).

“Therefore, I have ordered the principal administrator of the program during the audit period, Commissioner of Maritime Affairs, James Kollie to return to Liberia from his official trip to assist in the audit and answer all of the issues associated with it.”

PSDI is a project was established in 2014 at MFDP to provide loans to Liberian-owned Small and Medium Size Enterprises (SMEs).

The loan was meant to financially strengthen Liberian owned businesses, which were expected to repay, and the repayments would revolve or be disbursed to other Liberian businesses.

In so doing, the process would have created jobs and accelerate the participation of Liberian-owned businesses in the economy of Liberia.

A copy of the preliminary audit report obtained by FrontPageAfrica shows that the audit review established that there was a memorandum of understanding reached between MFDP and Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI) to coordinately run the loan activities of PSDI, however, customers’ evaluation/vetting was squarely done by MFDP.

The evaluation/vetting conducted by MFDP/PSDI Desk, according to the preliminary report, provided many loopholes for default such omitting collateral to back the loan, many borrowers used the borrowed funds as a start-up for their businesses, while there is no evidence of comprehensive market survey on file.

Dr. James F. Kollie, former Deputy Minister for Fiscal Affairs MFDP signed all of the loan approvals. It was established that twenty-four  borrowers who received loans valued US$965,400.00 have not paid any amount towards recovery.

Twelve businesses received US$545,700.00, but could not be located because; they were not visible at point of address.

The auditors claimed in the report when they inquired from inhabitants of the communities where theses businesses were claimed to be operating, they, too, could not confirm the existence of such businesses.

Telephone contacts of the individuals who owned these businesses were permanently switched off. See findings below as well, according to the preliminary report.

The review revealed that twenty-one (21) borrowers received US$1,159,000.00, but they have repaid only US$ 123,125.00.

Thereby resulting in a balance outstanding of US$1,035,875.00.

Major Conflict of Interest

The report: “We observed that some loans were disbursed to businesses owned by staffs of MFDP; while some are businesses with whom they got close connections.

Moreover, some of the businesses in this category have not paid any amount against their obligation/loan. In our opinion, their action to secure loans from MFDP/PSDI, while at the same time serving as staffs of MFDP constitutes conflict of interest.

The businesses include LELAH INC (US$40,000.00), Pure Life Incorporated (US$65,000.00), People’s Water Company Liberia  LTD (US$65,700.00), South East Water Company (US$75,000.00) and Zianab Business Center (US$20,000.00)”

LELAH INC which is liable for US$40,000 and has not paid any amount towards the loan was found to be owned by Mrs. Annah Koukou who introduced herself the wife of Mr. Amos Z. Koukou who is the Coordinator of PSDI.

When she was briefed by the audit team about the loan received by the business from the PSDI, she expressed amazement and shock to hear about such and further stated that she had no knowledge about such transaction.

She also said that Lelah Inc. was a dream to come true but did not materialize thus diverting into the establishment of another business called Ruzah Entertainment, which is currently located in the R2 community along the Robertsfield highway.

Mr. Koukou, according to the report, denied that his wife ever owned any business called LELAH Inc, even though she had told the auditors that Lelah was their daughter’s name.

Former Assistant for Administration (MFDP), Romell Watson, reportedly took a loan of US$65,000 but has paid back US$26,250. She reportedly established Pure Life Incorporated in which name the loan was taken. The company is located in Sinjay, Ground Cape Mount County.

Upon the auditor’s visit to the premises of the water company, which appeared to have stopped operation for some times now, according to the auditors, they were informed by members of the neighborhood that it was owned and operated by Hon. Romell Watson.

They were reportedly told that Watson had traveled abroad and the company was being managed by her mother Mrs. Cleopatra Watson.

When contacted by the auditors, Mrs. Watson admitted the business is owned Romell Watson and explained that the business was experiencing some financial challenges, but payments against the loan would continue.

People’s Water Company Ltd, Owned by Director for Public Administration Sector, Budget Planning, MFDP

People’s Water Company Ltd should be located in Klay, Bomi County. We visited Klay, Sinjay and Tubmanburg, but we could not find the water company. The company took a loan of US$67,500.00 and has not made any payment against the loan.

“We asked inhabitants of the various areas named, but no one had any knowledge of said water company existing in that region of the country. All efforts to call the numbers mentioned on the Businesses documents proved futile, as the numbers were permanently switched off,” auditors stated in the preliminary report.

Mr. William Mansfield who is Chief Executive Officer of People’s Water Company, is also Director for Public Administration Sector, Budget Planning, MFDP. Information gathered the auditors on Friday, May 25, 2017, indicates that Mr. Mansfield tendered his resignation while in the USA.

Mr. Theophilus Addy is Chief Financial Officer of People’s Water Company; during the same period, he served as Assistant Minister for Regional & Sectorial Planning, MFDP.

Similar to the case of Mr. Mansfield, Mr. Addy has also resigned his post and traveled out of Liberia.

Southeast Water Company located in Kanweaken, RiverGee County took a loan of US$75,000 on November 11, 2014, but has since not paid an amount towards the loan. Auditors visited the site and saw two water processing machines, few sachets of water and an old truck which we were told was owned by the company.

“We contacted Mr. Joseph Bright/CEO of the company who was not on scene, inquiring why he has not paid against the loan.

He indicated that he suffered losses due to insincere staffs who often made away with proceeds from the sale of water. He also noted that he resumed business two weeks before our visit on May 2, 2017,” the preliminary audit report quotes the auditors.

Mr. Theophilus Addy, CFO of Southeast water company also worked with the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning as Assistant Minister for Regional& Sectorial Planning. He is the same Mr. Addy of the People’s Water Company mentioned earlier.

Zianab Business Center is owned and operated by Mrs. Zianab K. Dukuly who is  Assistant Director of  Budget and Finance, MFDP.  The company took a loan of US$20,000 on August 27, 2015, and has paid US$2,400.

In an interview with Internal Audit, Mrs. Dukuly reportedly admitted that she received the money and promised to pay back.

Preliminary Actions By Pres. Sirleaf 

A surprised President Sirleaf in her statement Thursday said:  “We can say with a high degree of confidence that such a scheme set up at the PDSI is clearly a conflict of interest and will be dealt with by the full weight of the law.”

“Therefore, I have ordered the principal administrator of the program during the audit period, Commissioner of Maritime Affairs, Hon. James Kollie to return to Liberia from his official trip to assist in the audit and answer all of the issues associated with it.

Meanwhile, the Minister of Finance is to have a full audit report on the desk of the President within two weeks for further action.

According to President Sirleaf, her government remains seized of this matter and will leave no stone unturned in the interest of the nation.”

 

Source:- frontpageafricaonline

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