MONROVIA – The government of Liberia through the Ministry of Information says it intends to continue to treat the recently-released audit of the General Auditing Commission (GAC) on the funding for the deadly Ebola outbreak as well as previously released findings very seriously and take corrective measures based on the findings and recommendations of the audits.
The government’s chief spokesman Information Minister Lewis Brown told journalists at the weekly news briefing Thursday the government hopes the process of probing further into the missing Ebola money will continue through public hearings at the Legislature and ultimately through prosecution of accused persons in courts of law, or the implementation of systems and controls to mitigate the risk identified in the recommendations.
Minister Brown said the government is determined to institutionalize ongoing programs of probity as well as demonstrated respect, by all, for the trust of the public. Confirming that the GAC has reported on the expenditure of the National Ebola Trust Fund, the Ministry explained that the audit was conducted based on the request of the Government of Liberia to provide assurance on its own monies, private donations and grants from international partners to the National Ebola Trust Fund.
“The Government of Liberia will continue to engage in continuous financial and procedural audits of its expenditures and operations to improve the governance system as well as enable its ongoing fight against waste and corruption. Ongoing programs of continuous audits of public institutions intended to mitigate risks and minimize fraud actually enable our commitment to openness, transparency and accountability to which the Liberian Government is fully committed,” Minister Brown explained.
The minister clarified that the GAC audit did not include donations from international organizations like the World Bank, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) other multilateral and bilateral donors whose contribution did not flow through the National Ebola Trust Fund. But, explained that where an audit report indicates that the auditors have yet to see sufficient supporting documentation for expenditure; the auditee may take the documentation to a public hearing by the National Legislature to acquit the deficiency.
The government hailed the various integrity institutions of the government, including the GAC for their work which it says, have continued to confirm the overall commitment of the Liberian Government and people to fight corruption and ensure transparency and accountability in the management of the resources of the country even during extreme emergencies.
The GAC has conducted 106 audits since the inception of the Unity Party-led government, but most of those findings have laid dormant without prosecution or further investigation by the Ministry of Justice or relevant government agencies. It is the findings of the Ebola funds, the GAC detailed how US$15,169,635.00 was misused and abused by those tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that the virus was put in its track.
The audit of the National Ebola Trust Fund covers the period from August 1 to October 31, 2014 and was conducted under the Auditor General’s statutory mandate as provided for under Chapter 53.3 of the Executive Law of 1972. The findings conveyed in the report, according to the GAC were formally communicated to the Management Team of the National Ebola Trust Fund and its implementing partners for their responses. According to the GAC findings, the National Ebola Task Force/ Incident Management System (IMS) received per the bank statements, the total amount of US$15,169,635.00 and L$342,883,302.00 from GOL, public Institutions, International and National Organizations and individuals.
Of that amount, the report states, the bank statements disbursed the total amount of US$10,757,320.17 and L$231,196,838.00 to various implementing partners’ accounts, including the IMS’s operation accounts and had reconciled balances of US$4,412,314.83 and L$111,686,464.08 at October 31, 2014. The audit covered the amount transferred to and subsequently disbursed from the National Ebola Trust Fund Accounts domiciled at the Central Bank of Liberia. Source/FPA.