By Lincoln G. Peters
The NewDawn newspaper has learned of a huge rice scandal at the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) through an independent investigation.
The agency faces allegations of misappropriation, misapplication and squandering of over 5,000 bags of rice.
The NewDawn investigative team discovered that the relief food donated to the Government of Liberia by the Government of Saudi Arabia did not reach the intended population as claimed by the LDMA.
A document available to this paper contains a preliminary assessment report on warehouses storing Saudi Arabia Relief Food donated to the Government of Liberia.
The preliminary assessment report indicates that the LDMA allegedly committed an act of corruption in handling the rice consignment.
The Saudi Arabia Government donated 29,412 bags of rice as relief food for disaster survivors and vulnerable people in Liberia.
Based on an allegation that NDMA misappropriated the rice, NewDawn has gathered that the government initiated an investigation into the matter.
Amb. Dee-Maxwell Saah Kemayah, Sr., Minister of Foreign Affairs constituted a team to perform a preliminary physical inventory or assessment at warehouses where the rice was stored.
The NewDawn has gathered that the team arrived at the NDMA and approached the Agency’s Executive Director, Mr. Henry O. Williams.
Williams was asked to nominate a representative of his agency and allow members of the team access to the warehouses, which he did.
According to the document available to this paper, the team was mandated to inspect all the warehouses where the Saudi-donated rice was stored and take preliminary physical inventory.
The team was also mandated to verify balances and report before the close of business day on 27 April 2023.
The preliminary investigative finding was brought by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA), the General Services Agency (GSA), and the NDMA.
Upon the team’s interrogation, NDMA Logistics Supervisor Mrs. Rosetta Gbassay Bowah informed the investigation that her agency received 29,412 bags of rice that were stored in the three warehouses – two at NDMA and one at GSA.
“She also informed the team that Warehouse #1, which was at GSA, received 11,200 bags of rice; Warehouse #2, which received 12,292; and Warehouse #3, which received 5,920, were at the NDMA,” the document said.
“The team obtained from Mrs. Bowah, NDMA’s waybills containing a total of … 2,774 bags of rice and also received waybills from GSA containing … 5, 000 bags of rice,” said the report.
It also cited copies of stock files and request letters.
The NewDawn also unearthed that the team of investigators discovered a letter dated April 12, 2023, addressed to the Deputy Director for Operations, Idriss Bility of GSA.
The letter was signed by the Deputy Director for Operations, Augustine Tamba of NDMA, requesting all 11,200 bags to be released incrementally as per the distribution order and approved by the Executive Director of the NDMA or his designee in the warehouse at GSA to be delivered to NDMA.
“Consequently, a letter dated April 12, 2023, written by Augustine F. Tamba/ Deputy Executive Director for operations/NDMA requested the dispatch of 5,000 of the 11,200 bags of 25kg rice stored at the GSA warehouse to be transferred to the Gbarnga Regional Hub for prepositioned purposes,” the report indicated.
The donations were turned over by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the NDMA management for onward distribution to the target population.
According to the NewDawn investigation, NDMA received 29, 412 bags of rice from the vendors, and records show that NDMA has dispatched 7,774 bags of rice from the three warehouses.
However, the balance of the bags of rice in all three warehouses was 21, 638.
Based on this figure, 6200 bags should be in warehouse # 1 at GSA and 15, 438 bags of rice should be in warehouses #2 and #3 at NDMA.
But the investigative finding established that the rice in the two warehouses at NDMA were rapidly deteriorating due to poor storage and improper stacking.
Additionally, the NewDawn gathered that the NDMA is not prudently managing the rice, beginning with storage and distribution.
“The team, therefore, recommends urgent intervention and further probing to determine whether or not the 7,774 bags of rice that have thus far been lifted from the warehouse reached the intended beneficiaries,” the investigation disclosed.
The NewDawn investigative team also gathered that the two warehouses at the NDMA do not meet minimum standards of warehouse management: the rice is poorly and improperly stacked, which makes any physical inventory (PI) impossible.
However, this paper discovered that the GSA storage has proper stacking of rice in keeping with minimum standards of warehouse management that ensure the soundness and quality of rice up to 90 days.
“Based on the paper trails and findings, the team finds it difficult to establish whether or not the decision of the management of NDMA to redirect the five thousand (5000) bags of rice from GSA to different locations was done in good faith,” the report said.
Additionally, it stated that the manner in which the rice is stored at NDMA seriously compromises the quality and soundness of the rice for consumption beyond 4 weeks.
Meanwhile, the team of professionals recommended that the warehouse managers be urgently engaged to properly stack the rice in the two warehouses at NDMA.
When contacted, the head of Press and Public Affairs Department at NDMA only identified as Mr. Doe, in a telephone conversation, said that there is no information of such or report before the NDMA.
” There is no report before the National Disaster Management Agency and so we can’t speak to anything…,” he said.
“I am not aware of any investigation. But, what I do know, it’s only an inventory that was conducted in the warehouse. And that inventory is being conducted and completed,” he added.
He indicated that no investigation was conducted.
According to him, they usually conduct an inventory.
He failed to state his full name and ended the call.