The Internal Audit Bureau at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has asked former Deputy Foreign Minister for International Economic Cooperation & Integration Elias B. Shoniyin, and the Project Manager for the Japanese Grand Project Augustine Nyanplu, to account for US$227,140.65 or its equivalent of Liberian Dollars 19, 079,815.00 withdrawn from the project account at Afriland First Bank in Monrovia thru fraudulent transactions.
“The Project Manager should primarily account for the amount of L$19,079,815.00, its equivalent in US$ 227,140.65 which represents questionable transactions executed by him alone. This should be done immediately after the issuance of this report.”
The Audit Bureau has also requested the Bank to account for all funds fraudulently withdrawn from its custody as a result of its failure to exercise due professional care. Forensic audit conducted by the Bureau of Internal Audit into the project “Institutional and Human Resource Support for Efficient Operation” which is being managed by the Department of International Economic Cooperation and Integration at the Foreign Ministry implicates both men in singly withdrawing huge sums of money from the project account without the knowledge or approval of other signatories to the account.
Final audit report by the Internal Audit Bureau dated August 11, 2015 blames Afriland First Bank for not exercising due professional care in conducting the affairs of the Project accounts under its supervision by its deliberate failure to refer to authorities of the Foreign Ministry for clarity on critical issues relating to withdrawals and administration of the Project Accounts.
“On June 24, 2014,Afriland First Bank effected an overdraft in the amount of LD$1,631,500.00, in USD equivalent $19,422.62 at the exchange rate of 84, without documented authorisation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Bank, represented by its Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Mr. Amadu O. Bayo in response to auditors regarding the overdraft, explained that the transaction was not an overdraft, but a discount against the deposit made earlier”, the report reads.
The audit covered the period June 1, 2014 to July 31, 2015, and was conducted based on a request from former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Augustine KpeheNgafuan prior to his recent resignation, as a result of allegation of suspected fraud in the management of the funds of the Project.
The audit revealed that signature specimens prepared to effect withdrawal from the Project accounts at the Afriland First Bank indicates that two of the signatories, in persons of Deputy Minister Elias Shoniyin and Project Manager, Augustine Nyanplu had the exclusive power to singly approve cheques for encashment. Deputy Minister Elias Shoniyin informed the auditors that he was not aware of any of the signatories possessing exclusive rights to approve checks singly, as this was never the intent of the Project.
However, the report says documents in the position of the auditors showed that Minister Shoniyin was fully aware of the exclusive power of single signatory right to withdraw from the Project Account.
“During the process of our investigation, we observed that the GOL-IECI project A/C # 0000108854-01-70 was initially opened with the three (3) signatories affixing their signature as evidence on the signature specimen.
The three (3) signatories were Mr. Elias B. Shoniyin, with the power A+A, Mr. Augustine Nyanplu, B+B and Mrs. Elizabeth Johnson Sirleaf as C+A or C+B. This action indicated that the both signatories in persons of Mr. Elias B. Shoniyinand Mr. Augustine Nyanplucould withdraw from the project account without the knowledge of signatory C. Therefore, the absolute or overriding power granted to Mr. Elias B. Shoniyin and Mr. Augustine Nyanplu created the basis for a potential fraud. Also, this created doubt or suspicion about the management of the project fund as well as the account”, the report further observes.
It added that the second signatory specimen card arrangement came about as the result of the appointment of Mr. Thomas Kaydor as Deputy Minister for International Economic Cooperation & Integration and Dr. Wede Elliot Brownell as Deputy Minister for Administration, Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Mr. Thomas Kaydor replaced Mr. Elias B. Shoniyin and Dr. Brownell replaced Mrs. Elizabeth Johnson Sirleaf.
The report noted that documented evidence provided showed that miss Comfort Y. Mohn a staffer at the Afriland Bank deposited on two separate occasions on behalf of Mr. Augustine Nyanplu, but “It is yet to be established on whether or not it’s part of normal banking practice to deposit a certain amount in the name of a customer. According to the profolio manager, Mr. Steven Tokpa who indicated that issue of such situation occurs wherein customer will give money to the staffer to be deposited in the customer account bearing the name of the staffer as the depositor.” It says such action provides a potential risk for fraud.
It says secondly, in the establishment of the second signatory specimen, it was noticed that Mr. Augustine Nyanplu made alterations on his portion of the card with a C+C power, giving him exclusive right to singly withdraw from the project account.
“The bank however did not apply any effort in contacting other signatories of the account to ascertain the reliability of the document. The fact that the lowest signatory to the account, Mr. Nyanplu had been given the single right to withdraw unilaterally and neither signatories A or B had such right, should have raised eyebrows. Nevertheless, the bank ignored such and continued to do business with a single individual”.
The report stressed that Basel Bank Supervision Procedure and CBL regulation require banks to ensure proper protection of depositors funds by ensuring adequate internal controls in a process called “know your client” and such other measures that will ensure that depositor funds are safe and protected against fraud.
By Jonathan Browne