The Liberian people may never get to know clearly how much of their taxes paid into government coffers are leaking into pockets of unscrupulous individuals or officials thru illegal withdrawals from dormant GoL accounts with commercial banks here.
But if ongoing probe by the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning into circumstances leading to the alleged withdrawals of L$6 million and US$68,000 respectively from various official accounts with one of the commercial banks in the country, GN Bank Liberia Limited, is anything to gauge by then the depth of the bleeding of the state coffers is deeper than image.
Finance Ministry authorities are claiming innocence, and have called in the National Security Agency (NSA) to probe the syndicate, which they say occurred from “Unapplied Accounts” with GN Bank Liberia Limited.
Finance Ministry sources are revealing that two checkbooks went missing recently from the Ministry specifically which department, we hope the NSA investigation will unravel the details. But it is said that those missing checkbooks were allegedly used to forge signatures of relevant authorities in withdrawing said amounts.
The leakages are happening at a time the economy is in a serious nose-dive with businesses shrinking and laying off employees, while critical sectors such as health and education are in a quagmire amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Liberia’s Comptroller General Janga Augustus Kowo, whose office manages government checks, says it observed suspicious transactions of late, which prompted calling in the NSA to investigate. However, we may never know how many of such transactions may have slipped his watch and trickled into unscrupulous pockets, robbing the citizenry of their taxes.
Secondly, the issue of a government functionary such as the NSA probing another state institution, in this case, the Ministry of Finance that makes budgetary allocations for all other ministries and agencies, including the NSA itself, leaves a very thin line for honesty and transparency.
Our apprehension is founded on the case involving the government General Auditing Commission auditing the US$25 million mop up of excess liquidity, which was administered by the Technical Economic Management Team headed by the Minister of Finance and Development Planning Samuel D. Tweah, and the Central Bank of Liberia, shrouded in lack of transparency and accountability.
A so-called “smart account” subsequently commissioned by President George Manneh Weah into the US$25 Million following public pressure is yet to produce findings despite clear and empirical evidence that the entire exercise was marred by serious discrepancies from start to end.
We therefore, wonder how far and transparent would the NSA probe at the Finance Ministry go in unraveling the syndicate and bringing out all perpetrators ( whether small or big fish) to face the law rather than probing on the surface and covering up.