Two senior employees at the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) identified as Emmanuel Togba and Herbert Sorbor, who stole US$82,000 out of the US$1million project fund intended for updating of the Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS), have one month to restitute the money, or face justice.
IFMIS is the system through which all money related Government transactions, including the printing of checks, and how the Government does its transactions across its ministries and agencies, take place.
Making the disclosure yesterday at a press conference, Minister Boima S. Kamara revealed that Togba and Sorbor, who headed the Reform Coordinating Unit at the ministry, were behind the disappearance of the US$82,000.
Kamara said his assertion was based on an internal investigation conducted by the ministry.
"Togba and Sorbor are going to restitute the money, because our investigation linked them to the withdrawal from the Afriland Bank, and they are to do so within a month," the Minister said.
He said in a true context of transparency, "We have the financial management specialist who coordinates; and it is preceded by a financial management expert, who actually in the accounting rules does checks and balances; that's why as a minister, I don't sign anything that relates to checks, because I have my deputies, assistants, and directors designated to do them."
"The findings clearly showed that the withdrawals were done at the Afriland Bank and they were unrelated to the civil works that were required to upgrade the system.
"Mr. Togba and Sorbor withdrew the money from the account not towards payment of contractors, or civil works but for unrelated services, including purchasing of goods and services, some of which we did not see."
Minister Kamara said the two staff members misinformed the Accounting and Controller Generals "that they came to me and sought my approval for such payment, which was highly inaccurate because as coordinators they must seek approval of the Minister, which was not done in this case.
"So, we have control of the balance of the money which is being processed to make sure it gets back into government's account and the intended purpose for which the money was set aside for will be executed fully."
According to him, the financial act that governs the manner in which Public Financial Management coordinators work should take its course.
However, "we can tell you day-after-day we are getting ourselves fully involved in the day to day affairs of the ministry; we are becoming fully aware as to how the ministry should be run.
"And because of that they proceeded to open the account and Togba and his deputy chose to be signatories to it that occasionally withdrew funds in the absence of the Financial Management specialist, who should actually be the technical financial person in the unit that should be signatory to the account. They did it without his involvement and decided to withdraw money on their own," he said further.
Minister Kamara also said until proven guilty in the court of competent jurisdiction, they have informed the two men in question to restitute the amount; and failure on their part within the time period would result to them being turned over to justice.
He added: "It is in this respect that we will let you know that as long as we remain the Minister of Finance, under our stewardship and with the help of my colleagues working together from the deputy ministers, assistant ministers, directors and all other staff, we will continue to encourage everybody to ensure greater degree of transparency, accountability and integrity.
"We believe a new day has come, the new day says 'no to corruption,' a new day means let every dollar count that will go to the heart of development of our country, so that every citizen of this nation can see that when tax is collected. Those who will decide to abuse the system's contracts will be terminated."
It may be recalled that Minister Kamara informed President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on January 19 about alleged financial improprieties at the MFDP and consultation with the Ministry of Justice began an investigation into the matter.
To ensure that the two men don't abscond from the country, Minister Kamara said the two men have been reported to the Liberia Immigration Service (LIS) to ensure that they remain in the country. Their pictures, he said, may be spread around the country if they fail to repay the money and hide from justice.