With the express aim of providing insight into whether COVID-19 funds provided by donors, government and private institutions were properly managed, and whether proper bidding and procurement processes were transparently followed, President George M. Weah on July 17, 2020 mandated the Internal Audit Agency (IAA) through a communication referenced “MOS-RL/NFM-COS/JUL-06/2020” to conduct an audit of COVID-19 response activities. Covering the period February 2, 2020 to June 30, 2020, an audit of the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL) and the Ministry of Health (MOH) was conducted from July 1, 2020 to September 23, 2020. Having submitted a draft report to the auditee for response and input before finalization, IAA Director General Emmanuel BartenNyeswa died mysteriously, leaving a trail of speculations pointing to foul play in his death to kill the very damning report, a leaked copy that has now flooded the Internet.
According to an executive summary of the 44-page draft leaked IAA audit report of the Incident Management System basically comprising the NPHIL and the MOH, there is no evidence of approval for US48.9 million COVID-19 National Response Budget, while it was discovered by the IAA that US900,000 of COVID-19 funds were commingled into MOH operational funds under account number 0010011502021904 and 0010011501008294.
The damning draft report also showed that allowance valued at UD$79.212 for March 2020 was not accounted for, while there is absolutely no evidence of liquidation report for cash advances of US7,261 and LRD2.9 million.
The draft report also disclosed that contracts valued USD84,880 were overstated, while payment made to POC, balances and overpayment to Blessed 1 Luxury valued US$120,606.20. It was also discovered that there was no evidence of GOL Tax Remittances from POC’s payments valued USD29, 318.36, while discrepancy was discovered in disbursements of compensation made to casual laborers at Star Base.
Funds allegedly commingled by the auditee included the amount of USD750,000 as direct support from the Government of Liberia; LD$ 50,000 from President George M. Weah; USD150,000.00 from United Bank of Africa (UBA), USD20,000 from Ecobank, USD2,000 from the Deputy Minister for Fiscal Affairs, Mr. SamoraWolokollie, and USD24,300 from AFEENET. Expenditure of the commingled could not be tracked by the IAA audit.
The mysterious death of IAA Director General Nyeswa within the sanctuary of his gated residence days after allegedly submitting the auditee the draft reports has left wildcard speculations that the IAA boss might have been killed because of the work he was doing. The earlier mysterious death of three other auditors from the Liberia Revenue Authority, as well as the release of such a damning draft audit report has lent some credibility to the conspiracy theories, leading the IAA to react sharply to the leaks.
IAA Reacts to Leaked Audit
Addressing the media on October 26, 2020, the acting IAA Director General, Mr. Clarence Williams clarified that his institution has not concluded or released any audit report conducted by the IAA.
“While we cannot establish the authenticity of the few screenshots, as well as the source thereto, we want to clearly indicate that the IAA has neither concluded nor released any audit report relating to COVID-19,” the IAA stated, noting, it is crucially important to clarify that the audit of the COVID-19 response is still ongoing, as the draft audit report has only been served the auditee for official response in keeping with acceptable internal auditing standards.
“As such, if the screenshots posted are actual excerpts from the draft report, then we are extremely surprised as to how it travelled to the poster, when it was only served to the auditee for official response. The IAA quickens to reemphasize that, as an anti-graft institution, we are guided by integrity, objectivity, confidentiality and competency at all times, which are the typical common Code of Ethics of all internal auditors. Therefore, we strongly frown on the act of leaking a draft audit report of any kind to the public by whosoever involved, when the auditee is yet to respond to the findings contained in the draft report,” the auditing authority averred.
The IAA furthered that it has communicated with the Incident Management System, the auditee, with the goal of investigating the authenticity of the screenshots, as well as the source through which the draft report travelled.
“In the meanwhile, we encourage the poster and the general public to refrain from posting and discussing the said audit, as it is only a draft that is awaiting the auditee’s response to be collated into a final version,” the IAA acting DG said.
Meanwhile, as the public eagerly awaits official release of the autopsy report on the four death auditors, after the pathologists had concluded examination that would shed light on cause of death, the government of Liberia has turned over the remains of the dead to their families for interment.