‘Massive Corruption’ Alarm Blown At LISGIS -Deputy DG Calls for Pres Weah’s Prompt Intervention

Development and the fight against poverty are not done though guess work or try and error. They are informed and underpinned by empirical data, including records on population demography and distribution. Since 2008, and after the ten constitutional years for another one, National Population Census has not been done largely because of the lack of the volume of money and resources needed. But why the government and its partners scurried all over the place to conduct this very important exercise, postponed more than twice for the lack of money, news coming out of the institution holding fiduciary responsibility to conduct it is not too pleasant. The bad news is not coming from rumors or from someone disconnected but from the second in command at the institution. The Deputy Director General has blown the whistle on what he calls “massive corruption” eating the very fabric of his agency and he’s begging President Weah to take action for save he institution. The Analyst reports.

The Deputy Director-General for Statistics and Data Process at the Liberia Institute for Statistics and Geo-Information Services(LISGIS), Mr. G. Alex M. Williams, has painted a gloomy fiscal picture at LISGIS, which is gearing up to conduct the long delayed National Population Census this year.

He posted hours before holding an interview with The Spoon TV that lasted for more than 3 hours and with an increased viewers going up to 5,000, the long awaited Census may not be held as planned due to “massive corruption at LISGIS”.

He posted: “Good afternoon to my leader and father, H.E. Dr. George Weah, Mentor! I am constrained to inform you and the Liberian People tonight, beginning at 8:00 PM Liberian Time on the SPOON TALK, about the massive corruption at LISGIS and the National Population & Housing Census.”

The LISGIS official said he was appointed to his position in 2018 by President Weah, but was not forced to unveil some of the difficulties that have impeded the conduct of the census which he said should have been in 2018 but because there was not enough preparation for the conduct it was not possible to undertake the national project.

He said for countries like Liberia, which conducts a census every 10 years, preparation should have started at least 3 to 5 years prior to the actual census year.

“Mr. President, I am obligated to you for changing my life for the better and the Liberian People who have allowed us to serve them,” Mr. Williams noted. “I went to prison with Chairman Mulbah K. Morlu Jr. and others to see you come to power and succeed. Some of us were insulted many times because of this struggle. I could have died that faithful November 7, 2011, because of my resolve for change. Hence, I cannot afford anymore to remain quiet and allow internal reactionaries to destroy this genuine revolution.”

To told President Weah further in the post: “Leader, your legacy, and our country are far more important to me than having a well-paid government job. Many of us, your lieutenants, are tarnishing your image and the government by our misconduct. Your excellency, actions need to be taken to save this revolution.”

He said there are normally three stages that lead to conduct of every census which include the signing of the Census Project document, the assessment of the statistical agency that is called the tools for the assessment of the statistical capacity and the cartographic phase of the census where the authority delineates the country in smaller areas called the enumeration area.

Williams who spoke so fluently to demonstrate his knowledge in the subject matter said that despite the government not having the resources and the delay caused by no prior preparation, there are still some huge opportunities, such as what he called “Rounds of Census “, globally, a period that lies between 2015-2024, and with the pool of resources from external sources and the commitment from the government  to support the process, census 2022 was still a possibility.

He said: “Why we have not been able to conduct a census since 2018 and we may not have in 2022 brings us to the issue of poor leadership and massive corruption.”

When asked about how much the government has been able to commit to the Census project, Williams said the latest matrix on the funding puts it at $1,795,215.18, for a census that will gulp up to $18,956,650 and the government’s own share of contribution should be $6,782,243.00.

He said donor partners are expected to come up with the matching funds to raise the targeted budget.

Responding to a question with what LISGIS has been receiving, what has it done with the money, Williams who said he was doing the nation good by exposing the misdeeds at LISGIS said: “So that is the biggest question as to where the money is. There is a co-financing agreement signed by the Director General of LISGIS and the United Nations Funds for Population Activities(UNFPA) Country Representative which states clearly that every census resource should go to the Census Basket Fund. In fact, there are timelines stipulated for payment.

“So all resources received from the government should go into the census account. So you may ask, where is the money but your answer to that question is the money are being used by the authorities at LISGIS, by individuals in positions at LISGIS, in violation of the co-financing agreement, the PPCC laws, the PFM laws and many other local and international standards and procedures.”

He said he was forced to  come up to expose what he called the “monumental fraud and corrupt practices at LISGIS because he has exhausted every internal mechanism to his exposure to the extent that before leaving the country for further studies for his Master’s degree in Statistics, he wrote the Chairman of the Board of LISGIS, Minister of Finance and Development Planning Samuel D. Tweah Jr about what has been going on there after verbally speaking and communicating to the leadership at LISGIS without any response.

He said what inspired him further was the fact that the census is a very critical aspect of governance that provides information on how the government can plan for the country and its people.

“We are at the verge of going to a very critical part of our democracy and we cannot afford to betray our people. Article 80 of the Constitution provides that the Census should be used to determine thresholds for electoral constituencies. So if the census is not held it may possibly cause some constitutional crisis and we must make sure that LISGIS will not be the reason to have such crisis”

He said he was removed earlier this year as the National Coordinator of the 2022 National Population and Housing Census by the Director General Dr. Francis Wreh for no reasons other than his stance against corruption at LISGIS. He said he has been raising issues with the leadership and others who have been engaging in corrupt practices over the years at the entity.

In one of the communications he wrote to Dr. Francis, which was displayed on the screen during the interview, Williams lamented the wrong withdrawals from the census account without his knowledge.

“On numerous occasions, both verbally and via emails, I have reported that multiple withdrawals are being made on the census USD account at Ecobank without my knowledge and without following the required due process. However, you have not taken any action to stop these. These payments violate Liberia’s Public Financial Management Laws, the Operational framework of the census project document, the Public Procurement and Commission laws of Liberia, and local and international best practices and accounting standards.”

He went on to state that over US$100,000 given by the Government of Liberia for the 2022 National Population & Housing Census were withdrawn from the census account in the subject line between the period December 9, 2021, to January 27, 2022, without any request from the Census Project Coordinator as required and without been cleared or seen by the Internal Audit Unit  at LISGIS

Making startling revelations, he said of all the financial commitment made by the government and based on the co-financing agreement wherein all resources for the census was to have been deposited to the census account, only $700,000.00 was actually transferred to the said account with the balance remaining unaccounted for thereby putting the institution in predicament and eroding the confidence from the development partners.

He did not have kind words for one of the Deputy Directors at the entity, Mr. Wilmot J. whom he said has been using all kinds of unorthodox means of withdrawing from the account of the LISGIS such as awarding contracts to unregistered companies and inflating figures of contract money in connivance with other authorities.

Information displaced on the screen during the interview showed that Smith without regards to the PPCC guidelines signed a contract worth over US$115,000 with a firm called Avianet/Global Jet for the shipment of 21,000 tablets and power banks to be loaned to LISGIS from the Ghana Statistical Services and that he signed the said contract on Saturday, February 26, 2022, which is a non-working day for government and the money was expeditiously transferred on the next Monday, February 28, 2022.

Several unauthorized transactions said to have been executed by Smith ranging from unauthorized withdrawals and payments to individuals and institutions using some staff at LISGIS put on display during the interview.

Of specific note, Williams mentioned a staff member, Abigail T. Monboe, an accountant in the finance office in whose name a cheque for $50,000.00 was written and withdrawn and the money was allegedly shared among Director Wreh, the Deputy Director for Administration Lawrence George, Smith and Miss Monboe.

Williams further provided information on several cash withdrawals by Director Wreh and others in various sums under unexplained items without proper channels, thereby further depleting the resources from the census fund.

He said in minutes recorded by his personal assistant James Bealded, Dr. Wreh claimed responsibility for all the financial recklessness at LISGIS but did not provide any answer if he was to refund the money.

He said at one time Wreh scolded Smith for his incompetence and displayed a letter to the effect but sadly has never taken steps to distance himself from the untold malpractices Smith was involved in because he benefits from the scam.

When asked what could be the reason why the officials were taking the money meant for the census without any remorse, Williams said it is because they do not mean well for the country and its development.

“What has been is a flagrant disregard of the some 6 million people taking the growth rate of the country because if you take money from the census money, you are not just stealing from the census money, you are stealing from the entire country; if you can have a census what you do is you prevent national planners from having reliable and timely data for policy , program and planning”, he said.

Attempts made by The Analyst to get the side of Dr. Wreh, and Messrs Smith and George proved futile as calls placed to them were never answered.

Meanwhile, further efforts are being exerted to get them to provide clarity on the allegations made against them.

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