The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has announced the conclusion of its investigation into allegations of fraud with rental/leases involving Ambassador Francis Tuan Karpeh and officers at the Embassy of Liberia in Brussels, Belgium. The investigation, conducted by a 7-member Investigative Committee headed by Ambassador-At-Large Robert Lormia, established that there was no criminal intent nor was there a motive for personal enrichment by Ambassador Francis Tuan Karpeh or other Liberian diplomatic officers in Belgium with respect to leased properties.
The Investigation Committee however noted procedural and administrative breaches in the way payments were handled, which it concluded did not conform to accepted accounting standards.
The Investigative Committee found that the rigidity of the budgeting system often impelled the Embassy to secure initial leases based on estimated cost in order to obtain approval before the budget process was completed. The Embassy then concluded final leases based on actual cost from the landlord.
The difference between the proforma and base rent in the case of Ambassador Karpeh and his officers in Belgium was expended on sundry costs such as fees for general maintenance of the building, maintenance of elevators and other systems connected to the building, heating and cooling of areas external to the apartment, security, garbage collection, and utilities, which unfortunately, were not adequately covered in the quarterly remittances from Monrovia. These extra obligations, if left unattended, would cause embarrassment to the officers concerned, in particular, and the Government and country in general.
The investigation report found that this situation was not widespread at all Liberian diplomatic missions as was widely speculated and reported. However, some missions have experienced serious difficulties as a result of shortfalls between remitted amounts and actual amounts due to the ever increasing nature of leases and the cost of utilities coupled with exchange rate losses caused by fluctuations in foreign exchange rates between the US dollars, the currency in which monies from Liberia are remitted and the currency of the host country including bank charges. The Investigative Committee found that this problem is more acute in the euro zone countries, including Belgium.
The report recommends that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, working in concert with the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank of Liberia, puts in place a realistic policy that will govern monetary transactions at Liberia’s diplomatic missions abroad, particularly with reference to payment of rents and leases.
The Report also recommends; that transactions and accounting practices at Liberian diplomatic missions should undergo regular, periodic inspections through the Office of the Inspector General of the Foreign Service, in a bid to enhance accountability at the missions as well as objectively assess difficulties experienced by Liberian diplomats, which could lead to a more expeditious solution of the difficulties.
It emphasizes that due notice be taken of the cost of living index in countries hosting Liberian diplomatic missions, and that adequate budgeting and other measures be taken to address those conditions..
Additionally, the report states that keen note should be taken of the currency exchange rate fluctuations to avoid shortfalls in remittances to the missions.