The Deputy Minister of Health for Administration, Edward B. Tolbert, has embarked on several anti-corruption initiatives at the Ministry of Health & Social Welfare.
His quest to fight corruption and restore donors’ confidence in the administration of donor funded resources is as a result of his professional background as a Certified Public Accountant. The fight against corruption remains a challenge to the national government evidenced by the UNDP 2015 report, stressing that the Government is rocked with massive corruption, nepotism, injustice, incompetence and self-centeredness for which officials do not seek the interest of the citizenry and such is evidenced by its poverty stricken ratio of 80-percent.
Against this background, Minister Tolbert has commenced a vigorous review of several contracts awarded by the Ministry. One of such contracts currently under the Minister’s microscope is the clearing and forwarding services rendered by the Stewart Corporation.
In a communication dated July 13, 2015 addressed to the firm’s Country Manager, Mrs. Jerradine Stewart, Minister Tolbert, following investigation of Stewart Corporation payment request by the Internal Audit Unit, terminated contract awarded to the firm for the provision of said services, which commenced May 22, 2014-2015.
The Minister accentuated that the Ministry’s move to terminate the clearing and forwarding services contract with Stewart Corporation is consistent with relevant legislations and auditing standards like the Statement on Standards for Attestation Engagement (SSAE-16) or SOC 1 used for evaluating service provider organizations. The Minister also encourages the General Auditing Commission and other independent Auditing firms to intensify their audit approach with respect to SSAE-16 or its IPSAS equivalent in dealing with service providers to the government.
He also stressed that the immediate termination of the aforesaid contract is as a consequence of gross breach of contract details for the provision of legitimate receipts and substantiating documents to request claims.
The communication furthered that a total claim of US$29,554.50 of which $15,325.00 was from a bogus transportation company called Pearl Transportation Company was fraudulently made by the entity which is in direct violation of the signed contract.
Minister Tolbert disclosed in the communication, stressing that in previous dealings with the Ministry he observed that the firm provided fraudulent GOL tax payment flag receipt of US$8,500.00 and requested reimbursement from the Ministry through financing support from the Global Fund. “The foregoing acts of your entity bear all the elements of constructive fraud in contravention of the terms and conditions of the said contract and Penal Law of Liberia,” he averred.
The communication disclosed that the Ministry has commenced a review of receipts and documentations of prior claims and payments made to the entity to determine their legitimacy after which it shall notify the entity of further actions to include notification of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) and the Ministry of Justice for any legal evaluation as may be appropriate.