‘Ploy’-Dismissed Finance Official Claims

The former head of the SOE Reporting and Coordination Unit at the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) has termed as false and misleading allegation that he illegally opened an account. SOE is state-owned enterprise.

Mr. Siafa Chowoe also denied of stealing money as alleged by Finance and Development Planning Minister, Boima S. Kamara.

It can be recalled that Minister Kamara, on March 7, 2017, dismissed Chowoe for allegedly squandering US47,000 and 1.9 million Liberian dollars. Minister Kamara also accused Chowoe of illegally opening an account where the amounts were allegedly squandered, and vowed to turn him over to the Ministry of Justice.

But in an interview with the In Profile Daily on Tuesday, March 14, 2017, Chowoe denied the allegations, saying, “it was a ploy to have me dismissed”.

According to him, the account was opened legally with the approval of then Comptroller General, Sekou Sanoe, by the directive of then Acting Finance Minister, Dr. James Kollie.

Chowoe, among other things, said the Ministry of Justice will throw the case out because the draft audit report he received on March 2, 2017, makes it clear that all transactions (checks) were signed by the current Comptroller/Accountant General.

He explained that transactions of the amounts in question were done for their intended purposes and so he sees no reason of being held liable.

Chowoe also termed as prejudice the audit conducted in the unit because Deputy Minister for Administration, Juah Feika, had taken actions on him prior to the audit.

“While you are required to report to work daily, kindly note that as of the receipt of this communication and pending the outcome of the audit, you are advised to discontinue the execution of your duties which will be continued by Mr. Benedict G. Fully, your immediate assistant who will act as the Holding Officer of the SOE Reporting and Coordination Unit. Kindly therefore turn over your assigned laptop and vehicle to the Department upon the receipt of this memo,” Deputy Minister Feika said in a communication to Chowoe, dated February 17, 2017.

Chowoe said it was based on this part of the communication he tendered in his resignation on February 20,2017, on grounds that the actions impeded the professional independence of the audit and as well as eroded his professional judgment. James Kollie, acting finance July 22, 2016

“Greetings. I hereby tender in my resignation as Director of the SOE Unit effective February 20, 2017 predicated upon your letter dated February 17, 2017.

The actions taken by administration in your letter, in the absence of an audit finding, has impeded the professional independence of the audit and has eroded my professional judgment, as such I do not see the need to continue as an employee and head of the unit any longer.

However, I will make myself available at any time I am called upon to assist with the on-going audit,” Chowoe said in his letter of resignation to Deputy Minister Feika.

According to Chowoe, after Deputy Minister Feika wrote him on the same date (February 20), rejecting his resignation, he cooperated with the auditing team.

However, Chowoe alleged manipulation in the process. He added that the auditing team did not follow professional guidelines, probably due to the alleged manipulation. As he put it, “There was an entry conference; but no exit conference, which is not in line with professional accounting principles.”

Besides, the former MFDP official accused the auditing team of rushing with its reports, despite his request for the team to give him time to respond after receiving a draft audit report. Chowoe explained that he asked for time because his working laptop had been taken from him and also based on the advice of his lawyer to review his response before submitting it. “I received the draft audit report on March 2, 2017, and asked for time to respond on March 9, since the 8th was a holiday. I knew the auditors were working in deadline; but I had asked for an extension because, as an auditee, it was my right to ask for time in order to digest the draft report before responding,” he contended.

He accused the Director of Internal Audit Unit, Mr. Amos Quermouloue of refusing to receive his response and also refusing to give him (Chowoe) a copy of the final audit report.

“Even in audit, you can do an amended report when you make a report in the absence of the auditee’s responses…go and find out. And you have to wait until your auditee’s responses are incorporated in it,” Chowoe said, adding that this was not the case with the audit report.

Chowoe further took aback by the team’s alleged refusal to even give him 10 days to respond, which he said is the general accounting principle in all audits. “All audits are the same. He (Amos Quermouloue) should have given me the chance to respond before the final report,” he noted.

Meanwhile, Chowoe has accused the Ministry of withholding his February’s salary check, when he had worked for it. He considers the alleged action as a calculated attempt to strangulate him.