Debt Payment Fraud -MFDP Official Alleges

Ministry of Finance and Development

Immediately after taking over in 2006, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf constituted an inter-ministerial vetting committee (IVC), with the assistance of international consultancy firms and experts to develop strategies in settling domestic debts government owed under previous regimes.

The committee and its partners did not only vet claims, but also prepared consolidated listing for claimants to receive their checks; and approved by then Finance Minister Antoinette Saye.

But the Senior Debt Analyst in the Domestic Debt Management Unit at the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP), Madam Patricia P. Dixon, has alarmed alleged fraud in the payment process.

Madam Dixon who calls herself a “whistle blower,” told the In Profile Daily that the consolidated listing was prepared to avoid issuance of fragmented checks to claimants. She further alleged that the fragmented listing that should have been canceled, was also paid after settling the consolidated listing with the same amount.

According to her, the process was carried out when current Deputy Minister for Economic Management, Alvin Attah was Assistant Minister for Debt Management.

They did not stop in the allegedly recycled payment. Madam Dixon said the Ministry paid some of the claimants, using the Liberian dollar figures with US dollars.

As a fraud examiner by profession, Madam Dixon said she has and continues to remain vigilant in exposing frauds in the process since she discovered the first irregularities in 2007 when domestic debt payments started.

Based on the advice of international partners, she said a system called Commonwealth Secretariat and Debt Recording Management System (CS-DRMS) was set up to keep records of Liberia’s debt portfolios, where she has been discovering the alleged frauds.

The female whistle blower said she decided to take the issue to the media because all efforts for the Ministry to address her claims have failed and at the same she was being undermined.

Madam Dixon said based on her strong stance against corruption and having raised the issues with officials at the Ministry, she was given a letter of transfer from the department; something she has rejected.

“They are not only attempting to transfer me from the Department where I am assigned to ensure compliance, but they have also blocked my account since I have been seeing frauds they commit,” she said.

According to one of the classified documents from the Ministry, Deputy Minister for Administration, Mrs. Juah K. Feika sent email to Madam Dixon on April 3, 2017, saying: “Dear Patricia, As I indicated to you on last Friday, Minister Attah [Alvin Attah, Deputy Minister for Economic Management] has requested that you be transferred from the Department of Economic Management and to also have your account blocked from the CS-DRMS. Based on the Minister’s request, I have instructed Murphy Socree to have your account blocked from said system. Your transfer will be concluded upon my return. Please therefore take note, govern yourself and take this change in good faith.”

There was no reason given in the Deputy Minister’s communication for Madam Dixon’s transfer.

The Senior Debt Analyst revealed that she has communicated her allegations to integrity institutions including the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC).

She has also challenged authorities at the Ministry to give the original report in the system CS-DRMS, because she said they are claiming of alterations in the system. The whistle blower said, besides recycling checks, there were lots of dubious payments because the fragmented checks remain in the system.

One of the classified documents in possession of this paper indicates re-issued checks in the debt payment; something Madam Dixon has challenged to provide the original ones.

Madam Dixon said, while she will not rest until the country’s money is paid back, she is calling on the Government, through the Ministry of Justice to ensure her security. “I have also written the Ministry of Justice and the Liberian National Police (LNP) for my security. God comes first; but they should protect me while I continue to bring them out,” she added.

In recent times, Minister Boima Kamara has been sacking some officials at the Ministry for alleged corruption. It beats one’s imagination for such to be going on without action if it is confirmed.

However, observers have it that an investigation might be ongoing to establish the facts.

When contacted via mobile on Tuesday, May 23, 2017, MFDP Communication Unit Director, Mr Abraham B. Waritay, promised that the Ministry will respond on Wednesday, May 24, 2017, since the issue was just brought to their attention.

Before going to press, Mr. Waritay told this paper via mobile phone that the Ministry will address itself to allegations at the appropriate time after meeting with officials in the concerned department and once the authority is given to speak to the matter.

Investigations continue..