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LEAD STORYThe Joint Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the National Legislature has demanded that former Minister of Gender and Development, along with other officials restitute US$303,716 and L$31,180 into government's coffers.

 

Minister Varbah K. Gayflor and others have been accused of financial improprieties by the audit of the GAC.

The GAC said Madam Gayflor and others were allegedly involved in a number of administrative malpractices and other fraudulent activities.

The PAC took the decision after it endorsed series of recommendations contained in the audit report of the General Auditing Commission (GAC).

Besides these amounts, former Minister Gayflor and others at the Ministry of Gender have been indicted for various questionable financial spending.

Madam Gayflor now serves as Director of the Cabinet. The Audit report covered the fiscal periods 2006/2007, 2007/2008 and 2008/2009.

According to the PAC, Madam Gayflor and others were involved in procurement malpractices, administrative malpractices, fraudulent activities, non-functioning internal audit systems and internal control lapses.

The PAC quotes the GAC as saying during the audit of the Gender Ministry, it analyzed bank statements and observed that there existed a variance of US$US$25,279.55 with no substantive explanation or document being provided.

The Committee said Madam Gayflor and her Financial Comptroller at the time argued that the money in question was a donor fund, as such, the report was submitted to the donor concerned, contrary to government's regulation that all monies that belong to the people of Liberia are subject to audit by the GAC; therefore, said the money allegedly misappropriated must be restituted.

GAC explained that the ministry, under Madam Gayflor's administration, failed to disburse US$75,000 intended to provide subsidies or loan for rural women programs. However, the PAC said Madam Gayflor admitted to using the money for other activities that were unrelated to the intended purpose.

Hence, the Joint Public Accounts Committee indicated that following series of screening of the GAC report, it recommended to President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to ensure that Madam Gayflor, Madam Parleh D. Harris, Director of Women Division and Mr. Stephen Forkpah, Comptroller to restitute the US$ US$75,000 .

The GAC report, which was endorsed by the PAC, also found Madam Gayflor guilty of violating the disbursement of petty cash as contained in the Interim Financial Rules 38 by expending above the stipulated amount of US$500.

Former Minister Gayflor and former Comptroller Stephen Forkpah were found liable for collecting US$23,901.71 and L$31,180 rental fees from organizations and individuals for the use of the Ministry's Conference hall with no record of depositing the amounts into government's account, an act that contravenes Session 2303 of the Revenue Code of Liberia.

During a recent public hearing, Madam Gayflor is quoted by the PAC to have acknowledged the collection of the money, but noted that the amounts were used to pay the salaries of employees who provide janitorial services at the ministry.

The Committee also recommended to President Sirleaf to ensure that Madam Gayflor and her associates restitute the monies in question.

“The Auditor General during the audit of the Gender Ministry stated that, during his review of the financial documents he couldn't verify or find any documents attached to payment vouchers of US$143,459 to indicate that stationary were procured and disbursement to rural women organizations,” the PAC noted.

The committee indicated that during hearing, former comptroller Stephen Forkpah rebuffed the Auditor General's observation, arguing that it was misleading because the amount stated in the audit report (the alleged misappropriation of fund) intended for rural women organizations were actually disbursed to individual organizations.

However, the PAC said following series of careful observations, Madam Gayflor and her Comptroller are held accountable for the misappropriation of US$143,459 and must restitute the amount.

Another issue raised in the Audit report against Madam Gayflor was that of the amount of US$108,783 General allowance received from the Ministry of Finance for disbursement to intended staff for the period under the audit; US$73,207 was paid to the beneficiaries while the variance of US$35,576 was unaccounted for.

The committee during a public hearing, Madam Gayflor acknowledged receipt of the amount, but said it was used to pay allowances to other employees who were not intended beneficiaries at the Ministry, thus prompting the committee to recommend the restitution of the money.

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