In 2011, the Government of Japan extended a grant of one billion, one hundred million Japanese Yen (¥1,100,000,000) to the Government of Liberia under a Grant Arrangement, provisions of which are conveyed in an Exchange of Notes between the Donor (Japan) and the Recipient (Liberia), for the purpose of contributing to the promotion of the economic and social development efforts by the Government of Liberia.
Since the arrival of this gift from the Asian nation, myriad controversies and red alarms have erupted over the manner in which the grant was managed by those clothed with the responsibility to superintend it.
According to the anti-graft institution report, the investigative audit was conducted on the basis of information received by “continuous Audit Team” based at the LPRC that there were possible abuses in connection with the Japanese Oil Grant.
On August 30, 2011, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by and between the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MoCI), consignee on behalf of the Government of Liberia and the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC), the implementing agent for the monetization of the Japanese donated petroleum products.
The GAC report said “at the time of the signing of the MoU, the Petroleum Non-Project Grant was valued at thirteen million United States Dollars (US$13,000,000.00) for the supply of 15,000 Metric Tons (MT) of petroleum products from the Government of Japan for monetization, for which proceeds would be used to support development initiatives in Liberia.”
Under the pretext of empowering Liberian business, Aminata & Sons was unilaterally selected to sell the donated products but not on a commission basis. A reasonable commission, the report says, should have been ten percent on the sale of US$17,889,454.11 worth of product, amounting to US$1,788,945.00 and payable to Aminata & Sons.
Against this backdrop, Aminata & Sons and the Ministry of Commerce were requested to provide original invoices as well as other original supporting documentation to support the sale of the oil but the two institutions failed to provide the documents requested despite a follow-up with a letter dated February 15, 2012.
The report revealed that due to the lack of evidence that the discount was passed down to consumers at the pump, GAC used the prevailing wholesale market rate to determine the revenue realized by Aminata & Sons. The Ministry of Commerce maintains the official wholesale market rate statistics. At the official wholesale rate of US$4.22 and US$4.37 on the 4,196,343 gallons obtained by Aminata & Sons during the transaction, the total revenue derived from the petroleum sales by Aminata and Sons Inc., the local distributor selected by LPRC to monetize the product was US$17,889,454.11.
“Aminata & Sons, with the acquiescence of, and collaboration with, MoCI and LPRC, denied GoL optimum revenue from the monetization of the oil products,” the GAC investigative audit report unearthed.
The audit report added that the US$8,504,177.50 deposited by Aminata & Sons as per the MOUs between the MoCI and LPRC as well as LPRC and Aminata & Sons was insufficient, given that the product was a grant intended to benefit the Liberian people.
Additionally, the investigative audit report stated that the products were also sold on the Liberian market at the prevailing market rate without taking into consideration the gift element of the Japanese Oil of 21.19 percent, amounting to US$2,749,861.87.
Consequently, the Acting Auditor General of Liberia, Mr. Winsley S. Nanka is recommending that Aminata & Sons be made to deposit an additional US$5,788,134.01 into Government Account # 0220630001709 at the Central Bank of Liberia, as the excess income which unjustly accrued to Aminata & Sons as a result of the transaction. This amount includes US$16,000.00 set aside by Aminata and Sons for external audit purposes, as there is no evidence that an audit was conducted, as supported by LPRC’s Final Report. Aminata & Sons, Inc., should be made to deposit the aforesaid amount within thirty (30) days from the date of submission of this report to the National Legislature, and submit a copy of the deposit slip to the Office of the Auditor General for validation. Failure to do so, the Ministry of Justice should institute debt collection action against Aminata & Sons.
As a result of their action, the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) has taken the matter to court after the Ministry of Justice failed to act as required by the Act that created the LACC.
Presently, former Deputy Managing Director at the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company, Aaron Wheagar, is languishing behind bars at the Monrovia Central Prison as sheriffs and bailiffs of the Criminal Court “A” are on the stalk for former LPRC Managing Director T. Nelson Williams, former Commerce Minister Miatta Beyslow, Steve Flahn-Paye and the CEO of Aminata & Sons Inc. Siaka Turay to appear before the court to face indictment by the Grand Jury of Montserrado County on charges of Economic Sabotage, Misapplication of Entrusted Property, Criminal Conspiracy, Criminal Facilitation and Violation of the Required PPCC Procedures and Processes.
The indictment states that the defendants intended to deprive the government and people of Liberia of the proceeds from the sale of petroleum products valued at US$13,083,350 donated by the Japanese Government for economic and social development efforts.
“The defendants did knowingly, feloniously, purposely, criminally, maliciously, wilfully, intentionally steal, pilfer, take and carry away, exercise unauthorized control over and converted the total amount of US$ 5,764,110.84 for their use and benefit or the use of the other under various schemes and thereby committed the felonious crimes of economic sabotage, misapplication of entrusted property, criminal conspiracy and criminal facilitation”, the indictment further states.
The defendants are charged for allegedly violating chapter 25, sub-chapter “F” (Economic Sabotage), section 15.80 (a), (b) and (c), section 15.81 (a, b and c) and section 15.82 (a b and c), section 15.56 (misapplication of entrusted property) and chapter 10, section 10.2 (Criminal Facilitation) and 10.4 (Criminal conspiracy) of the Penal Law of the Republic of Liberia.
As litigation continues, it remains to be seen what turn the case might take as T. Nelson Williams and Madam Beyselow are said to be out of the country. All efforts exerted by Capitol Times to contact Mr. Siaka Turay proved fruitless as he refused to pick up calls or reply messages via his cell phone.