Home Governance LISGIS Officials Embroiled In ‘Corruption War’ … As DG, Other, Demand Evidence From Another Deputy Before Lawmakers

LISGIS Officials Embroiled In ‘Corruption War’ … As DG, Other, Demand Evidence From Another Deputy Before Lawmakers

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By: E. Geedahgar Garsuah, Sr.

MONROVIA: The Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS) has attracted the attention of the 54th Legislature over allegation that the entity, under the leadership of Director General, Francis Wreh, misappropriated funds intended to conduct the national census, a basis for which the Lower House has commissioned a working group to investigate LISGIS.

Bong County Electoral District-5 Representative, Edward Karfiah and Nimba County Electoral District-8 Representative, Larry P. Younquoi, are set to head the committee setup to probe LISGIS on the allegation of corruption.

Representative Karfiah is the Chairman of the Committee on Public Accounts and Expenditure and Representative Younquoi is the Chairman on Good Governance and Government Reform.

The Lower House’s investigation is aimed at ascertaining claims by Mr. G. Alex Williams, that funds received from the Government of Liberia to carrying out the already overdue population survey have been embezzled by LISGIS.

LISGIS’s Director-General Francis Wreh and his two deputies, Mr. Lawrence George, Deputy for Administration; and Wilmot Smith, Deputy for Information and Coordination are at the center of corruption allegation.

Mr. Williams who is LISGIS Deputy Director for Statistics and Data Processing was temporarily relieved of his post but later reinstated informed the gathering of lawmakers that of the total amount of US$1.8 million collected by LISGIS, the Government, Director General Wreh, along with his deputies had only transferred US$700,000 to the Census Basket Fund.

The Census Basket Fund is reportedly controlled by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

Mr. William sounded the corruption whistle in early March of 2022 that funds allocated by the government to LISGIS for the conduct of the National Population Census have been clandestinely taken out of the account and subsequently misapplied.

Williams: “Both verbally and via emails, I have reported that multiple withdrawals are being made on the census US account at Ecobank without my knowledge and without following the required due process.

“However, you have not taken any action to stop these. These payments violate Liberia’s Public Financial Management Laws, the operational framework of the census project document, the Public Procurement and Concessions Commission laws of Liberia, and local and international best practices and accounting standards.”

According to Mr. Williams, the misappropriation of the census fund by some of LISGIS’s authorities has been the primary reason for which Liberia has failed to significantly satisfy its obligation of contribution to the Census Basket Fund.

The National Population Census which should have been conducted in 2018 was postponed to March 2022, due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The process has been again postponed to October this year owing to financial difficulties.

In response to Mr. Williams’ assertion, LISGIS Director General, Wreh countered the allegations, rendering it as a smear action geared towards depicting a negative picture of the entity.

Director Wreh contended that there exist no corruption sign at LISGIS while assuring the general public that all is set to have the overdue census conducted this coming October 2022.

He added that gadgets including 21,000 pieces of tablets, power banks, and other needed necessities to ensure a successful conduct of the census are in storage at LISGIS’s office.

For his part, LISGIS Deputy Director General for Administration, Mr. Lawrence George, refuted Mr. Williams’ allegation while at the same time entreating the Lower House to request copies of Williams’ evidence of corruption.
According to Mr. George, reviewing Williams’ evidence could place them in a better decision-making process.

He maintains that LISGIS is entirely clear of corruption, indicating that UNFPA Harmonized Approach to Cash Transfers audit, which was performed by BDO LLP cleared LISGIS of any wrongdoing.

Liberia has conducted four modern censuses which were held in 1962, 1974, 1984, and 2008 respectively.

LISGIS is an autonomous agency established by an Act enacted by the National Transitional Legislative Assembly and approved by the Chairman of the National Transitional Government of Liberia, Charles Gyude Bryant (late) on July 22, 2004.

The Act is known as “The Liberian Code of Laws Revised, As Amended, By Adding Thereto a New Chapter 50A, and as indicated in Section 50A.1 its short title is known and cited as the “National Statistics and Geo-Information Act”.

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