MONROVIA – The Government of Liberia is getting in the bad book of the World Bank and other development partners, faulting on accountability and allegedly being involved with hiring ‘incompetent’ staff for project supported by the Bank – a situation which has been greeted with a sharp reaction from the Bank.
FrontPageAfrica has obtained series of communications from the World Bank and other partners in which the Bank raised issues of accountability of project fund and in some instances, demanding a refund.
An October 23, 2019 letter from the World Bank Country Director, Mr. Khwima Nthara to the Acting Chairman of the Liberia Land Authority (LAA) requesting accountability – retrieval of assets and fund – warned that failure to restitute the amount and make the assets available would affect the financial management and overall ratings of the land administration project and the government of Liberia’s programs with the World Bank.
The LAA on October 3, 2019 wrote the World Bank seeking a month-long extension of time retrieve the assets and the project fund from the former Project Coordinator of the Project Implementation Unit of the Liberia Land Authority Administration Project (LLAAP)
The World Bank granted the request with a warning. The letter noted: “We want to strongly emphasize that failure to comply with the request will require that the World Bank declare these assets as ‘ineligible expenditures’ and the government of Liberia will be asked to refund. The financial management and overall ratings of the project would be affected. This declaration would also impact the performance rating of the entire Government of Liberia World Bank Program.”
When contacted for comments on the compliance of the LAA, the World Bank offices in Monrovia declined, stating they do not respond to leaked information.
However, FrontPageAfrica gathered that after the October 23, 2019 letter, the LAA managed to retrieve the vehicle but has been struggling to retrieve four laptops and US$11,000 intended for the land administration project.
Same at Agriculture Ministry
In a related development, the World Bank and the International Fund for Agricultural Development are withholding about US$48 million for agriculture projects in Liberia due to the refusal of the government to remove the Director of the Project Management Unit at the Ministry of Agriculture, whose credentials are believed to be fictitious.
Mr. Raymond Ogunti is the PMU Director at the Ministry of Agriculture.
FrontPageAfrica gathered that the educational requirement for the position is master’s degree.
Sources within the Ministry of Agriculture informed FPA that Ogunti scored 97% in the interview and performed better than all other candidates who applied for the position. It was, however, later discovered that the interview questions were leaked to him.
FrontPageAfrica further discovered that Mr. Ogunti does not meet the pre-requisite master degree requirement for the position having been a drop out student of the Metropolitan University in Minnesota, USA. “He has not obtained a bachelor’s degree yet,” a source informed FPA.
World Bank, IFAD Appalled
FrontPageAfrica obtained two communications from the World Bank and IFAD referencing allegations of fraud and cheat in the recruitment
PMU Director recruitment process.
The World Bank’s August 28, 2019 communication which was addressed to the Acting Minister of Agriculture, Mrs. Precious Tetteh, raised issues with irregularities with both the recruitment process of the Project Implementation Unit (PIU) Coordinator of the World Bank funded Smallholder Agriculture Transformation and Agribusiness Revitalization Project (STAR-P).
The letter noted, “While the World Bank does not take any complaint at face value, we consider the allegations contained and associated conduct as extremely serious, as such, we are referring them to our integrity (INT) Vice Presidency for advice and investigation. In the meantime, however, in order not to delay the implementation of this project, we suggest that the recruitment process continues. The World Bank team will assess the interview report and depending on (i) the outcome of the INT’s advice and/or investigation, and (ii) our assessment of the suitability of the selected candidates, we will take and convey a decision to the government.”
At the same time, the World Bank was quick to note that having also received complaint on the qualifications of the PMU Director and given that the position is partly funded by the World Bank, it would be unable to International Development Association (IDA) to support his salary until investigation is concluded.
The World Bank communication added, “Additionally, we have received the authorized signatory letter (ASI,), where the PMU Director is listed as a signatory under category B. To avoid delays in the implementation of the project, we advise that the PMU Director be replaced with someone else until the outcome of the investigation is concluded.”
The World Bank provides US$23 million while IFAD provides US$25 million for the jointly-funded project.
As a follow-up to the World Bank’s communication, IFAD on September 27, 2019 addressed another letter to the Minister of Agriculture, raising concerns over complaint of fraud in connection with the professional standard of the PMU Director.
The communication reads:
On 26 August 2019, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (“IFAD” or
the “Fund”) received a complaint presenting allegations of inaccuracies on the academic credentials portrayed by the Director of the Programme Management Unit (PMU) under the Ministry of Agriculture, which oversees the implementation of rural development projects financed by IFAD, World Bank and the African Development Bank in Liberia. As the post as PMU Director is partly financed by proceeds from IFAD-funded projects, the Fund has a fiduciary duty to ensure that the proceeds of any financing are used only for the purposes for which the financing was provided. Consequently, and pursuant to IFAD’s Policy on Preventing Fraud and Corruption in its Activities and Operations, IFAD may investigate the veracity of the allegations.
We are also aware that the World Bank received the same complaint. As a result, the World Bank informed the Government of Liberia through its communications dated 28 August and 12 September 2019 about its intent to launch an investigation on the same allegations. In that regard, we would like to inform the Government of Liberia that IFAD has liaised with the World Bank in order to properly address this matter.
Until the appropriate actions are concluded, the Fund will not be in a position to
authorize the use of IFAD funds that would be used to finance the PMU Director’s salary, in accordance with Section 4.07 of IFAD’s General Conditions for Agricultural Development Financing (the “General Conditions”). Likewise, we would kindly request the Government of Liberia that the PMU Director be substituted as a signatory of the designated accounts of the IFAD-financed Tree Crop Extension Project (TCEP) and the Rural Community Finance Project (RCFP).
Accept, Excellency, the assurance of our highest consideration.
Defended by the MOA
The Ministry of Agriculture (MOA), however, in a reaction said the Ministry still enjoys the confidence of the World Bank and IFAD, evidenced by the signing of US$48 million financing agreement signed on November 21 at the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning.
According to the MOA, both projects under the agreement (the Tree Crop Extension Project and the Smallholder Transformation and Agribusiness Revitalization Project are ongoing under the current PMU Director, Ugunti.