A Rejoinder: Respond to News of LACC
Respond to News of LACC Forwarding My Name to the Ministry of Justice for My Allege Involvement in the Domestic Debt Scandal
For the last 16 months, I have waited patiently but painfully for the conclusion of investigations by the Ministry of Justice/National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Liberian Anti-Corruption Agency (LACC) into the “case of mal-practice in the implementation of Government domestic debt resolution strategy.” The parallel investigations were conducted based on a request made on January 12, 2011 by Augustine Ngafuan, former Minister of Finance. I submitted to both investigations because Minister Ngafuan acted upon communications from both agencies which requested certain employees from the Ministry of Finance to report for questioning. Two names not vetted by KPMG (Ghana) were added to the Class 6 Domestic Debt payment listing. In his letter to the LACC and the Ministry of Justice, Minister Ngafuan, with the benefit of evidence, emphatically stated that “Jonathan Geegbae altered the list…” I challenge Minister Ngafuan and anyone else to prove that I altered an official government document.
The Ministry of Justice/NBI concluded its investigation and issued a final report on July 28, 2011. That investigation exonerated me from the “charge” the Minister had levied against me. This information was communicated to the authorities of the Ministry of Finance. I still do not understand why the Minister did not make the report public or simply inform me of my vindication. Two employees working in the Department of Expenditure and Debt Management at the Ministry of Finance, Arthur W.B. Fumbah (former Deputy Minister for Expenditure and Debt Management) and Vinton Chenoweth (Analyst, Debt Management Unit) were found culpable for “criminal facilitation and forgery” respectively by the NBI. As a result, on November 2, 2011, the Solicitor General of the Republic of Liberia, Cllr. Wilkin Wright wrote these two employees and cited them to his office in the Ministry of Justice Building.. In his letter to these employees the Solicitor General said: “The NBI report links you to mal-practice and recommends criminal prosecution of you and others involved. In view of the aforesaid, you are cited to a conference with the Solicitor General at his Office in the Ministry of Justice Building on Ashmun Street.” I am not sure whether the Solicitor General’s citation was honored.
On April 23, 2012 (approximately sixteen months after the investigation), I learned that the LACC had announced in the print and electronic media that I, together with Willard Russell and Vinton Chenoweth, was forwarded to the Ministry of Justice for “manipulating government documents”. This gives the impression that there was collusion between these individuals and myself. I do not know Mr. Russell personally, and I don’t believe Mr. Russell knows me. I met Mr. Russell casually on few occasions when I attended the National Budget Committee (NBC) meetings at the Ministry of Finance. So, it is virtually impossible to connect me with him in any way, shape or form. Mr. Vinton Chenoweth has worked for the last 10 years or more in the Debt Management Unit. I supervised Mr. Chenoweth during my time at the DMU. It is absurd to think that I will conspire with Mr. Chenoweth to alter government documents. There is no single person in the Republic of Liberia that can attest to me seeking bribes; neither can any employees at the MOF attest that I have in this case or any other time, connived with them to defraud my government. Before an attempt is made to ruin my character in this manner, it is always advisable to look at my past and current records. I can guarantee that there is absolutely nothing in my past or current record that will suggest that I am unscrupulous.
Two government agencies have come up with two different findings into the same case. How can this be reconciled? Why is the Ministry of Justice/NBI report been “swept under the carpet” when it was Minister Ngafuan who requested that we submit to both investigations? Is it because the outcome of the NBI investigation did not please a particular group of individuals?
I was confident going into these investigations that I would be exonerated because I committed no crime, and I had nothing to do with altering the payment list. Against the advice of my family and friends, I met NBI and LACC investigators on many occasions without a lawyer present. I felt I did not need a lawyer because I had done nothing wrong, and I had nothing to hide.
Based on advice from my counsel, I will not attempt to go into the nuts and bolts of this case; however, there are few facts that are worth mentioning. KPMG (Ghana) was invited by the Government of Liberia on two different occasions to vet unpaid claims submitted by individuals and businesses. The last vetting exercise took place around 2008, at that time I was still living and working in Atlanta, Georgia. A comprehensive listing of all approved and denied claims were given to authorities at the Ministry for payment. All the documents relating to domestic debt payments were kept in unsecure storage locations in the Offices of the Deputy and Assistant Ministers for Expenditure and the Debt Management Unit. This act could have been perpetrated by any criminal minded individual. On one occasion, my office and the Internal Audit Department were broken into and my laptop stolen. To date, Ministry of Finance security has not published the outcome of its investigation. There are records in the Ministry of Finance to prove that on several occasions, I refused to pay claims to individuals that did not have proper identification and documentation. My decisions were later override based on further investigations by MOF security. In those instances, I still did not affix my signature to allow the disbursement of GOL domestic debt checks; other officials at the Ministry authorized those payments.
As with all payment requests that are initiated from the Debt Management Unit, the Assistant and Deputy Ministers for Expenditure and Debt Management, Matthew T.K. Flomo and Arthur W.B. Fumbah approved the Class 6 payment request. We all have fiduciary responsibility to perform individual due diligence before affixing our signatures to payment of this nature. Additionally, the Director of the Internal Audit Department at the Ministry of Finance, Albert Peters, personally reviewed, audited, and approved the payment request before it was passed on to the next stage in the payment process. Interestingly, Minister Ngafuan letter to the Ministry of Justice and LACC did not mention these important facts.
When it was discovered that 2 additional names, not vetted by KPMG, were on the list, an in-house “investigation” was launched by Minister Ngafuan while I was attending an IMF training program in Washington, DC. He appointed a 5-persons panel headed by Matthew T.K. Flomo, the Assistant Minister who was one of the persons who approved the payment request. Another member of the panel was the Director of Internal Audit, Albert Peters, who also audited and approved the payment request. No member of the “investigative team” contacted me, nor was I given the opportunity to defend myself since in fact it was my Unit that was been investigated. The next thing I knew I was asked to abandon my training and return to Monrovia to face “national investigation”. Upon my return, I was given a report that was never signed by any member of the investigation committee. When I inquired about the unsigned report, at least two members of the panel confided in me that Matthew T.K. Flomo single-handedly concluded the report without their consent. It was on this report that Minister Ngafuan based his decision to write LACC and MOJ that I, Jonathan Geegbae, altered government official document. Amusingly, on January 22, 2011, Minister Flomo apologized to me (in my office at the Ministry of Finance) for the nature of the report that he had written and that he was “under pressure” from Minister Ngafuan to conclude his “investigation”.
Before I made the decision to return to Liberia to work, I have had several senior level accounting and finance positions in the United States, including Accounting Manager. Before you are entrusted with these positions, comprehensive background checks (drugs, criminal, credit/financial and even traffic violation) are performed before you are hired. Before I left for the US back in 1996, I worked for Citibank (Monrovia) and the National Bank of Liberia as Management Trainee and Operations Officer respectively. In both organizations, I was named Outstanding Employee and Employee of the Year. It may also interest you to note that I was nominated “Who’s who Among Georgia’s Managers.” These are honors I carry with me all the time. That is who I am! No attempt to destroy my repetition can take that away.
As a result of President’s Sirleaf call for Liberians to return home to help with the socio-economic development of Liberia, I accepted a tier-1 SES Professional position in 2009 at the Ministry of Finance assigned in the Office of the Deputy Minister of Finance for Expenditure and Debt Management. In September of the same year, I was assigned to the Debt Management Unit. I am very proud of my accomplishments at the Ministry. No one can take that away. These are few of my many achievements that I want to share with you:
1. I was named a “SES SUCCESS STORY” in 2010.
2. I was part of a team that designed and implemented Liberia’s 1st civil service direct deposit program;
3. Under my leadership, Liberia became the 60th country world-wide to use the Commonwealth Secretariat Debt Management and Recording System (CS-DMRS);
4. I supervised the revision of Liberia’s Pre-HIPC Completion Point debt management strategy and presented the document to the President and cabinet for adoption and approval. This was the first time the document was revised solely by Liberian employees at the Ministry of Finance;
5. I coordinated the preparation and compilation of Liberia’s financial and economic documents required by the Paris Club Secretariat in support of Liberia’s request for 100% debt waiver;
6. I led technical discussions at the Paris Club meeting in September 2010 which resulted into the cancellation of Liberia outstanding debt of approximately US$3.2 billion debt to all Paris Club creditors;
7. I initiated and supervised the preparation of the maiden edition of the 1st debt management report which was submission to the President and the National Legislature in compliance to the PFM Law. The law requires that the Minister of Finance, through the Debt Management Committee, publishes quarterly Debt Management Reports. The report reviews the state of public debt management in Liberia;
8. I worked with employees of the Debt Management Office to prepare the draft guidelines for issuing government guarantees. A state-owned-enterprise requires prior approval from the Debt Management Committee to contract new borrowing. The PFM Law (2009) governs the issuance of Government guarantee;
9. I was part of a team that reviewed and updated the PFM Law and its supporting regulations
10. I was very instrumental in developing the Debt Office capacity building initiatives;
11. I drafted the terms of reference for the restructured Bank Reconciliation Unit
12. Participated in workshops and steering committee meetings that implemented IFMIS and the completion of Liberia adopting the International Public Accounting Standard;
13. I was part of the Ministry of Finance team that reviewed and held technical discussion with the Kuwaiti Fund for International Development during the Funds visit to Liberia in 2011. This resulted into the rescheduling of Liberia’s US$12 million debt.
For Liberia to prosper, we need to work co-operatively and forge one agenda as a government and a people. The world is not waiting for us to play “catch up”. It is time to “lift mama Liberia” and not tear it down. NO LIBERIAN IS MORE LIBERIAN THAN THE OTHERS.
Jonathan J. Geegbae, Sr.