Several Petroleum Importers Owe Road Fund US$22.2M, As NRF Clarifies Media Report

Chief Executive Officer of the National Road Fund of Liberia, Boniface Satu

Following report by the General Auditing Commission (GAC) to the National Legislature that its “Review of financial documents of the National Road Fund (NRF) for the fiscal tears (2019/2020) revealed the list of companies” that are owing the Liberian Government.

The former Auditor General of Liberia, Madam Yusador S. Gaye (Late), performance audit report released in February, 2021on Road Maintenance and Rehabilitation in Liberia captured nine oil and gas companies that are indebted  to the National Road Fund (NRF) in the amount of US$22,212.538.00 for pertroleum tax levied for road maintenance and rehabilitation, as of June 30, 2020.

According to the GAC report, the nine petroleum companies include Conex Petroleum Service, (US$8,126,797.00), Srimex Oil and Gas Company (US$4,763, 129.00), Kailondo Petroleum( 167,271.00), Petro Trade (US$1,087,347.00) and Aminata & Sons (US$2,804, 030.00).

Others are MOTC (US$1,736,894), Nexium Petroleum (US$488,260) West Oil Investment (US$2,858, 565) and NP Liberia (US$190, 245.00). according to the GAC, the total amount of US$22.212,538  is been owned by the companies mentioned above with the Liberian Government.

GAC said the petroleum companies’ records were provided by the management of the NRF Financial Statement of 2019/2020. But in reaction to this report, the NRF has clarified noting that “All transfers to the Road Fund shall be made into the Road Find Account designated by the Minister of Finance and Development Planning and established in this Act.”

NRF authorities told GAC auditors that “Where funds are to be transferred from or through the MFDP, the Minister of Finance and Development Planning shall agree on a schedule of transfers with the National Road Fund Manager prior to the commencement of each fiscal year.”

NRF further added that “All agencies, other than the MFDP, mandated to collect user charges identified in the Act, shall: (a) Set up mechanisms for the transfer of funds to the Road Find Account; (b), Prepare annually and at least four months in advance of each fiscal year, a forecast of funds that will be made available to the Road Fund including an analysis of factors, which may affect the flow of funds as planned; (c) Prior to the commencement of each fiscal year, agree with the National Road Fund Manager a schedule of transfers to be made throughout the fiscal year.”

The NRF, in its response, also informed the GAC auditors that “All transfers to the Road Find Account shall be accompanied by a statement of account, providing details of the amount transferred, a breakdown of sources if applicable, the basis of the allocation and evidence of receipts on which the allocation has been based. The above statement is the part of the Road Fud Act that gives support to the abive finding.”

On the LRA fuel levied collection, the NRF response to the GAC, state that the “Liberia Revenue Authority fuel levies collections reconciled reports for the periods 2018-2019-June 2020 amounted to United States Dollars equivalent of $48,363,114.00. of this amount the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning transferred to the National Road Fnd Escrow Account at Central Bank of Liberia a total of US$28,005,540.00 equivalent. As was seen in the CBL Bank Statement 2018/2020.

NRF Manager told GAC that “During the fiscal year 2019/2020, US$7,000,000.00 was withheld from the funds collected by LRA as the NRF direct budgetary support to the Government of Liberia as per the approved National Budget by the National Legislature. The MFDP write the NRF requesting US7,000.000 for budget support for 2019/2020 and this amount was approved by Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee (IMSC) of the NRF in an IMSC called meetibg at which time a resolution was passed by the Committee.”

NRF says the total revenue collected by the LRA in the same fiscal period (2019/2020) was over US$23,000,000.00,recast downwards to US$12,000.000.00 thus reducing  the NRF revenue by US$11,000.000.00. The NRF stressed: “We acknowledged strives made by the government in making remittances or transfer of monies collected by the LRA from fuel levies to the NRF Escrow Account and also recognized challenges faced by the Government of Liberia. Additionally, the US$7,000.000.00 budget support was communicated to our international partners by the GOL/MFDP,”

Howbeit, GAC said the course of the audit, “We interviewed six contractors working on different county roads (CICO, SSF, Quality Group of Companies, Sidani Group Holding, Cemmats Group Limited and the MDMC) who indicated that the Ministry of Public Works through the National Road Fund has not been able to adhere to the payment schedules as indicated in the contracts.

For example, “Payment certificates submitted for work done takes an average of 90 days to be honored against the stipulated 30 days as per the conditions of the contract. We noted through our interviews with the contractors that such delayed payments contribute significantly to the delay in the completion of works as the contractors will normally suspend work till payments are made. We further noticed that most times contractors borrow money from commercial banks upon winning contracts in anticipation of repayment upon receipt of their installment as indicated in the contract document.  On the contrary, they are experiencing increased interest on loans from commercial banks due to the failure of the Ministry of Public Works through the National Road Fund to pay on time,” the auditors said

Clarifying media reports on alleged claim of diverting millions from NRF, the Management of the National Road Fund noted that it is deeply troubled  by what it refers to as a misleading and unprofessional story published by the FronPage Africa in its May 17, 2022 edition with banner headline captioned: Several Millions Diverted at National Road Fund.”  The NRF, in a statement issued in Monrovia over the weekend mentioned that the General Auditing Commission, GAC issued an Unqualified Opinion with emphasis on matter relating to the receivables due from   petroleum importers which cannot constitute to any amount of fraud, waste and abuse at the entuty.

The NRF management’s reaction to the media further state: “Per Certified Public Accounting Standards, an unqualified opinion is an audit report that has been issued with no reservations regarding the state of audited client’s financial statements and that the auditors followed a standard opinion format to state the financial statements are a fair representation of the financial results and condition of a client, in accordance with the applicable accounting framework,”

The NRF noted that a financial or audit report requires empirical interpretation and comprehension and as such, it is prudent for the writer to widen his scope of understanding of the content of the report by the GAC for authoritative interpretation. The statement mentioned that the GAC’s  opinion is a legacy issued prior to the operationalization of the National Road Fund Office in Liberia on May 1, 2018
“All expenditure has been fully accounted for and. The GAC further highlighted  in its audited report, constant violations of the Act that created the National Road Fund. The Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) collected US$53,018871.54, covering the period of July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2020, and deposited the money into the Government of Liberia Consolidated Fund Account instead  of the National Road Fund Escrow Account as required by the Road Fund act,” the NRF statement said.

NRF also explained that the Consolidated Fund Account is the Government’s general revenue account that is controlled by the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP). Out of the US$53, 018,871,54. Collected, the statement said, the amount of US$28,152,231. Was remitted to the NRF Escrow Account, thereby leaving an unremitted amount of US$24,866,637..54.

“In the fiscal year 2019/2020, the GAC observed that the MFDP withheld the total amount of US$7,000,000.00 from the petroleum levy fees collection as National Road Fund support to the National Budget, as a result of consultative agreements between our international partners, including the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, and also because of the economic constraints due to the Covid 19 pandemic. The management of the National Road Fund indicated to the GAC that the amount was requested by the MFDP to assist the government meets its payroll obligations,” the statement further noted.

The statement also said, “The program objective of the National Road Fund will not be met when funds intended for road works are used for purposes not intended.” In a letter addressed to the National Road Fund of Liberia, and written by the Auditor General of Liberia, he expressed an unqualified report, in which he mentioned that the financial statements were fairly presented in material aspect, statements of receipts and payments as of June 30, 2020. Reading is one thing and comprehending requires a higher standard of research, scholarship and understanding of financial information,” the NRF averred.

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