Liberia’s suspended Minister of Information Laurence Bropleh said he will not be forced to resign because he came to public service not for longevity but for productivity.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf suspended Mr. Bropleh pending the outcome of an investigation into allegations that the minister might have defrauded the government of more than $300,000.
A draft report by Liberia’s General Auditing Commission released earlier this week found that Mr. Bropleh defrauded the government to the tune of more than $200,000.
Bropleh said the auditor general’s report is fraudulent and put together with malice and vindictiveness.
“I received from the Auditor General what should have been a confidential draft report. To my surprise the Auditor General and the auditing commission had taken this draft report, an incomplete report to the public. This is incompetence on the part of the auditing general because a draft report is an incomplete report. It is not to be circulated in the absence of a formal response from the auditee,” he said.
The Auditor General’s report recommended that Mr. Bropleh makes immediate restitution of $262, 772.73 representing the funds he allegedly misappropriated from the alleged fraudulent processing and payments of salaries to ghost employees.
The report also recommended that Bropleh be prosecuted by the ministry of justice.
Bropleh described Auditor General John Morlu II as incompetent and accused him of political vindictiveness.
“This is a manufactured piece of evidence on the part of the Auditor General. And this report has been put together with malice, with vindictiveness because I took on the Auditor General when he arrived in this country and declared that President Sirleaf and her government were three times more corrupt that former (interim government) Chairman Jude Bryant,” Bropleh said.
As part of its investigation, the Auditor General gathered statements from employees of the Ministry of Information, and according to the report they all testified that they acted on the orders of Minister Bropleh.
But Mr. Bropleh said the statements submitted to the Auditor General were fraudulent.
“There is nowhere in this report where anyone can say that funds received by me had been misappropriated. I have to tell you Mr. Morlu is an incompetent (person) who is trying to be an auditor general but lacks the ability and the professionalism to conduct an audit free of political nuances and vindictiveness,” Bropleh said.
The Auditor General’s report said an independent signature analysis proved that the signatures affixed on the vouchers and other financial documents were those of Mr. Bropleh.
The suspended minister also denied he signed vouchers and accused the ministry of information Comptroller Joseph Z. Nyamunue, of forging he Bropleh’s signature.
“A letter was fraudulently written by the comptroller, my signature forged with names that I had not approved on the payroll. That has been established by the criminal investigation. Mr. Morlu has not taken the time to pay attention to this,” he said.
There have been calls, including editorials in some news media calling for Mr. Bropleh to resign in order to save the country and President Sirleaf from further embarrassment.
Bropleh said he will not be forced to resign.
“To resign is to do an honorable thing. But I cannot do an honorable thing based on a dishonorable report. President Sirleaf doesn’t have to have a headache. President Sirleaf only needs to read the audit report with scrutiny and she will realize that this audit report doesn’t hold water,” Bropleh said.
The auditor general’s report also recommended that the suspended minister makes restitution of the money he allegedly embezzled and be prosecuted by the ministry of justice.