As Dr. Chambers Questions LISCR’s Financial Reporting: Maritime Funds Shredded In Schemes and Secrecies?

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The former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dr. Bhofal Chambers, has expressed concern over the financial reporting and management of funds of the Liberian International Ship and Corporate Registry (LISCR), which administers the Liberia Maritime Registry, observing that information relating to the reporting of maritime funds has been shredded in schemes and secrecies.

LISCR is the administrator of the Liberia Maritime Registry under the Liberia Maritime Authority (LiMA), and is a private U.S.-owned and globally operated company, with headquarters in Dulles, Virginia (outside Washington, D.C.), USA.

The Liberia Maritime Authority is regarded as one of the highest revenue-generating agencies of government, contributing close to US$20 million to the revenue envelope of fiscal year 2023. However, it has over the years been accused of being at the crux of financial indiscipline, coupled with organized schemes and deep secrecies that appear to be difficult, if not impossible, to infiltrate. This, according to information, has caused the nation severe financial wounds while a few privileged officials of government allegedly pocket millions of dollars annually from the maritime funds at the detriment of the impoverished Liberian citizenry.

The Liberian Registry is comprised of 5,600+ vessels aggregating over 242 million gross tons, representing 15 percent of the world’s ocean-going fleet. The registry has sat pretty as number one in the world since July 2023.

But information revealed by Dr. Chambers to newsmen on Wednesday, February 7, 2024 says the postulation as to how LISCR fundings have been coming in has been the dismal, claiming that Liberia has been at a peril in terms of what it should be generating.

Dr. Chambers asserted that, as Speaker, he became concerned about the contributions of LISCR/Maritime, especially at a time when allocations in the national budget faced little issues, and so he decided to carry out an independent investigation to ascertain the challenges faced by the blue economy (maritime sector).

He disclosed that he contacted some of the stakeholders in the sector, but realized that some of the laws of America as it regards the Foreign Agent Registration Act were not been respected.

The US Foreign Agents Registration Act provides the public with an opportunity to be informed of the identity of persons engaging in political activities on behalf of foreign governments, foreign political parties and other foreign principals, so that their activities can be evaluated in light of their associations.

Dr. Chambers continued that his investigation led him to the Liberia Maritime Desk in the UK, and later to Washington, D.C. He disclosed that he communicated with the Liberian authorities at the LISCR office in the US two days ahead of his arrival, and informed them that his going there was to ascertain the challenges and gains made by the office.

Unfortunately, he said he observed strange things upon his arrival, as there was no one to meet with him at the building even though he communicated with them prior to his arrival. He noted that there was a gentleman boarding the elevator and he entered with him, and he asked who he was and where he was heading. Dr. Chambers said he introduced himself and told the gentleman where he was going, and the man told him that was the same place he was working. He said when he entered, he met a lady whom he later understood was a Liberian. He said he asked her about the gains and the challenges of the office. But during their conversation, the lady drifted from the topic, and requested to know whether the President, the Deputy Speaker and the Maritime Commissioner were aware of his visit to the office.

According to him, it was saddened that after he returned to Liberia he received a call that the gentleman whom he rode with in the elevator was dismissed on ground that he breached the protocol to allow him in the office, claiming that he was the one who invited him to the office.

He averred that the action of the LISCR/maritime office in the US only validates the issues of secrecy surrounding the activities of the office. Dr. Chambers called on the Joseph Boakai administration to probe into the issue regarding the maritime saga: whether the maritime sector is meant for only a minute portion of the Liberian population. In his view, if LISCR is not ready to serve the purpose of why it was established, then it should be reconsidered, removed and replaced by a more responsible body.

Part V (Financial Provisions) Section 19 of the Act establishing the Liberia Maritime Authority the authority to the office to be responsible for the collection of the all monies collected by LISCR or any succeeding agent on behalf of the government, and due to the government, and deposit same into the Government of Liberia’s general revenue account with the Central Bank of Liberia.

Also, Section 25 (Accounts and Audits) of the Maritime Act authorize the entity to keep proper accounts and other financial records, in keeping with international financial reporting standards, regarding its activities, and prepare in respect of each financial year a statement of accounts.

The authority is mandated to submit a copy of the audited accounts to the Board of Directors with a copy of any report made by the auditor for each financial year, and no later than three months after the end of each financial year the authority shall submit a copy of the audited accounts to the President of Liberia and the National Legislature, together with a copy of any report made by the auditor and other appropriate authorities.

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