Hours after the names of corrupt former and current government officials names were released, the former Deputy Finance Minister James Kollie, challenged the basis upon which his name was included on a list containing individuals who were accused in both audit reports from the LACC and the GAC.
Late Wednesday evening the Solicitor General Designate Sayma Syrenius Cephas released a preliminary list of alleged corrupt government officials.
A statement attributed to Mr. Cephas described the list as individuals implicated in audit reports that the General Adulting Commission (GAC) conducted between July 2012 through June 30, 2017.
President George M. Weah, in a recent address to the West African nation, said that there were numerous audit reports from the previous Ellen Sirleaf administration that have not been acted upon. He disclosed that his Justice Minister was now in the process of prosecuting those implicated in those reports.
Mr. Kollie who served a Finance Minister during part of the years that the Weah government claimed that the audits were conducted, in an apparent attempt to discredit the government assertion, questioned whether any audit report was conducted by the GAC on the USD$13 million that the European Union provided to the country.
The former Finance Minister indicated that he raised the question because “to the best of my knowledge, no auditor have ever asked me any question about EU $13 million.” Mr. Kollie continued, “so for your (Cephas’s) press statement to claim that there is a GAC Audit report is totally surprising and baffling.”
Mr. Kollie also noted that “For example, Boima S. Kamara was not even working at the Finance Ministry in 2013 (the period of the purported audit) and it would be impossible for him to have been involved in any of the audits at the time.”
Also, a former Minister of Information and UN Ambassador has written Liberia’s Justice Ministry and General Auditing Commission to take exception to the inclusion of his name on the list of “persons of interest.” Mr. Lewis G. Brown requested the removal of his name.
The Weah led administration is under immense pressure to deliver economically but the government is flooded with allegations of corruption and mismanagement.
Furthermore, public apprehensions continue to mount over the questionable manner in which the government is managing the country’s economy.
Millions of United States were missing or embezzled under Weah’s watch. The government is yet to prosecute individuals allegedly implicated in the “missing” LD$16 billion. Additionally, Justice Minister Frank Musa Dean recently refer a GAC audit report surrounding the USD$25 million mopping-up scheme to the Anti-Corruption Commission.
The GAC report revealed that several individuals and businesses that the country’s Financial Management Team provided to investigators denied ever receiving or participating in the exercise.
Finance Minister Samuel Tweah, a close confidante of President Weah, led the scheme in which the country’s commercial banks were excluded from the process.
Weah’s supporters are encouraging him to prosecute his predecessor, former President Ellen Sirleaf, and key members of her regime, most likely, to sway the spotlight from the current administration that is under severe national and international scrutiny over its handling of the West African nation’s economy.
Observers believe that the Weah administration appears to lack the moral, technical and political capacity to prosecute corruption cases dating several years back in the Sirleaf regime when the government seemed reluctant to prosecute allegations of corruption in that regime.
President Weah has refused to make his assets public claiming in a BBC interview that he is doing so in order to protect his family. Such a move is undermining President Weah’s commitment to transparency, according to observers.
On Wednesday, former Minister Amara Konneh, who currently works for the World Bank in Washington, DC reacted in a social media post to the Justice Ministry statement challenging the existence of an audit report that implicates Boima Kamara because Kamara was never at the Finance Ministry in 2013.
Mr. Konneh’s post appears to corroborate with the June 19, 2019 letter from Mr. Kollie to Solicitor General Designate Cephas.
Moreover, the challenges seem to further impede the credibility of the Liberian government that is already facing confidence crises.
Now, the biggest question is will the government win the war against corruption with the recent decision of President George M. Weah to become reviewing all audit reports from the last ten years.
In a related development, as public concern mounts over the prosecution of some individuals indicted by the GAC, Grand Gedeh County Senator, G. Alphonso Gaye told Plenary that the General Auditing Commission (GAC) report that has not been validated by the Legislature cannot be used as an instrument for the indictment of anybody.
In session yesterday, the chair on public corporations, in a communication said his attention was drawn to media reports naming former and current officials of Government that are either indicted or to be indicted by the Ministry of Justice based on the GAC report that the Ministry of Justice has.
Senator Gaye added that the Ministry of Justice has no right to indict anyone based on GAC report and that it is wrong and should be halted immediately. He said while he does applaud the Ministry of Justice to carry out its duties and responsibilities in keeping with statute, this should be done in the framework of the law and established procedures.
“The Ministry of Justice should not be in the business of looking for cases to prosecute rather it should wait for cases forwarded to it for prosecution. Just to refresh our minds, the GAC by law reports to the National Legislature, after GAC completes an audit, the report is submitted to the National Legislature which in return mandates the Public Accounts, Audit and Expenditure Committee for scrutiny through a public hearing conducted by the Joint Public Accounts Committee (PAC). It is upon the completion of the scrutiny and validation by the committee, the validated report is submitted to Plenary of the House of Representatives and the Liberian Senate for endorsement”, Senator Gaye explained.
He disclosed that the endorsed report from the National Legislature is then submitted to the President who has the authority to forward same to the Ministry of Justice for action based on the findings and conclusion contained in the validated report.
The Grand Gedeh lawmaker said that the Ministry of Justice can carry out their statutory duty, but the Ministry of Justice should also know that an audit report is a genuine opinion and not a judgment to prosecute anyone.
Senator Saah Joseph of Montserrado County made the motion that the communication is turned over to the PAC for scrutiny and that the PAC should report to Plenary in two weeks.
The Ministry of Justice on Tuesday released a preliminary listing of individuals and institutions investigated and audited by the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) and the General Auditing Commission (GAC) and found liable.
According to the release, those found responsible for any corrupt act in those investigative reports are mandated by the office of the State Prosecutor to unconditionally restitute the within stated amounts to the Government of Liberia to avert possible prosecution.
Pursuant to the Letter Patent granted Cllr. Sayma Syrenius Cephus as State Prosecutor of the Republic of Liberia to practice and prosecute cases on behalf of the Government and people of Liberia, he has, with the consent and approval of the office of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Republic of Liberia, constituted a team of professional Criminal Investigators and Prosecuting Attorneys called the: “Assets Recovery Team (ART) headed by Cllr. Arthur Johnson.