A decision as to whether Criminal Court ‘C’ should ensure that any restitution of money believed to have been misapplied by public officials to be deposited into the Liberia Anti-corruption Commission’s (LACC) new account, the Government of Liberia Account Title: "Asset Recovery" With Account Number#160-200-3653, is expected to be delivered today, Friday, September 10.
The Friday's proceeding, which is expected to be heard in the Chamber of Judge Ousmane Feika, would also be attended by the Executive Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia, J. Aloysius Tarlue, under whose control the account is as a Governor.
The Government of Liberia Account, titled: “Asset Recovery”, with Account #160-200-3653 was established by the current LACC Executive Chairman Counselor Edwin K Martin.
Martin established the account just about a month and 12 days ago, when he replaced then Acting Executive Chairman, Counselor Karnio Bai Gbala, who himself served that position for a period of three months and established the now-disbanded account, Liberia Anti-corruption Commission/Restitution of Government Funds.
Gbala is the current Vice Chairman of the LACC, who recently asked for a leave of absence immediately after Cllr. Martin, at a press conference on August 30, 2021, said Cllr. Gbala will face investigation, based on a Frontpage Africa publication that linked him to corruption. During his takeover as Executive Chairman of the LACC, Cllr Martin and his Vice-Chairman, Gbala, were seen in a united mood as they promised to work collectively to ensure a successful fight against corruption in the government.
Even in an official Facebook post from Cllr. Gbala regarding the appointment of Cllr. Martin, he declared that “Cllr. Martin is a big brother and senior counsel who brings years of experience to the Commission and that he is ready and prepared to work assiduously under Cllr. Martin’s vision to lift the LACC in the coming.”
Despite the post, his boss, Cllr Martin, after the Frontpage Africa newspaper publication, said, “As a result of the FrontPageAfrica’s Monday publication, which links Gbala to corruption, having been abreast with the newspaper’s report, immediately convened a meeting on the same day, at which time the LACC’s deputy executive Chairperson tendered his leave of absence, which was accepted.”
The published story claimed that Cllr. Gbala was allegedly embroiled in a corruption scandal at the National Port Authority, indicating that “It has obtained documents that suggest that the LACC’s deputy chairperson is allegedly involved in the corruption web at the Buchanan Sea Port, as NPA Managing Director, Dr. Bill Twehway and his Deputy are poised to face a LACC inquest Tuesday.”
According to FrontPageAfrica, documents in its possession reveal that Cllr. Kanio Bai-Gbala, along with the Managing Director of the National Port Authority (NPA) Mr. Bill Tweahway, the deputy Comptroller, Christian Brownell, and Hamed Sikidi Fofana, the former Executive Director at the Central Bank of Liberia, established a company and allegedly used funds from the port and purchased a loading machine (966 Loader) for their company and awarded the loading contract to themselves.
It is also not clear whether or not the corruption accusation is the one that prompted Martin’s decision to change the LACC's Account to the one he established and named, “The Government of Liberia Account Title: Asset Recovery” With Account Number#160-200-3653. Interestingly, there is no audit report to establish if there were any money in the account, Liberia Anti-corruption Commission/Restitution of Government Funds opened by Gbala and closed by Cllr Martin.
In his communication dated July 28, 2021 to the court, Cllr Martin requested that the former Inspector General of the Liberia National Police (LNP), Beatrice Munah Sieh Brown, and several other individuals who have started restituting the amount of US$199,800, as ‘Judgment money’ misapplied from the procurement of uniforms and accessories for the Emergency Response Unit (ERU), in 2008 should use the account he opened rather than the previous one opened by Gbala.
The restitution was a result of the mandate of the Supreme Court after confirming the early judgment of Criminal Court 'C' against the defendants.
“And, other defendants in similar situations should deposit subsequent payments into his established account,” Martin's letter said. Additionally, Martin said, “This communication supersedes all previous communications written by the Liberia Anti-corruption Commission in this regard.”