...as the entity’s Chairman assures a fair probe in Cllr. Kanio Bai Gbala’s “Conflict of Interest” case
Amid lack of public confidence in anti-graft institutions under the George Weah Administration, the former Acting Commissioner and now Deputy Commissioner of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), Cllr. Kanio Bai Gbala, has been reportedly hooked in a business deal that reflects what is termed as “Conflict of interest.”
On Monday, August 30, 2021, the Front-Page Africa newspaper published a story about the involvement of several individuals, including Cllr. Gbala, in issues of ‘conflict of interest,’ which is a crime under the Liberian law, particularly the Code of Conduct. According to the report, Gbala, while serving as an Acting Chairperson at the LACC following the departure of the controversial Ndubusi Nwabudike, allegedly ran a business that was operating at the National Port Authority and the Port of Buchanan.
According to FPA, Kanio Bai-Gbala along with the Managing Director of the National Port Authority (NPA), 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.
“Bill Tweahway has 60% share in the company, '' Kanio Bai-Gbala was given 10% share, Deputy Comptroller Christian Brownell was given 15% share; while Hamed Sidiki Fofana was given 15% share. So, from the time the company was founded, they had a single machine, and each time a vessel is in port, it will be used to do the loading and their invoices will be sent to them,” a source within the Freeport of Monrovia informed FPA.
Though Cllr. Gbala has allegedly taken a “leave of absence” while enjoying all benefits associated with the position, Cllr. Edwin K. Martins, the Executive Chairperson of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), said Gbala’s leave of absence is aimed at allowing the investigation to proceed.
As the investigation begins into this allegation, the LACC Chairperson has assured that they will do everything possible to maintain public trust in the anti-graft institution, even if a case involves its members. At a news conference in Monrovia on Monday, August 30, Cllr. Martins said: “An emergency meeting of the leadership was held early Monday morning to discuss the report and inform the Liberian people on the LACC’s stance.
“I am pleased to inform you that the Commission has commenced an investigation into this grave report that has the propensity to derail the progress we have made as a commission in the last weeks,” Martins said.
Chairperson Martins said he has mandated the Division of Investigation and Enforcement at the LACC to move swiftly and investigate the matter beginning August 30, 2021, but did not state when the investigators will end their investigation. Cllr. Martin, who has already accepted Cllr. Gbala’s leave of absence said his deputy has agreed to cooperate fully with the investigation in this matter, while on leave. According to him, the LACC will continue to be engaged with the Liberian people on issues that surround the State and corruption.
He said the LACC’s leadership has no problem with these reports as long as they are done professionally and within the ambit of the laws of Liberia, adding: “LACC welcomes critical reporting of its activities and investigations relating to the work they do as holders of public trust.” Cllr. Martins said that LACC will continue to work with all institutions, including the press, to deal with issues of corruption in Liberian society.
Meanwhile, Cllr. Martins said the investigation of the alleged corruption saga involving top officials of the National Port Authority (NPA) is ongoing and all those involved are cooperating. According to him, all those that have escaped under the cover of darkness will be extradited in keeping with the law. Cllr. Martins added that, for the August term of the Court, the LACC has indicted individuals following investigative reports from the General Auditing Commission (GAC).