Liberia: LACC Accuses Agriculture Minister, LISGIS Authorities, LWSC Deputy of Corruption

Agriculture Minister Jeanie Cooper (left), LISGIS Director-General Francis Wreh (top), and  LWSC Deputy Managing Director for Administration, Moseray Momoh.

The Liberia Anti-corruption Commission (LACC) has accused three high-profile government officials of corrupt behaviors which cost a hundred lots of money.

The accused include Agriculture Minister Jeanie Cooper who stands accused of awarding a contract to Farbrar  a company which she has beneficial ownership and the Director-General of the  Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS), Francis Wreh, and two of his deputies. They are accused of violating several laws regarding the purchase of second-handed generators and the procurement of tablets for the census. 

And at the Liberia Water and Sewer Corporation (LWSC), the Deputy Managing Director for Administration, Moseray Momoh is being accused of economic sabotage for illegally disposing of public assets and converting the funds to personal use. 

The LACC, in a criminal report, which called on the Ministry of Justice to initiate prosecutions, accused Minister Cooper of awarding a US$180K contract to Fabrar, a firm, to supply 200 metric tons of 25 kg bags  violating Section 1.3.6 of the National Code of Conduct which frowns on conflict of interest-- and  Subchapter E (Abuse of Office), Section 12.72 (Speculating or Wagering on official action of information) of the Penal Law of Liberia. 

Fabrar is being run by the Minister's two sons. She had earlier claimed of putting her shares in a blind trust to avoid any conflict of interest while serving as minister.

“In this public forum, I would like to say something about my company Fabrar, which I was running peacefully before, but which I have now put my shares into a blind trust so that I can focus my attention on the affairs of the Ministry,”  Cooper said on  March 5,  2020.

But two years later, the LACC is accusing her of not following all legal requirements while awarding government contracts to different companies including Fabrar.

According to the LACC, the Minister in cohort with Bob Fassa, the Project accountant office of the Korean Value Chain project knowingly and willfully expended the total of US$18k  as payment to Curtis Jackson and Asatu Shannon under the pretext of services provided without providing any evidence to justify the expenditure of said amounts.

“[They should] be charged and prosecuted on the following statutes: Subchapter D. (Theft and Related Offenses), Section 15.56 (Misapplication of Entrusted Property) of the Penal Law of Liberia, and Subchapter F. (Economic Sabotage), Section 15.80(c) (Fraud on the internal revenue of Liberia),” the LACC  Executive Chairperson,  Cllr. Edwin Kla Martin  said in a statement. 

“Other charges include Subchapter F. (Economic Sabotage), Section 15.81 (Misuse of Public Money, Property or Record) of the Penal Law of Liberia, Subchapter F. (Economic Sabotage), Section 15.82 (Theft and/or Ill-legal Disbursement and Expenditure of Public Money) of the Penal Law of Liberia, and Section 10.4 (Criminal Conspiracy) of the Penal Law of Liberia.”

The LACC also claimed that Cooper, in the discharge of her duties as Minister illegally relieve Raymond Ogunti as Director of the Project Management Unit at the ministry despite him having a two-year valid contract without justifiable reasons against the expressed advice by the donor partners  thus violating   Subchapter E (Abuse of Office) Section 12.70 (Official Oppression) of the penal law. 

Also, the LACC criminal report added that the Agriculture Minister unilaterally awarded a contract to her brother Zubin Cooper as a Consultant on the National Agriculture Fair program  in violation of Section 1.3.6 Code of Conduct, which speaks against conflict of interest.

On LISGIS, LACC accused Wilmot Smith, Lawrence George, and Dominic Paye of acting negligently in the recruitment of Avianet and Bluku Services Limited to transport 21,000 tablets and power banks for the conduct of the country census without adhering to the Public Procurement Laws (PPCC) as well as negligently failing to withhold taxes.

George worked at LISGIS as Deputy for Administration, Smith, Deputy for Information and Coordination, and Paye,  comptroller. 

The accused action, according to LACC violated ‘PART V’ of the PPCC Act titled Methods of Procurement with specific reference to Section 53 titled Request for Quotations and Section 54 titled Basic Procedures for Request for Quotations.

The LACC also accused Wreh and George in the discharge of their duties of expanding the amount of US$30,720 of public funds intended for census-related activities to purchase a second-hand generator without adhering to the PPCC law of Liberia.

“That Wreh,  George, and Paye, in the discharge of their duties knowingly and willfully authorized the withdrawing and expending of the cumulative amount of US$70,000.00 of the census fund (intended for census-related activities) and failing to fully account for some percentage of said amount violated the following controlling Liberian laws: Subchapter D of the Penal Code titled Theft and Related Offenses;  Section 15.56 (Misapplication of Entrusted Property) of the Penal Law of Liberia and Subchapter F of the Penal Code Titled Economic Sabotage.”

“And that the accused knowingly and willfully withdrawn and expanded the amounts of US$4,700; US$1,500, and US$2,640 out of the census account and paying to themselves and other staff extra compensation for performing tasks for which they were hired to do by law,  violated Subchapter D of the Penal Code Titled Bribery and Intimidation with specific reference to Section 12.51 (Unlawful Rewarding of Public Servants) of the Penal Law of Liberia; Section 12.52 (Unlawful Compensation for Assisting in Government Matters) of the Penal Law of Liberia and  Subchapter D of the Penal Code titled Theft and Related Offenses,” the LACC report added.

Meanwhile, at the LWSC, the anti-graft house also accused Momoh of knowingly and willfully conspiring with Officials of the Sesay Brothers Business Center in selling seven public vehicles as scraps for an amount of US$6,000.00 which he knew was not authorized and later converting the proceeds for personal use.

The LACC also called for the prosecution of Mohammed Konneh, Ayouba Sesay, and Ansu Konneh in their capacities as Managers of Sesay Brothers Business Center for clandestinely purchasing the vehicles which they knew were not authorized to do so.

“[Momoh] should be charged and prosecuted on the following counts: Subchapter D of the Penal Code titled Theft and Related Offenses; Section 15.51 (Theft of Property) of the Penal Law of the Republic of Liberia; Section 15.56 (Misapplication of Entrusted Property) of the Penal Law of the Republic of Liberia; and Subchapter F of the Penal Code Titled Economic Sabotage,” the LACC said.