Criminal Court “C” yesterday disqualified two auditors of the General Auditing Commission (GAC) who were randomly selected by the Jury Management Team at the Temple of Justice to decide the guilt or innocence of the suspended National Port Authority (NPA) duo, Managing Director Matilda Parker, and Comptroller Christiana Kpabar Paelay.
The disqualification of auditors Joseph Okai and Patricia Walker came immediately after Walker openly admitted that she was an employee of the GAC and had also participated in auditing several government functionaries including the ministries of Education and Health, as well as the Liberia Water and Sewer Corporation, among others.
Walker spoke when she was questioned by one of Parker’s lawyers, Atty. Authur Johnson, during yesterday’s jury selection exercise.
“Are you an employee of the GAC?” Atty. Johnson asked Walker, who responded in the affirmative.
Atty. Johnson again asked her whether she has conducted an audit before.
“Yes, I have audited the ministries of Education, Health, the Liberia Water and Sewer Corporation among others,” Walker said in response.
Before Walker’s disqualification was announced by the court, she had earlier informed the prosecution, while being questioned, that she was an employee of the GAC.
Despite her confession in court, the prosecution asked Judge Blamo Dixon to allow her to serve on the jury panel “because she has vast experience on auditing and she could be of help during the trial.”
Okai was also dropped from the jury panel after he also admitted that he was an employee of the GAC.
Both Madam Walker and Mr. Okai were part of a group of 27 potential jurors that were presented to the court yesterday for the defense and prosecution teams to select 15 persons to serve on the panel that will assist Judge Dixon in determining the facts of the case.
During the process, only eight of the 15 were chosen for the task.
The failure of the lawyers to select the 15 member panel from the 27 prompted Judge Dixon to postpone the matter to Thursday, December 10.
According to the Judge, the decision was intended to give the Jury Management Team ample time to recruit the additional number of jurors to complete the selection process.
“The matter is suspended until Thursday, but those jurors who were qualified should be immediately sequestrated right here at the Temple of Justice with all of their phones taken away from them,” Judge Dixon instructed his sheriff.
Defendants Parker and her Comptroller Madam Paelay were accused of duping the NPA of US$837,957 while they were serving their representative posts, a claim they denied when they were first arraigned before court.
They were also accused, along with businessman Deneah M. Flomo, owner of Demar Enterprise.
The prosecution claimed that Flomo connived with Madam Parker and Paelay to make over US$800,000 in illegal payments to his Demar Enterprise Company.
Flomo is reported to have confessed, during interrogations at the office of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), that most of the money was deposited in his company’s account at Ecobank.
The LACC reported that Flomo received more than US$10,000 from the deal.