-Says better late than never
Incessant calls for an audit of the 12-year administration of former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf have gone unheeded by President George Weah, whose administration seems to be feeling the effects of what critics perceive as a gross misstep or inaction.
According to the Economic Freedom Fighters of Liberia (EFFL), the alleged missing money scandal, which is having an adverse impact on the livelihood of the Liberian people, especially the impoverished masses, is the result of rampant corruption and glaring mismanagement that permeated the Sirleaf-led government.
With the adage, “better late than never”, the EFFL has again called on the Weah Administration to do a forensic and systematic audit of the Sirleaf Administration, to enable the country and its international partners understand the financial activities of the previous government.
The group, which seeks to stand as a force for a new Liberia, had earlier this year recommended to President Weah a complete systematic audit of the last regime which, it is believed, received billions in bilateral assistance, but has little to show for said assistance.
“This country is poor, not because we lack the resources or finances, but because we continue to elect self-centered and morally bankrupt individuals to power. We have also failed to do the right thing over the years—holding past and current leaders accountable for the stewardship of the state,” EFFL Deputy Secretary General, Ernest Moibah, said in a release recently.
Moibah added, “The EFFL is here to stop this entrenched business as usual attitude and advocate good governance for our people. President Weah must audit the past regime so that it gives account of how our country was governed during its 12 years in power.”
Weah, a soccer legend, came to the presidency with a sermon: “Our country is broke and our economy broken”, though his predecessor later debunked such assertions, indicating that in spite of the harsh economic realities the country faced during the latter phase of the Johnson-Sirleaf government, she had left over US$100 million in the national coffers.
Fast forward, reports of missing containers containing L$16 billion from the Freeport of Monrovia, the main gateway to the country’s economy, has brought to public glare what many have termed as the high level of insincerity on the part of the Weah-led Administration, who had given the public the impression that the country was really broke.
But according to Moibah, the claim and counterclaims between the current and past administrations can only be settled if the Weah administration musters the courage to audit the Sirleaf Administration as well as many of her officials whose images are blemished with corruption allegations.
The group urged the government to muster the courage to fight corruption if it is to succeed, though the EFFL expressed reservation that there are alarming factors of the Weah Administration’s lacking the ability to adequately run the country, let alone fight corruption.
“In his inaugural speech, the President promised to fight corruption, but from all indications, the government lacks the political will to fight corruption as well audit the past government, especially as it relates to the missing billions.
EFFL also recommends a reawakening of the corruption scandal and other financial malpractices of former Deputy Finance Minister James Kollie. This has to do with the operation of an allegedly clandestine account by Dr. Kollie and few of his cronies at the ministry for the payment of domestic debts—an account that was used to siphon millions of dollars out of the mainstream financials programs of the government.
As part of what it says are efforts aimed at ensuring a corruption-free society, the group wrote the Justice Ministry about a certain special committee report that needs to be taken seriously.
“In the letter dated October 3, 2018, and addressed to Minister of Justice Cllr. Musa Dean, EFFL requested full implementation of the report on corruption, which found many guilty, including Kollie and others from the finance ministry, for opening and operating special accounts for the payments of domestic debts without using the government consolidated account,” Moibah said.
According to the report, Dr. Kollie and the Finance Department of the MFDP paid millions of United Stated Dollars to unknown businesses, including US$500,000 allegedly diverted to personal accounts, though noting that it was paid to the owner of the land where the Nancy Doe Market is situated in Sinkor.
“The Marshall family didn’t receive the US$500,000, but was paid to unknown individuals and said payment was sanctioned by Dr. Kollie who was then serving as acting minister. We are concerned about this report and encourage this court to prosecute all those individuals mentioned in the report and that they are made to repay said funds that were allegedly stolen,” the release said.
Those at the center of the scandal were Dr. Kollie, Robert S.K. Doe, Jeremiah Jargbo, Abubarka M.S. Kiawu and Madison C. Kelgbeh. Some of those indicted are reportedly serving top positions in the Weah Administration.
“We are informed that Jeremiah Jargbo is within the employ of Liberia Revenue Authority and Madison C. Kelgbeh is employed at the Ministry of Finance, while Mr. S.K Doe’s and Kiawu’s locations remained unknown.
However, nothing has been done concerning this report, and it is part of the many reasons while the EFFL has called for the forensic audit of the past government.
Dr. Kollie was involved in another financial scandal— the Private Sector Development Initiative (PSDI). A project established in 2014 at MFDP to provide loans to Liberian-owned Small and Medium Size Enterprises (SMEs), the initiative was diverted by a few top officials, including Kollie, who was the principal administrator of the program.The loan was meant to financially strengthen Liberian-owned businesses.