Finance Ministry Clarifies Report of ‘Questionable US$180K Taylor-ERA Debt’

13
1124
Mr. Flomo: "Gov't is continuity, but we don't subscribe to false claims and reportage."

Authorities of the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) on Monday, December 17, 2018, refuted a story published by a local newspaper under the headline “Kickback Suspected in US$180K Taylor-Era Debt Paid to ‘Inactive’ New York Company” , According to the story Finance and Economic Planning Minister, Mr. Samuel Tweah approved a payment of US$182,000.00 (One Hundred Eighty-Two Thousand United States Dollars) to a purported US-based construction company. According to the FrontPageAfrica(FPA) newspaper,  the company has been inactive since 2003 shortly after the country emerged from civil war following Charles Taylor’s abdication and exile in Nigeria.

In the publication, FrontPageAfrica newspaper (FPA), said nearly all payment vouchers in its possession originated from the instruction from the Ministry of State headed by Minister McGill to the Ministry Finance. Rather strangely, the payment to the Rocktown company was done in Monrovia since, according to FPA, the company is no longer active in the State of New York. The story however did not say whether the payment was made to a local representative of the company, transferred to an identified account or whether it was a cheque encashed over the counter at the Central Bank.

It does appear however that the payment to this defunct company was made from the national claims budget over which the Finance Minister has exclusive authority as it is only he who can authorize payment from the budget on claims. It can be recalled that in 2014 during the tenure of Amara Konneh, the online newsmagazine The Perspective, published a story of a similar bogus payment of US$2,161,996.80 (2 million one hundred sixty-one thousand, nine hundred ninety-six dollars eighty cents) US dollars which was made to the Solid Rock Investment. And it was paid  on check# 40014882.

The check was drawn on A/C# 02-205-300001-62 from the claims budget. It was encashed over the counter at the CBL although there were in place at the time strict rules forbidding such over the counter transactions. According to a retired Ministry of Finance official, the budget on national claims during the past administration was a virtual slush fund for the Minister of Finance.

According to the official this latest FPA story bears close parallels to the 2014 Perspective story. But the latest FPA story also said, “Based on the loopholes, a senior administration official told FPA Sunday that the current government should have sought an appeal before agreeing to pay a dime.”

However, in its Monday’s clarification, Deputy Finance Minister for Economic Management, Augustus Flomo, said the story is “totally false and misleading, because there has been absolutely no payment made to Rocktown.”

Though he denied the story, Flomo admitted that the payment is still being processed through the Ministry’s internal system.

He said Domestic Debt Service flow goes through potential processes, claimant makes an official request to the Finance Minister about his/her claim; the Finance Minister then sends it down the stream (Deputy Minister and Assistant Minister), and then it arrives in the Debt Management Unit.

Mr. Flomo said the Debt Management Unit reviews the claim based upon the supporting document (2008 KPMG audit, External rental claim audit and court judgment), and recommend a decision for the Debt Management Committee. The Debt Management Committee consists of MFDP, Central Bank of Liberia, Ministries of Justice and States established by the Public Financial Management regulation.

In addition to the controls, he said, the Legal Department of the Ministry also provides legal opinion on all payments, including domestic debts to determine the legal basis for such payment.

“All of the claims within the period are taken to DMC, and a decision is made before making any payment. Unfortunately, the current government cannot take an appeal in a case that was adjudicated in 2016, and final judgment made thereto,” Flomo said.

He added, “according to our records, after the rendition of the judgment, no further action was taken by the then government to perfect the appeal. As such, the claim automatically became a legal debt of the government,” he said.

Minister Flomo continued, “to have made it appear that the current government is not responsible, and did not take the necessary due diligence in effecting the payment process, “is not only preposterous, but malicious as government is continuity.”

“And because government is continuity, this government is under legal obligation to honor legitimate debts once she has the financial capacity to do so as such payments would not only improve the individual businesses, but the general well-being of the economy,” Mr. Flomo noted. In view of this clarification by the Minister there are lingering questions why debts owed to the media continue to go unpaid even though they are also legitimate debts.

13 COMMENTS

  1. A wise person once said, “Time is running out on the fiscal policies which were initiated when our national debt was a small fraction of what it is today and which may have been expedient during the war but in present circumstances involve dangers so great as to demand that no further compromise with sound fiscal practice be tolerated.”

    There might be a good reason why President Sirleaf’s Administration did not honor this outstanding debt! Is it due to the fact that this debt, which purportedly originated from a now defunct creditor, Rocktown Tool & Equipment Corporation, in the state of New York in the United States and the Charles Taylor Government has passed the statute of limitation for any legal court proceedings?

    Yes indeed, a government is a continuum even in the advent of a new administration. However, this creditor knows very well it would have been illegal to pursue this old debt collection within the New York court’s jurisdiction for Judgment. Such old debt has already passed the 6 years statute of limitation required in the State of New York. That does not mean that the debt is totally forgiven…it is just not permissible in court due to the statute of limitation.

    However, I am not aware if there is any debt collection statute of limitation on the books in Liberia. This is something an experience debt collection lawyer in Liberia needs to look into because the commercial court in Liberia erred in adjudicating an old debt collection originating from a private business in the city of New York in which the debt is legally considered to be “time-barred debts” which simply means debts that are too old for creditors and debt collectors to sue you for.

    Nevertheless, FPA did uncover a pending government financial transaction that would have gone under the radar….without the general public knowing anything about….despite the inaccuracies in the finger pointing.

    May I leave my young Liberian compatriots with these words of wisdom. “Blessed are the young, for they shall inherit the national debt.”

  2. There is reason why the Liberian Government won’t pay its debt to the media, but would gladly pay its debt to a defunct company: KICKBACK! Liberian government officials are well known back scratchers (you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours). They take kickbacks to pass budget. They take kickback to enact laws. They take kickback to confirm presidential appointees. They take kickback to ratify concession agreements! They take kickback to pay outstanding debts…You get the picture?? These people are born rogues!

    If the people in the media want their debts paid, they need to start scratching backs!

  3. Liberia should have been a developed country by now. But because there are so many thieves masquerading as good civilian employees, national development on all fronts has been hampered. The main concern is this….what’s going to happen to the civilian thieves who have been involved in this heist? In other words, what constitutes a good punishment for them? Retrieve all stolen money? Lock them up for life?

    My personal observation:
    All kinds of negative things happen if the leadership (usually the government of a country) is weak.

  4. The question, then, becomes, why didn’t FPA reporters seek this “clarification” before publishing the story; and what prompted its Managing Editor to go on a video talkshow, based on the unsubstantiated version, and event which he ended tellingly with “the Liberian people must do something…” Apparently, in an unhinged pursuit of sensationalism, Mr. Rodney Sieh has an itch for fanning unverified allegations. It is about hurriedly getting whatever he cconsiders newsy out there to go viral.

    For example, although Hot Pepper newspaper initiated the L$16 billion phantom container story, he was like a parrot on the phone with BBC. This tendency of running with unsupported stories was repeated during the Monrovia District 13 by-election’s fracas. Without regard for verification to ensure accuracy of reporting, FPA went with the one-sided version of LPP Candidate Kruah-Togba who had claimed CDC militants stabbed and killed her female supporter. What made this it mind-bogging was the fact that LNP officers were on the scene and no attempt was made to ask them about that alleged fatality. The most ominous would be the direction of yesterday’s video talkshow in which Mr. Rodney Sieh participated. It left most viewers with no doubts that the purpose was more to mobilize public anger against government than hold alleged suspects accountable for assumed fraudulent acts. Of course, an observation buttressed by Mr. Sieh’s parting words, “the Liberian people must do something”; do what, jump in the streets to protest and disturb the peace because Mr Rodney Sieh and his backers would’ve preferred the people voted for their choice? Incidentally, when I posted a comment to the show yesterday asking why FPA never confirmed the accusation with Finance Minister Tweah, hordes of responders called me “stupid” for daring to question a newspaper, for heaven’s sake!

    (No one is suggesting here that Mr. Sieh should be declared a security risk and arrested for libel or whatever. Notwithstanding, it would be cowardly hypocritical to pretend that his unprofessional behaviors are welcomed comic relief as some of his partisan echo chambers on Facebook would have others believe. The Russians didn’t undermine US democracy by violent terrorism, it was achieved between 2014 and 2016 through misinformation and disinformation tactics, seemingly our famed ‘investigative’ journalist’s specialty).

    I have a borrowed copy of Bentram Spector’s insightful book entitled “Fighting Corruption In Developing Countries: Strategies and Analysis” and nowhere is street protests recommended as a panacea for corruption. The aping of US partisan Cable TV news ontop of historical adversarial relationship between the press and government is an inflammable mix waiting for a spark. A situation which isn’t helped by the subtle encouragement of an angry intelligentsia. Of course, the new government has a better chance of achieving its pro-poor agenda with capable policy implementers. But it won’t happen because of obstructions, intimidations, and relentless threats to stability which give investors a perception of an unstable investment destination.

    In sum, undeniably, independent and impartial professional media outlets are indispensable to our young democracy, which means that ethical guidelines are needed for the journalism environment as President Sirleaf correctly insisted while signing the Table Mountain Press Accords during her second term. Because anybody perching on top of some ivory tower or relaxed in the bowel of some mansion who believes that reckless rabble-rousing and street disturbances would go on swimmingly (like in France or the US where they’ve time-tested socio-economic and security systems in place), should get serious about public safety and stability. The last time madness slowly engulfed us, it was easy for the affluent to flee after stoking chaos by silence or action; next time, it might be so instantaneous that they won’t have time to find passports or pack bags. No scare tactics, indicators are overwhelming!

    • Mr. Sylvester Moses, Rodney Sieh is A ROGUE JOURNALIST foolishly believing his reckless “24/7/365” falsehoods, distortions, and inaccuracies, or unsubstantiated malicious defamatory publications against high profile officials of this government would reduce the popularity and abundance of political capital of this government, dullardrously fantasizing such would give his party the so called Cummings’ party some political advantage, or at least bring about some unconstitutional change of government – happenings which are no more acceptable, possible, nor applicable within ECOWAS or within the comity and community of nation.

      And frankly, this is another childish, reckless, and unscientific thought and mindset on the part of Rodney Sieh we find disappointingly bizarre and disgusting.

      I hope Minister McGill uses this lawsuit which I am confident shall teach Rodney Sieh a lesson that just how a journalist may not generally expected to applaud, a journalist is not expected to make defamatory attacks with actual malice, recklessness, or knowledge of falsity – generally what you have in your post supra, chronologized!!!

  5. You deny the claims made by FPA because according to you the monies have not been paid yet even though all legal/illegal approvals have been made yet you are mad because it writes a truthful story. Really? When will hungry ppl wake up and kick these thieves outta town?

  6. I just hope NAT McGill utilizes this opportunity to seek redress through the courts so that the ultimate rule of law takes its course and return some considerable amount of journalistic sanity which has been missing in the overall modus Vivendi of FPA and it’s rogue editor Rodney Sieh who seems to believe he is immune from those duties and responsibilities, or conditions, restrictions, and penalties, stipulated in the great Liberian Constitution, and prescribed within Liberia’s Statutory Laws, for the protection of national security, and the protection of the reputation of rights of others.

  7. Rodney Sieh isn’t by any stretch practicing “investigative journalism”, actually, many employees whether in government or state corporations would give out official documents or information to anyone who’s interested or ready to pay a pittance, or when they are angry about a slight. For instance, REACT was getting Executive Mansion’s documents because the father of a UL student-member of the tabloid was giving them to his daughter. Document security and classification seem alien concepts, and those who ostensibly are eye of government first ought to know what the heck they’re doing. Print and broadcast journalists can help, but deterring corruption is the job of a multiplicity of governmental organs, inter-departmental procedures, and a vigilant public. Mr. Rodney Sieh is inciting public disorder by taking advantage of a chaotic media space, and that’s serious in a fragile country.

  8. The story from FPA was never refuted in this piece. How can make payment to a company that is non-existent? Who are they making the payment to? Those irrational supporters of Weah continue to carry wrong messages across media groups.

  9. How can payment be made to a company that is no-existent? Who are they making the payment to?
    Liberia will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything. A Change Is Gonna Come One Day, “Ain’t no stopping us now, we on the move”.

  10. In my view, it is useless trying to convince someone about the appearance of something when the person is blind. Seriously! Those who waste time trying to tell some Liberians about the bad state of the country are hurting their heads because there are people who try to make it look like it is acceptable and normal. Leave the argument to the economic conditions of the day for they determine who is right or wrong. Today we are enjoying the first Christmas celebration under Pres. Weah. The same people who are even unable to feed themselves, lack employment experience, education, health and live in extreme poverty are the ones celebrating those who continue to rob them. These are not people worth arguing or fighting for. Thats my view, which I am entitled to.

Leave a Reply