Several high profile individuals, including the Minister of Foreign Affairs Gbehzohngar Findley, Dr. Nathaniel Barnes and Morris Dukuly, former chair and vice chair of the National Port Authority (NPA), respectively, and Cllr. Augustine Toe, vice chair of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), are among a list of defense witnesses proffered in the ongoing trial of former NPA managing director Matilda Parker and her Comptroller, Christina Paelay.
Parker and Paelay are currently being tried at the Criminal Court ‘C’ in Monrovia, based on the 2015 investigative report of the LACC that claimed the female pair awarded contracts without the approval of the Public Procurement and Concession Commissions (PPCC) on behalf of the NPA for wreck removal projects at the ports of Monrovia, Buchanan, and Greenville.
The government also claimed that the contract was awarded to a company called “Denmar Enterprise,” which was charged under the contract with the responsibility of providing security consultancy services in the amount of over US$800,000, of which they alleged Parker made fraudulent payments to co-defendant Deneah M. Flomo, owner of Denmar Enterprise who did not perform the task.
If Minister Findley will appear, his testimony will be about his relationship with Flomo, who is widely believed to be his half brother and owner of Denmar Enterprise.
Cllr. Toe will give knowledge about being the brother-in-law to Flomo. It can be recalled that Toe’s alleged action of not recusing himself when the matter was investigated by the LACC, is, according to law, considered as “conflict of interest.”
As for Barnes, who was then chair on the NPA’s Board, he will provide information about his alleged role during the first project in which he signed the contract and the check to pay for the work.
Barnes will also explain whether he actually signed the Recognized Security Organization (RSO) and Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the commencement of the projects.
Dukuly, the vice-chair, will provide an explanation about his alleged approval of the contacts and the payment. Dukuly will also explain about his alleged approval and the appearance of his signature on the wreck removal and the MoU.
The LACC’s report recommended for Barnes and Dukuly to be held liable for violating several provisions of the PPCC Law due to their failure to publish a notification of intent to award the contract.
“The award of the security consultancy contract gave credence to Denmar Enterprises, and thereby presented it a RSO and, as such, it was recommended to the International Ship and Ports Security (ISPS) Department to be responsible for making decisions regarding safety and security managements at the seaports of Monrovia, Buchanan, and Greenville. The company was to also conduct Port facility security assessment and the wreck removal projects in consideration of the sum of over US$800,000,” the investigation alleged.
That recommendation was never accepted by former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
Prior to Parker’s suspension, she admitted that they did not follow provisions of the PPCC Law, “because then-President Sirleaf raised serious concerns over the lack of readiness of the Port of Greenville to allow vessels to dock, prompted by a letter from Madam Sirleaf and others who were driving forces behind the NPA Management’s violation of the PPCC Law.
Madam Sirleaf has also been named as one of Parker’s witnesses, but it is not clear if she will appear to testify about a letter that she wrote, instructing then Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, (the late) Dr. Edward B. McClain, for Parker to expedite the removal of sunken vessels and dredging of the Port of Greenville of which prosecution claims over US$800,000 was paid by Parker, though the work itself was never done.
Despite Parker’s contention that President Sirleaf wrote her to expedite the removal of sunken vessels and dredging of the Greenville Port of which she did not follow the PPCC Law, Madam Sirleaf then relied on the LACC’s findings and recommended her suspension and prosecution.
In her mandate in April 2015, President Sirleaf said, “I have suspended, with immediate effect, Mrs. Matilda W. Parker and Mrs. Christina K. Pealay as managing director and comptroller, respectively.”
It was based on that the Special Grand Jury for Montserrado County indicted Parker, Paelay, and Flomo with Economic Sabotage, theft of property and criminal conspiracy. The government dropped the charges against Flomo in exchange for his testimony.
Up to press time last night, the court had yet to confirm as to whether Minister Findley, Dr. Barnes, Mr. Dukuly and Cllr. Toe will be part of the first batch of witnesses to testify in defense of Parker and Paelay.
Initially, during the trial in 2016, government prosecutors suspended the case over allegations of jury tampering.
The case resumed in August, shortly after the Supreme Court mandated Judge Boima Kontoe to take over it when the court confirmed a judgment of then Chamber Justice, Jamesetta H. Wolokollie, who disbanded the entire jury panel and ordered the matter afresh.
The matter has since been suspended because of a request by the new Solicitor General Cllr. Daku Mulbah that he will not be representing any witnesses in the case.
Their argument was that most of their witnesses, including Flomo, had refused to show-up to testify for the second case. That contention was rejected by Parker’s lead lawyer, Arthur Johnson, who requested the court to ask the witnesses fresh questions if they were to personally appear and testify during the trial, based on what he described as “grave claims” against Parker and Paelay.
Though Judge Kontoe had listened to arguments from both sides, he has reserved ruling to a date. But if he rules against the prosecution, they will be required to ‘Nolle Prosequi’ (drop the charges against the defendants) or may likely provide some of the witnesses.
If Judge Kontoe rules against the defendants and allows the case to go forward, Madam Sirleaf, Findley, Barnes, Dukuly and Cllr. Toe will have the opportunity to provide their respective testimonies.