By Alvin Worzi and Hannah N. Geterminah
The Supreme of Liberia has ordered the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) to unconditionally reinstate Mohammed B. Fahnbulleh, Executive Director of the commission ahead of a scheduled conference. In recent days, the integrity institution now headed by Cllr. Kanio Bai Gbala as Acting Chair, relieved Mr. Fahnbulleh following bitter exchanges between the two.
Mr. Fahnbulleh had earlier flagged out a conflict of interest in Cllr. Gbala’s appointment at the LACC was causing where he (Gbala) was alleged to have been receiving two salaries from two different institutions; the LACC and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
Fahnbulleh, in an earlier conversation with the Daily Observer, admitted to criticizing Gbala. He added that, at the time, he observed strange men visiting the vicinity of his home, which led him to issue the threat that it will turn into a family war between Gbala and the Fahnbulleh families if Cllr. Gbala make an attempt to harm him.
“You are hereby ordered to stay all further proceeding or action and return to status quo, [that is] to reinstate Mohammed B. Fanbulleh pending the outcome of the conference,” Associate Justice Joseph N. Nagbe communicated on Thursday, March 18, 2021.
It can be recalled that on Friday, March 5, 2021, the acting chairperson of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission, Cllr. Kanio Bai Gbala, dismissed Director Fahnbulleh.
Justice Nagbe has also cited Cllr. Gbala and Director Fahnbulleh for a conference on Wednesday, March 24, 2021, at his Temple of Justice Office.
Part Eight Section 8.2 of the LACC Act of 2008 states that “The Chairperson shall for the purpose of carrying out the functions of his or her office, have the power to act, contract, and sign instruments and documents for the commission and may, with approval of the other commissioners acting as a body, delete such power to other officers.”
Mr. Fahnbulleh, through his petition, maintained that Cllr. Gbala does not have the power to dismiss him according to the LACC’s Act of 2008 singlehandedly. Currently, the LACC has only two commissioners and awaiting appointments of others by the President.
Mr. Fahnbulleh said following the resignation and subsequent departure of the then Executive Chairperson, Cllr. A. Ndubuisi Nwabudike, the Vice-Chairperson, Cllr. Kanio Bai Gbala in an attempt to silence Director Fahnbulleh and destroy materials of evidence of his wrongdoing, singlehandedly dismissed him in violation of part seven section 7.1 (d) which states “all powers of the commission are vested in the five commissioners provided for in this act, all acting as a body.”
To select and remove Executive Director and other senior officials of the commission pursuant to the provision of this Act, Cllr. Gbala contrary to the Act directed the Human Resource officer, Wade Neuville, and program manager Janet Sonpon Sarsih, to terminate Director Fahnbulleh’s employment.
However, this action by the HR Officer and the Program Manager is contrary to the provision of the Act that establishes the LACC.
Director Fahnbulleh’s dismissal letter, copy of which is in possession of the Daily Observer said, “We write to inform you that your contract is terminated effective today, Friday, March 5, 2021.”
According to the letter, the termination stems from the fact that a review of the Board of Commissioners’ minutes concerning contract renewal reveals the lack of a full resolution consistent with the hiring of all senior staff of the LACC provided for by section 7.1 (d) of the LACC Act.
“You are hereby advised to vacate your assigned office effective upon receipt of this note and to promptly turn over assets of the LACC within your possession to the LACC’s Assets manager by Monday, March 8, 2021,” the dismissal letter addressed to Fuhnbulleh said.
Recently, the acting Executive Chairperson of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) dispelled public statements and perceptions that the institution is in crisis and showing signs of weakness.
At a news conference in Monrovia, Cllr. Gbala said the LACC is alive and well, and all functions of the commission are effectively moving forward in accordance with the laws of its establishment.
“The LACC is alive and well. In the past few days, there has been a lot of uproar in the media alleging that the commission is unstable and that there are internal fights. The actions of these people to deliberately place these allegations in the media are designed to thwart the meaningful progress being made at the commission,” he said. The LACC is one of Liberia’s integrity institutions, if not the nucleus, clothed with the responsibility to trace, identify and send to court corrupt individuals with the mindset to squander state resources.
Grand Gedeh Bar Association Requests for Investigation of Gbala
Following controversy over Cllr. Kanio Gbala, acting Chairperson of the Liberia Anti-corruption Commission (LACC) alleged involvement with series of financial improprieties that warrant his dismissal as per the Act that established the institution, the Grand Gedeh Bar Association (GGBA) has joined the call for speedily investigation as a means of protecting the integrity of the Anti-graft institution.
Since Cllr. Gbala took over as chairperson of LACC, there have been allegations of inefficiency and financial improprieties, and conflict of interest surrounding his status with the UNDP and the LACC itself.
GGBA in a press release issued on March 18, 2021, reminds LACC that delaying investigations into internal allegations of corruption against its Vice-Chairperson, now acting Executive Chairperson, Cllr. Gbala, further bruised the anti-graft institution that has long struggled to win public confidence.
The Bar, of which Gbala is Vice President, advised the commission to heed calls for a probe and make findings public as a clean start after the gloomy era of Cllr A. Ndubusi Nwabudike who resigned recently under public pressure.
According to GGBA’s statement, The Commission could not rightly move forward pursuing wide ranging prosecutorial power to address public sector and related corruption without the commission dealing with its own internal allegations of corruption.
“The Bar is concerned not only that the allegations made by LACC Executive Director, Mohammed E. Fahnbulleh further tainted the image of the LACC, and potentially undermined its standing to fight corruption, but the reputation of Cllr. Gbala who is also Vice President of the Grand Gedeh Bar,” the statement said.
The statement said the outcome of an impartial probe would serve a valuable purpose to establish whether Cllr. Gbala was wanting or whether Atty. Fahnbulleh was engaged in a libelous campaign to undermine the prospect of Cllr Gbala taking over the LACC as Executive Chairperson proper.