The government has accused several current and past leadership of the Liberia Marketing Association (LMA) of misapplying US$89,938.27 and L$98,392,742.37.
The allegation came just a month after the Supreme Court upheld a verdict from the Civil Law Court declaring as unconstitutional Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor’s suspension of LMA officers.
VP Taylor through the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), had indicted the officers, including LMA embattled President Alice Yeebahn, claiming that her leadership defrauded the government of US$89,938.27 and L$98,392,742.37, ranging from 2016 up to and including 2018.
Others implicated are Faustina Ricks, general manager, Lusu Sloan, former president and chair of the entity’s election commission, Jones P. Gibson, general manager, and James K. Gbelee, deputy manager for administration, Foday Kamara, comptroller, Socrate Jlah, comptroller and Jerry V. Geeded, interim chairman.
The accused persons are charged with multiple crimes that include economic sabotage, theft of property and criminal conspiracy. Those charges, according to the government, resulted from an audit conducted by the General Auditing Commission (GAC).
The GAC’s audit claims that the defendants made payment for various transaction without documentations, such as payment vouchers, cash invoices and other financial records to substantial the validity of these transaction.
The defendants have all filed a criminal appearance bond before Criminal Court ‘C” at the Temple of Justice in Monrovia.
It can be recalled that the Supreme Court, speaking through Associate Justice Yussif Kaba, said that VP Taylor had breached the 2010 Act of the LMA by unilaterally suspending three of its elected officers, Madam Alice Yeebahn, LMA president, Abraham Barchue, vice president, and Larwuo Hiama, assistant security general.
“Nowhere in these governing instruments is there a provision for Vice President Taylor, being a part of the structure of the LMA, it suffices to say that a budget law is an appropriation, “Justice Kaba (left) explained.
Justice Kaba said appropriation of subsidy for the LMA under the office of VP Taylor in no way confers authority on her to impose sanctions and take judicial decisions as she did with the unilateral action to suspend the elected officers.
It can be recalled that VP Taylor had argued that the 2010 Act establishing the LMA as a public corporate entity and that since its inception, it has operated under the supervision of the executive branch, with budgetary appropriations placed under her office as vice president. And so she has every legal right to suspend three of the elected officers, which include Madam Alice Yeebahn, LMA president, Abraham Barchue, vice president, and Larwuo Hiama, assistant security general, on accusation of financial malpractice.
Taylor also cited that because her office has oversight responsibility over the LMA, about which she had received several complaints from a cross section of marketers, she saw a need to suspend the elected officers.
VP Taylor had also accused the leadership of financial mismanagement and administrative malpractices, arguing that she was within the pale of the law to have ordered the suspension of the elected officers pending the outcome of the audit by the General Auditing Commission (GAC).
VP Taylor said because the LMA is placed under the Vice President’s budget, she was justified in her decision to suspend and order an audit of the suspended officers’ stewardship of the LMA.
The decision to suspend the officers is aimed at ensuring peace, transparency and accountability within the LMA and also to prevent events inimical to national peace and security,” the vice president said.
In response to that contention, Kaba said protests by aggrieved LMA members in several places did not warrant VP Taylor to flout the Act, by-laws and Constitution governing the management or administration of the LMA, as well as the sacred law of the land.
“It is the opinion of this court that the proper course of action available to the aggrieved members of the LMA would have been to utilize the governing instrument, including relevant laws extant in this jurisdiction,” Justice Kaba indicated, adding that, “The trial court did not err when it ruled and ordered the reinstatement of the suspended officers with immediate effect.”