Finance Minister Amara Konneh on Friday denied any link to tapes that for some time now have been intermittently (from time to time) released, and might continue to be let loose by Madam Ellen Corkrum, former Managing Director of the Liberia Airport Authority (LAA).
“I have nothing to do with the tapes she is playing,” he told hundreds of students of the African Episcopal Methodist University (AMEU) in Monrovia on Friday.
Minister Konneh said that Madam Corkrum came to Liberia to steal the Liberian people’s money.
“She is a common criminal,” Finance Minister Amara Konneh declared, clearly defending himself against suggestions within government circles, that he was behind the secret recordings that have been released by Madam Corkrum and widely played in Monrovia.
He told the students that Corkrum had failed to lure him into her web after several futile attempts by her, to get his approval.
He boasted that the thief, Corkrum, could not buy him because he is not a poor man.
“I worked for one of the biggest companies in the US for 10 years. I was living as a middle-class person in America while I was there,” he said. “So, Corkrum has nothing to boast of over me. I see her as a rogue (thief) that came to steal from the poor people of Liberia who are suffering,” Konneh asserted.
“My duty as Minister of Finance is to protect government’s revenue and to ensure that it is used for the purposes intended,” Mr. Konneh went on.
“It had occurred to me that she wanted to steal the US$10 million I had allocated in the fiscal budget and had advocated for at the legislature, to repair the runway of the Roberts International Airport (RIA). How I got to know this? Because this rogue, (Corkrum) hired the services of a fake company called Diaspora Consultants asking the government to pay the US$10 million to it to repair the runway.
"But when the Public Procurement & Concession Commission (PPCC) went to check on this company in the US, the PPCC discovered that the company was not in existence,” he explained.
Minister Konneh explained that after Corkrum failed to get PPCC’s approval for the US$10 million contract, she later turned to the Ministry of Finance,\ but was unsuccessful due to the Public Financial Management (PFM) Law and the gatekeepers at the Ministry (including Deputy Budget Minister Mr. Sebastian Muah) and those from the Expenditure Department of the Ministry.
He told the students that after all of her failed attempts, Corkrum finally turned to the LAA’s account at the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI) and First International Bank, where she was an official signatory to the LAA’s accounts, to steal the Liberian people’s money.
'She Came With An Agenda'
The Liberian treasury boss disclosed that Corkrum was brought to Liberia to manage the RIA at the time when she had no knowledge of managing an airport.
“I don’t want to know how she was employed and who employed her. But I saw her and I observed that she was a thief.”
Konneh disclosed that it was he who wrote President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf questioning the veracity and credibility of the Diaspora Consultants and Engineering, the company that was brought to Liberia on the recommendation of Ms. Corkrum and called for her removal as Managing Director of the LAA.
Minister Konneh then challenged Corkrum to play the conversation between him (Konneh) and her (Corkrum).
“If she is sure that she is corruption-free, let her come back to Liberia or play the conversation between her and me. This woman left the LAA indebted to the tune of US$700,000 — which I had to help to rescue.”
The corruption saga involving Ellen Corkrum came full circle in August with the government of Liberia unsealing her indictment along with that of others, including the board chair of the LAA, Musa Bility, the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI), Diaspora Consultants, First International Bank Liberia Limited, Corkrum’s boyfriend Melvin Johnson and many others.
Finance Minister Amara M. Konneh has publicly described fugitive Madam Ellen Corkrum as “a common criminal.” Madam Corkrum, a U.S. citizen and a pilot who served in the American military, is indicted for corruption along with a number of Liberian government officials. She is accused by the Liberian government of stealing hundreds of thousands of US dollars from the coffers of the Liberia Airport Authority (LAA) while serving as its Managing Director.
The former US military pilot fled the country recently, allegedly aided by top Liberian security officials.
A series of voice recordings released by the fugitive LAA Managing Director has, so far, linked two top security-officials including Defense Minister Brownie J. Samukai and Police Director Chris Massaquoi.
These officials are widely considered as confidants of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. But the crux of the matter is that Madam Ellen Corkrum, a US citizen, succeeded in getting her hands on the Liberian people’s money, fled to the US and has so far gotten away with it.
(with assistance from Keith Neville A. Best)