Time to Unite against Deception and Corruption in Gbarpolu County

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For years now, one of Liberia’s newly created counties, Gbarpolu, has been the scene of political drama, evidenced by the attempted sale of the two earth moving equipments purchased by two of the county’s administrative districts from their portion of the county development funds; the election of Senator Armah Z. Jallah as President Pro Temp of the Senate, which witnessed Gbarpolu County Senator Daniel Flomo Naatehn (of the same County) serving as campaign manager for Sen. Jallah’s opponent; the failure of Superintendent Armah Sarnor to file a response to a US$550,000 law suit against Gbarpolu County; the legal challenge filed by current Gbarpolu County Project Management Committee (PMC) Chairman Sam K. Zinnah against a company believed to be a bogus company in Gbarpolu County; and many more untold happenings.

It is unbelievable that a small county with such huge natural resources will be engulfed in endless political drama while unregulated, foreign miners are busy digging through mountains, rocks and forests in search of gold and diamond. Over the past years, millions of United States dollars’ worth of natural resources has been exported out of Gbarpolu while the County remains underdeveloped and ruined by poverty.

In the land of plenty resources, it appears that the future of the people of Gbarpolu County is bleak but when one looks at the faces of the people and search their hearts, you will find resilience, courage and great heroism. What the great people of Gbarpolu County need now more than ever before is leadership, motivation and direction. It was once observed by one of the county’s brightest minds, Professor Alaric Tokpah, that “a compelling obligation to work with the People of Gbarpolu County was needed”. In his observation, his aim was to secure support for electoral success in his favor in order to provide exemplary legislative service that would improve the quality and positively impact the functions of the Liberian Legislature. However, his quest was dashed by the exhibit of bad votes in Gbarpolu County.

In one of Professor Tokpah’s exit speeches, he overtly stated in a community meeting, “We do not have bad leaders in Gbarpolu County; what we have is a bad voting population. They vote against you before they even ask who you are or they vote for you before they even ask for your profile.” That statement may have sounded politically ugly but the people of Gbarpolu County are objectively digging into the analysis of Professor Tokpah whilst gearing up for the 2017 elections.

Elections and appointments in Gbarpolu have over the years been based purely on either political or business interest instead of competence. In the case of those “within, but working against,” many have not really understood the workings of their political tactics. They have not followed the formation of the players. As a result, their followers are still strongly convinced that their bosses are in their interest. Those following the formation and beginning to pen their own objective analyses are beginning to connect the puzzles that may later expose the aim behind the formation of the ongoing political games in Gbarpolu County.

Sometime in 2010, two yellow machines purchased by the people of Bokomu and Gou Nwolaila Districts were in the process of being covertly sold by a few of the sons from the two Districts. Unfortunately, then Internal Affairs Minister Harrison Kanwea aborted the deal and ordered the machines parked in the MIA compound in 72 hours. By then, the machines were already in the custody of then Unity Party Chairman Dr. Charles Clarke, who had already paid nearly US$6,000 to repair the two machines and made sure they were working properly before making the full payment to the sellers. When the deal backfired, Dr. Clarke withdrew and requested refund of his money. Afraid of being exposed, the county officials at the time (including the sons of the two districts) ran to the bank where they wrote a check for nearly US$6,000 from the county account to refund Dr. Clarke’s money. In 72 hours, as demanded by Minister Kanwea, the machines were parked in front of his office. That heat was on until the Superintendent, Sam Tarweh, was fired by President Sirleaf for another related fraud.

After the departure of Hon. Sam Tarweh, President Sirleaf nominated Hon. Allen Gbowee as Superintended of Gbarpolu County. Hon. Gbowee was confirmed by the Liberian Senate hoping that he would clean up what Hon. Tarweh left undone, but that expectation became a disappointment when Superintendent Gbowee (who hails from Bokomu District) joined business forces to fraudulently award a US$300,000 contract to a company believed to be co-owned by Gbarpolu County Senator Daniel Naatehn (who also hails from Gou Nwolaila District – one of the owners of the yellow machines in question) and Internal Affairs Deputy Minister for Administration Varney Sirleaf.

Hon. Gbowee ignored a ruling from the Public Procurement and Concessions Commission (PPCC) and moved ahead with a nullified contract. He authorized a payment totaling US$268, 875 to Renewal Liberia Limited in gross disregard and violation of the PPCC ruling thus denying Gbarpolu County the value of the money expended.

Superintendent Gbowee was seen by many as being used by Senator Naatehn and Minister Varney Sirleaf who kept their hands off and used the hands of Superintendent Gbowee against the policy of the administration he worked for. The departure of Superintendent Gbowee brought on board former Gbarpolu County Representative Armah M. Sarnor, who many thought would use the opportunity to rebrand himself to make a comeback to the capitol building. Hon. Sarnor, during the 52nd National Legislature, served as chairman of the House’s Committee on Judiciary before being narrowly defeated by CDC’s Alfred G. Koiwood during the 2011 elections.

Based on Hon. Sarnor’s legislative profile, many Gbarpolu citizens thought he was set to provide the best in terms of administration of the County Authority, but the performance of Hon. Sarnor for nearly two years now was recently described by some youth and officials of his office as “dismal.” One youth referred to him as “the lazytendent.”

During the recent August 2016 Gbarpolu County Council Sitting in Bopolu City, the current Project Management Committee (PMC) chairman Sam K. Zinnah reported that Superintendent Sarnor failed to file a response in a US$550,000 law suit against Gbarpolu County. He asked the Caucus and the delegates to find out from Superintendent Sarnor why he (Sarnor) did not respond to the law suit against the county, especially knowing the consequences for such inaction. Hon. Sarnor claimed he reported the case to his bosses at Internal Affairs but investigations have revealed that his claim is not true.

To save the county, PMC Chairman Sam K. Zinnah filed a response and counter sued Renewal Liberia Limited for US$1,268,875 in favor of Gbarpolu County. Since the inception of the case, it is reported that Superintendent Sarnor has never sided with Gbarpolu County in the entire court process but instead has been holding meetings with the Circuit Court Judge who is presiding over the case, the complainant, and his lawyer. According to sources following the case, PMC Chairman Sam Zinnah is reportedly battling the case all by himself.

A few weeks ago, Mr. Zinnah threatened to write President Sirleaf to report Superintendent Sarnor’s actions, but the brother-in-law of Superintendent Sarnor, former Gbarpolu County Superintendent William She, who is also a senior advisor to Superintendent Sarnor, swiftly intervened and convened a high level meeting at the office of Unity Party Vice Chairman on Governmental Affairs, Hon. Isaac Mannah.

The meeting, according to sources, was attended by high ranking officials of government and Gbarpolu County. During that meeting, sources revealed, the PMC Chairman presented a complete dossier detailing how Superintendent Armah Sarnor is covertly “working against from within.”

In two separate letters to the Gbarpolu County Legislative Caucus and the office of Superintendent Sarnor, Mr. Zinnah outlined the risk faced by Gbarpolu County if funds in the County’s accounts are not used to implement projects immediately.

Mr. Zinnah is also believed to have presented a dossier of communication to the office of Superintendent Sarnor, none of which has been responded to nor implemented. Disappointment was overt on the faces of officials attending the meeting. The meeting lasted for nearly two hours. Most of the narration was made by Mr. Zinnah, while officials attending the meeting sat quietly, attentively, and looked on with interest.

While Superintendent Sarnor is busy “working against from within,” Senator Daniel Flomo Naatehn is also busy “working against, from within.” During the 2014 special Senatorial election, Senator Naatehn resigned from Unity Party and joined the Alternative National Congress (ANC). He ran on the party’s (ANC) ticket and won as the Party’s only representative in the Senate. Of late, ANC Senator Naatehn has been holding a series of meetings with people in the Gbarma District area with the aim of convincing them to support Unity Party’s candidate Joseph Boakai during the 2017 elections.

On October 29, 2016, Senator Naatehn held a meeting in Vaye Town, Gbarma District, Gbarpolu County, where he reportedly asked citizens to support Joseph Boakai. According to sources that attended the meeting in Vaye Town, Senator Naatehn was asked by many people about his loyalty to ANC but as predictably, the Senator gave his usual funny political excuses.

The deceptive political tactics in Gbarpolu must be exposed. It is to the detriment of the peace loving people of Gbarpolu County that these officials continue to exploit the poverty stricken people of this mineral rich County. It is time to unite against deception and corruption.

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