Monday, April 16, 2012

Whistle-Blower Whistle Sounds L$700M Libel

The Management of the Movement in Defense of the Downtrodden (MDD) is currently facing a L$700M libel lawsuit filed against it by the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) for tarnishing the reputation of the institutions over transactions surrounding the completion of the “New Central Bank” office building on Ashmun Street. The MDD (defendant) is being represented by its Executive Director, Alfred G. Togbah, sr., Board of Directors and Officers while the CBL is being represented by its Executive Governor, J. Jones Mills, Board of Directors and Officers. According to the Plaintiff’s Written Direction filed before the judge of the Sixth Judicial Circuit Civil Law Court of Montserrado County sitting in its December 2011 termed, the defendant, with malice and intend to tarnish and damage the good name and reputation of plaintiff issued a press statement which is libelous on its face. The press statement issued by the defendant provided four counts to the public through the media which, according to the plaintiff written direction, clearly imputes to the plaintiff criminal offences including theft, corruption and bribery. The defendant in its press statement alledged that plaintiff flagrantly abrogated the Public Procurement and Concession act of Liberia by not conducting a bid of preferment for a company that would complete the above mention building and that the present cost for the completion of the building has nearly trippled the initial amount estimated for the completion process. Furthermore the statement alledge that the company now selected for the completion of the building had earlier submitted a cost far less than the current cost but was bargained with the plaintiff to increase the cost in order have been awarded the contract and the CBL’s management benefits share of the bargain. The statement finally alledged that the CBL acted contrary to the Freedom of Information Act by refusing to release information or documents surrounding the project to it during MDD’s investigation. The plaintiff however denied hindering the MDD of information that they requested because it provided the organization with an office space at the bank’s facility were they could peruse all information on the project. When asked by the jurors in the case if he (Togbah) had a chance to view the documents relating to the project which his institution the MDD had taken the CBL to the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission and the media, defendant Togbah said when he requested fot the documents the CBL ushered him into a room of ‘voluminous documents’ that could take several months to complete. He said he could not go through the documents at the bank’s facility on grounds that investigation was not an event but a process that require time and two of fear of getting thirsty and asking for water from the CBL. The outcome from the case cannot be preempted but whatever it would be it may either encourage or discourage civil society organization like the Movement in Defence of the Downtrodden to challenge alledged graft/fraud in the country.

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