Friday, June 29, 2012

Undeclared Asset to Trigger Presidential Wrath

Attorney Isaac A. Jackson, Deputy Minister for Public Affairs at the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism (MICAT), last Thursday, June 28, 2012 cautioned officials of the Liberian government about the level of seriousness attached to asset declaration by the President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. He told journalists at the MICAT press briefing that the declaration of asset by public officials is essential in the fight against corruption which have menaced the Liberian society for a long period of time. Declaration of assets as the Minister puts is a policy of government that must be adhered to by all those serving the interest of the Liberian people. Atty. Jackson said there are letters being sent out from the offices of the President to several individuals holding public offices who are yet to declare their assets stating that non-compliance will not be taken lightly. Though the minister did not say what actions the President plan to take against individuals that may choose not the comply to the policy, when asked about actions that may result from non-compliance to the policy minister Jackson said the actions could be dismissal of the such individual.

Arms Trade Treaty to End Insurgency

New York will next month host a first of the kind conference on a potential multilateral treaty dubbed Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) which seeks to place regulations on the way conventional weapons are transfer from manufacturers to end-users around the world. The unregulated arms transfers between various borders have been regarded by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) as one factor that fuel insurgencies around the world. At least a ten-man delegation is expected to represent Liberia at the conference which starts on July 2-27, 2012 at the United Nations Headquarters, New York, USA. Prior to the conference that could bring hope of lasting peace to conflict regions in the world the Liberia National Commission on Small Arms (LiNCSA) in collaboration with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) yesterday held a one day briefing on the conference with media executive. During the briefing held at the National Museum of Liberia, Ambassador Conmany B. Wesseh, Chairman of LiNCSA, give background of how the treaty came to the attention of the United Nations. He said the document was put forward in 2003 by a group of Nobel Peace Laureates who had vested interest in the peace and security of the people of the world was first addressed in the UN assembly in December 2006 when resolution 61/89 was adopted. According to Chairman Wesseh, the ATT would ensure that no arms transfer is permitted to a region if there is a substantial risk that could destabilize that region. Also speaking at the briefing, Mr. S. Sando Wayne, Deputy Minister for International Cooperation and Economic Integration said the conference is more like a “rich against poor” because the treaty tends to hamper the livelihood of arms manufacturers. Minister Wayne said that the ATT is not intended to stop the manufacturing of weapons but rather to make the arms trade a legal one in which arms transfers can be checked from the manufacturer to a country which would procure military, security and police arms. He said that some countries have been involve in giving other countries weapons as gift, such transfer are also to be tracked by the ATT to ensure that such weapons are not use to cause terror in other parts of the world. Minister Wayne said that Liberia along with several other African countries at the last African Union (AU) conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, came up with a position that they would present to the UN in support of the ATT. Asked what argument the Liberian delegation would present to powerful countries involve in manufacturing and selling arms, minister Wayne said that the delegation would tell those countries to prefer investing in ‘Liberia’s abundant natural resources” other than arms that would take away the lives of innocent people. Speaking on behave of the Civil Society of Liberia, Mr. J. Kofa Torbor, Executive Director of Liberians United to Expose Hidden Weapons (LUEHW) said Liberians know all too well the dire consequences of the irresponsible and poorly regulated trade in arms. He recounted the 14 years civil conflict that plagued the country leaving about 500,000 people killed and a million more displaced internally and externally. Mr. Torbor said in the absence of the ATT, unregulated arms trade will continue to fuel conflicts that results into gross human rights abuses, violation of international humanitarian law, destabilization of countries and region thereby undermining sustainable development. The LUEHW Executive Director used the occasion to present to the Government of Liberia a global petition under the theme No More Arms for Atrocities- Time for a Bullet Proof Arms Trade Treaty. The petition called on the government of Liberia and other governments the world over to agree to the ATT at the conference in New York because same will protect human rights, lives and livelihood. The petition: “The world needs a strong Arms Trade Treaty that will prevent arms transfer if they are likely to contribute directly to serious human rights abuses, war crimes or poverty. The treaty must cover all conventional arms including ammunition. We call on the Liberian Government and every other government to secure the ATT that effectively prevents arms from fuelling such atrocities and abuses.”

MICAT Warns Media against Ethical Transgression

The Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism (MICAT) have cautioned media outlets in the republic to desist from what it called yellow journalism which malign the reputation of government officials and others residing in the country. According to officials of MICAT several newspaper have over a period of time been engage in carving out headlines which are maligning and a gross breach of the ethics of journalism. In an interview with journalists after the MICAT press briefing in which the concern was raised, Atty. Isaac Jackson, Deputy Minister for Public Affairs at MICAT, said media are ignoring their social responsibility by publishing articles that could tint Liberia recovered image. He made a reference to a National Chronicle Newspaper’s banner headline which termed the suspended Acting Monrovia municipal head, Madam Mary T. Broh, as “RUDE” and the headline the Corruption Watch Newspaper which stated that the Indian consulate was supporting gay activities in Liberia. Minister Jackson said that the Corruption Watch’s article was reported to the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) which promised to investigate the issue but the PUL is yet to inform the ministry about how far the investigation have gone. He called on media outlets engage publishing such maligning articles to desist from doing so because such would not earn for them the kind of readership that they sole desire. Minister Jackson: “What are those media houses trying to accomplish? Look at the National Chronicle’s June 25, 2012 headline. Is it the paper that is render judgments on Madam Broh? We need to rise above yellow journalism in Liberia.” The Deputy Minister for Public Affairs further called on the PUL to step up the work of the ethics and grievance committee to ensure that the media outlets does not go contrary to the norms of good journalism. Though the MICAT had a straight face on the issue which is likely to cause bad-blood between the government of Liberia and the media, Minister Jackson highlighted the fact that many other journalists are doing their best to uphold the ethics of the profession.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Millions Embezzled

GoL Dormant on “Big Cash” in Corruption Fight? The fight against corruption has been reiterated as one of the Unity Party led government focal priorities in reforming the dangling society left behind by the country’s rebellion that lasted for about fourteen years. Such commitment has been evident by the establishment of the General Auditing Commission (GAC) and the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) which has the statutory mandate in collaboration with the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to cause the prosecution of corruption cases on behave of the Republic of Liberia. The LACC have cause the trials of several government officials who were alleged to have been depriving the state of much needed resources since the commission was enacted by the 52nd National Legislature on August 28, 2008. Some of the cases that can be recalled are the 2009 economic sabotage trials of Mr. Albert T. Bropleh, former Director of Liberia Telecommunication Authority (LTA), as a result of a US$71,022.00 allegedly embezzled by him from state coffers based on an audit conducted by the GAC. Besides the trials of Mr. Bropleh, several other cases have been tried and in recent times the trials for economic sabotage charged against former Director of Police Beatrice Munah Sieh in the tone of US$199,800 have rang through the media. A motion in the case questioning the LACC power to prosecute without collaboration of the Justice led to a ruling which stated that “the commission is competent, potent and possesses the legal authority, right and power to prosecute a case about corruption.” But have the Sirleaf led Government, which vowed to combat corruption and have created agencies which have tried to tackle the widespread phenomena turn a disregarded huge sundry funds that were embezzled prior to its incumbency? Such question have drawn attention to corruption cases involving officials of the erstwhile National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL) who indictments have remain unheard at Criminal Court “C” since 2007 and 2009 respectively. One of such cases involve a theft of property charged against Mr. David N. Zarlee, who between the period of October 2003 and January 2006 raised and processed seventeen Ministry of Finance payment vouchers in various amount totaling US$804,125 that was never accounted for. The defendant according to indictment against him caused the government of Liberia paid to various vendors US$ 387,680 for goods and services that were never received by the Bureau of Budget where he served as Director during NTGL reign. Another case pending holds the charge of economic sabotage against four NTGL finance officials and a member of the National Transitional Legislative Assembly (NTLA) who was alleged to have embezzled state resources in the tone of US$3,651,486.40 and L$11,640,000 respectively between the period of October 2003 and January 2006. The former NTGL finance officials indicted are: Lusinee F. Kamara Minister of Finance, Tugbeh N. Doe Deputy Minister for Administration, Pyne Wallo Deputy Minister for Expenditure and Debt Management, Albert E. N. Quaye Chief of Anti-Fraud Unit and NTLA member Tapple E. Doe. According to the indictment standing against them, the defendants connive, conspire and collude with each other to and additionally used others namely: Roterta Francis and Christiana Cummings in their scheme to and steal the sundry sum from the Government of Liberia. All of the above mention individuals have been indicted by the grand jury of Montserrado since the time of their indictment (2007 and 2009) are said to be roaming society on bail bonds while the state has been struggling to have most of its programs implemented. Why have the LACC and/or the Ministry of Justice not caused the prosecution of the individuals so as to recover some of the funds that could supplement the national budget for the betterment of the state? A synopsis that could answer the question goes back to the former Director of Police, Madam Sieh case; on September 30, 2011, the MoJ issued a clearance certificate which stated that the ministry had conducted an investigation into the allegation against the defendants but did not gather sufficient evidence to proceed with the prosecution of the matter.

Friday, June 15, 2012

LACC Empowered to Prosecute

The Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission’s (LACC) power to prosecute corruption cases was yesterday unveiled by Judge Yussif D. Kaba, at Criminal Court “C” when he handed down a ruling on a motion growing out to the lawsuit involving former Director of Police Beatrice Munah Sieh Browne and others. Madam Sieh Browne, Col. Harris Manneh Dunn, former Deputy Commissioner for Administration, Prince O.A. Akinremi Proprietor of Ultimate Investment & Holding Company, Kaymah N. Zeon and Nebo Garlo, former physical auditors of the Ministry of Finance were all indicted by the Grand Jury of Montserrado County for economic sabotage, theft of property criminal facilitation and criminal conspiracy. According to the indictment, during the period of October 2008 the above defendants in total violation of the statutory laws of Liberia made and provided with criminal and wicked intent to deprive the Government of Liberia of US$199,800 through the Liberia National Police (LNP). The indictment states that the defendants carry on the act “knowingly, feloniously, purposely, criminally, maliciously willfully and intentionally. LACC’s allegation against the defendants stated that the Government of Liberia was made to pay for LNP uniforms which the police issue the delivery note confirming the receipt of the uniforms when they were neither delivered nor supplied to the Emergency Response Unit (ERU). The complaint was filed to the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) for the individuals involve to be prosecuted under the laws of Liberia to set deterrent against such act. On September 30, 2011, the MoJ issued a clearance certificate which stated that the ministry had conducted an investigation into the allegation against the defendants but did not gather sufficient evidence to proceed with the prosecution of the matter. The certificate: “this document therefore serves as a clearance, absolving Mr. Prince O. A. Akinremi and Ultimate Investment and Holding Company, Madam Beatrice Muna Sieh Browne, Col. Harris Dunn and Ms. Martha B. Sonpon, Chief of Logistics LNP, from the charges, as the Ministry of Justices has concluded that it cannot win the case with the evidence available…” The LACC not being satisfied with the position adopted by the MoJ one year later filed an application to the First Judicial Circuit, Criminal Assizes “A” presided over by his Honor James W. Zotaa praying said court to permit it to enter the room of deliberations of the Grand Inquest. The purpose was to pray for a presentment growing out to the report which was submitted the MOJ and against which the said ministry issued clearances to the defendants; out of those prayers came the indictment of economic sabotage, theft of property criminal facilitation and criminal conspiracy. However, the defendants thru their legal counsels on June 1, 2012 filed in a motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed by the LACC due to the lack of capacity by the commission to sue. According to the movants motion, under the law, the sole prosecuting arm of the Government of Liberia (GoL) is the MoJ. The movants said the statue establishing LACC named one function of the commission is the right to cause the prosecution of all cases on corruption is the manner provided in its acts in coordination with MOJ. They added that the LACC was informed and rather that augmenting the evidence and demonstrating that the evidence were acquired illegally, the commission proceeded to obtain the indictment in question and attempting to further prosecute the defendants which the motion regard as contrary to the law. The LACC thru their legal representation responded the movants were either deliberately mis-interpreting the law or the movants lacks appreciation of the law. Though the respondent agreed with the movant that the new executive law confer sole prosecutorial authority on the Ministry of Justice, it said the act establishing the LACC at section 15.1 withdrew the exclusive authority for the prosecution of corruption cases in this jurisdiction from the Ministry of justice. The respondent denied ever receiving any request from the ministry of justice for the augmentation of the evidence presented to the ministry or and information relative to any of the evidence submitted to the ministry as being obtained illegally. His Honor Kaba in his ruling said in addition that by the statute establishing the LACC and following the theory of recency of law, the court under the circumstances as exist in this matter the LACC is competent, is potent and possesses the legal authority, right and power to prosecute the case. Judge Kaba: By prosecution, it is the intent of the lawmakers that the same commences from the process of obtaining an indictment up to and including the final determination of this matter. Wherefore and in view of the foregoing, this court hereby denied the Moto to Dismiss and ordered this matter be proceeded with in keeping with the law.”

Critical Deployment

The Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) has deployed men to the country’s porous borders in defense of possible threats form reported non-state actors who have been operating around the borders with Ivory Coast. A report released by a group called Human Rights Watch accused the government of not doing enough to stop the recruitment of young Liberians who support the manpower of non-states actors who are determine to bring instability to both country as Information Minister Lewis G. Brown have said it. He also criticized the group’s report when he said the group did not check with authorities of both countries to understand the level of consultative agreement that have been reached in collaboration with the United Nations Missions in Liberia and Ivory Coast. Until recently, the Liberian borders with neighboring countries were manned by relatively few joint security personnel that worked to see that no illegal activities intended to cause insurgency in any country happen on an inch of Liberian soil. However, during the 2010 political stalemate which saw the Ivorian Ex-president Laurent Gbagbo ousted and President Alassane Ouatarra inaugurated there were reports of Liberians fighting on both sides of the front as fortune fighters. The Information Ministry has announced that the justice ministry was to turn over to the Ivorian authority individuals who were arrested for their alleged participation in the country’s anarchy, which cause more than 70,000 Ivorian to flee into Liberia as refugees, to be prosecuted. The Human Rights Watch report stated that the non-state actors operating between Liberia and Ivory Coast are focused on creating instability in the Ivory Coast, probably against the regime of the incumbent President Ouattara. But the ripple effect of rebel war cannot be ignored as same have been evident by the entrance of the defunct National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) into Liberia in the late 1989. Since the first rebellious shot was fired in the Liberian town of Boutuo along the borders with Ivory, Sierra Leone, Guinea and the Ivory Coast have known the atrocities associated with rebel movement. When the Liberian Civil Strife ended in 2003 the United Nations deploy 15,000 troops aside from civilian staffers to provide security to the country which is still nursing the burnt of the power struggle which plagued Liberia for more than 15 years. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in her address to a gathering at the 2012 commencement of the Massachusetts University Medical School on June 3 said her government inherited a wounded country with dysfunctional institutions. She listed low medical staff and insufficient health facilities as some of the wounds on Liberia and those situations arose from the war led by Ex-Warlord and President Charles G. Taylor. With the news of armed men just across or infiltrating the Liberia borders from Ivory Coast, the progress made over the last eight years towards stability in Liberia which have seen spectacles of development have being regarded by many Liberians as threatened. Some students studying political science at various universities in Liberia have begun to say that it is now time for the UN Security Council look at the situation with a more radical approach instead of watching Liberian and Ivorian troops go to hold the border line against those non-state actors. One of those students, Amadu Konneh of the University of Liberia, said that the situation could become as severe as 14 years ago when the systems that have been restored to some extend got damaged beyond repair. Student Konneh: “I understand that the AFL has been deployed at the bodies and the UN Missions here and in Ivory Coast have started are still supporting both Liberia and Ivory Coast. “I think what the UN should do now to stop the situation from going out of hand is to find whosoever is behind what could be an insurgency and acquire what is their interest and how could it be negotiated. By brother, we don’t want to run any more. I love my country and want to live here in peace not in another man’s country, including the US, as a refugee.”