In his recent publications, Brown’s Hot Pepper claimed among a litany of allegations that Deputy Minister Dr. James F. Kollie had used private bank accounts to wire US$600,000 which amount was resent by the Federal Reserve.
According to a couple of financial and economic experts which this paper spoke with, it is inconceivable for a highly placed government official, especially someone of Dr Kollie’s stature, to wire such huge sums of money without paper trail. “The onus of such accusation rests with the paper to show evidence, then the law can take its course,” says Professor Tom Chie, a lecturer of Economics at two of the nation’s institutions of higher learning.
Regarding the issue raised by the paper that MFDP under the leadership of Amara Konneh and his lieutenants, including Dr. Kollie, failed to publicize any budget information, sources at the MFDP clarified that it was during the tenure of Amara Konneh’s administration that the Open Budget Initiative (OBI) was launched with support from the United States government.
According to documentary evidence, the OBI was launched January 23, 2013 at the premises of the Finance Ministry in Monrovia. The launch ceremony was marked by the inauguration of an electronic billboard located at the Ministry of Finance where ordinary citizens can now view the country’s public finances and see how monies from their taxes and contributions from the donor community are spent.
The first of its kind in the country’s long existence as Africa’s oldest republic, the OBI signals a major departure from norm, when national budget was a hush-hush issue to be discussed only in the corridors of power.
Highly placed sources at the Ministry say the rest of the Hot Pepper allegations are so preposterous they hardly demand response. Anyone familiar with the budget procedure, they say, would know that the Legislature regularly holds budget hearings with line ministries before passage of any fiscal budget.
“How is it possible for ministries and agencies of government not knowing what is contained in their respective budget lines, when it is the same Legislature that calls those ministries and agencies to defend their budget?” wonders one financial expert.
It can be recalled how the U.S. Embassy near Monrovia wrote the Hot Pepper newspaper cautioning them to stick to the tenets of journalism and eschew non-factual reportage after they published an article on August 3, 2015 accusing U.S. President Barack Obama of passing on to Nigerian President Buhari a list of corrupt African leaders, including President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
“Not a single journalist contacted the U.S. Embassy to check the veracity of this story or to ask us for comment. Our response would have been unequivocal. There is no factual basis for these stories. No such list was passed to President Buhari. There is no list for Liberia,” Ambassador Malac clarified in the letter to Hot Pepper’s managing editor, adding, the first tenet of journalism is to verify information.
“Please do so next time,” Ambassador Malac’s letter read.