However, the earnest effort of the LACC to clampdown the “vampire” is seeing some resistance and “pseudo attacks from those in the clutch of the anti-graft institution”, according to the Executive Assistant to the Executive Chairperson, Atty. Mohammed E. Fahnbulleh.
Recently, the People’s newspaper under the banner headline: “Verdiergate, Corruption Scandal Rocks LACC - Millions Unaccounted For” and in a series of other publications accused the LACC of illegally purchasing a vehicle (for US$80,000 and a US$12,000 check was written in the name of the Atty. Fahnbulleh to undertake a renovation project at the home of Chairman Verdier for security purposes.
Disappointingly, the newspaper did not mention how the “millions” were unaccounted for as depicted in the front page headline.
Speaking in an interview with the Capitol Times, Atty. Fahnbulleh said at no time did the LACC buy a vehicle for that amount of money. He clarified that the US$108,000 was used to purchase two Toyota hardtop jeeps for US$48,000 each. The two cars cost US$96,000. “The additional money was used to buy other safety accessories to protect the vehicle. These vehicles are being used by the Enforcement Division of the LACC to go after cases,” Atty. Fahnbulleh said.
The LACC Chairperson special aid said the allegations contained in the paper’s publications are not just untrue but a sheer show of unprofessionalism.
He said the voucher system at the anti-graft institution makes it more difficult for anyone including the Executive Chairperson to do things outside of the very law that they are fighting to ensure that people uphold.
On the allegation of buying a new car for Chairman Verdier, the Executive Assistant to the Executive Chairperson challenged their accusers to identify the “new car for the Chairman” in the LACC fleet of vehicles. “I want them to even go to the General Services Agency (GSA) to find out whether a vehicle as reported is in the name of LACC. In fact, the LACC official said the purchase of those vehicles was done through a competitive bidding process.
He stated that the vehicle Cllr. Verdier is using now was inherited from his predecessors. “It is not new,” he emphasized.
Atty. Fahnbulleh told this paper that the US$12,000 mentioned “in the tabloid came as a result of recommendations from the Executive Protection Service (EPS) that started to provide VIP protective services for the Executive Chairperson and four Commissioners following the mysterious death of the late Cllr. Michael Allison.
“The EPS expressed concern that the home of the LACC boss was vulnerable to security risks and recommended upgrading. The LACC Body of Commissioners endorsed the recommendation and the amount of $12,000 was advanced as imprest to increase security at the Executive Chairperson’s home and to handle other issues relating to intelligence gathering. These funds were fully liquidated and reported”, he added.
“A media professional who is interested in getting facts about happenings would do due diligence to come to the place where such violation is perceived to be committed to find out. Instead of doing so, all we see is sensational headlines with baseless allegations that have no iota of truth to be taken seriously,” he said.
For LACC Comptroller J. Bernard Nagbe, he sees the allegation as a cleaver attempt by corrupt individuals who have been investigated, indicted and perhaps being prosecuted by the LACC to divert the anti-graft institution’s attention from the threat their actions pose to the socio-economic advancement of the country.
In spite of the barrage of allegations against him, the LACC Chairperson remains unwavering in his quest to see corruption reduced considerably because he believes that corruption is a virus that retards development and contributes to poverty and human suffering.
He said the level of democracy the country enjoys now comes from the backdrop of understanding the issue of corruption, but education and prevention remain the best tools in fighting the menace as prevention is better than cure.
“We are not going to waste our time to run after these people who think that by using hired stooges will help them get away with their dishonesty,” Cllr. Verdier indicated.
The LACC boss maintained that the commission has a great task to perform to save the Liberian people from continued suffering and degradation.
The LACC is busy gathering pieces of evidence to prosecute some of the people listed for prosecution for alleged acts of corruption and mismanagement of public resources.
To date, the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission has probed allegations of bribery at the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) involving some lawmakers; corruption at the National Commission on Higher Education (NCHE); corruption involving the Ministry of Public works and Flashpoint, Incorporated; claims of corruption relating to the Japanese Oil Grant of 2011 between the governments of Japan and Liberia, with the complicity of Aminata and Son, Incorporated; forgery and deception involving DONKAN/MOF/MOD and the Senate; allegation of impropriety and violation of the Budget and Public Financial Management Law involving the Speaker of the House of Representatives and Representative Adolph Lawrence; and allegation of improprieties in the administration of the County Development Fund in Sinoe County.
The public is beginning to see these cases surface in courts gradually. The latest indictment of current and former government officials in the Japanese Oil Grant Case and the recent trial of two NPA officials for corruption seem to send a message that the LACC can no longer be perceived as a “toothless bulldog”.
Anti-Corruption Lapdog now Bulldog
As a result of the level professionalism at the LACC under the leadership of Law Professor, Cllr. James N. Verdier, on 8th January 2015, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Liberia ruled in favor of LACC/GOL and mandated the re-instatement of a unanimous Guilty Verdict against defendants Beatrice Munah Sieh Brown, former Inspector General of the Liberia National Police, Harris Mannah Dunn, former Deputy Director for Administration, Liberia National Police and Prince A.O Akerimi, Proprietor, Ultimate Investment & Holding Company for willfully, criminally and intentionally converting funds for the procurement of uniforms for the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) of the Liberia National Police into the own use; and 2. During the period under review, the LACC collaborated with the Ministry of Justice, to prosecute defendant Wesley S. Jlue, former Finance Officer of the National Drug Service, at the Criminal Court “C”. He was convicted for Theft of Property and Forgery. Defendant Jlue has taken an appeal to Supreme Court in exercise of defendant’s right to appeal as guaranteed under the law.
Additionally, the LACC and the Ministry of Justice collaborated and prosecuted Moses Wongbeh, former MD, FDA; John Kantor, former Technical Director; Janga Kamara, David Blayee and Maxwell Gwee, FDA for Economic Sabotage; Criminal Conspiracy; forgery; Counterfeiting; obtaining and issuing Deceptive written instruments. The Court ordered restitution in 6 million USD; fined each defendant 10 thousand United States dollars; and sentenced each defendant to 10 years imprisonment. An appeal was announced by the defendants.
Based on findings from investigations conducted, the below listed institutions were held liable for different wrong doings, and requested to restitute varying amount of funds into government coffers. The institutions include: Aminata and Son incorporated-restituted sixteen thousand USD ($16,000 ) from the implementation of the Japanese Oil Grant; 2. International Bank Liberia Limited – restituted LRD$ 80, 572.00 for payment of unauthorized GoL Civil Servant cheques; Liberia Bank for Development and Investment, restituted LRD$84,668.88. Other institutions expected to restitute funds include: First International Bank Limited, requested to restitute seventeen thousand, four hundred and twenty Liberian Dollars(LRD$17, 420.00) for payment of authorized GoL Civil Servants payroll checks; Ecobank Liberia Limited, requested to restitute LRD$448,249.02 for payment of authorized GoL Civil Servants payroll checks; and Central Bank of Liberia, requested to restitute LRD$4,955,402.09 for payment of authorized GoL Civil Servants payroll checks.