A lot of names have since started to crop up, but prominent among possible candidates being whispered atop Capitol Hill, three individuals rank high on the Who’s Who list to make the grade for Liberia’s next Finance Minister.
John B.S. Davies
According to our very highly placed source at the citadel of power, John B.S. Davies, President and CEO of the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment, is on the top tier of the list, probably highly favored by the Liberian Chief Executive herself.As a matter of fact, the LBDI president is no stranger to the rollercoaster world of high finance, having once served as Accountant General of the Republic of Liberia from May of 2010 to January 2012. Before then Davies had served the Government of Liberia as Chief Accounting/Assistant Comptroller from 2000 to 2006. He also teaches at the University of Liberia, sits on the Board of a private University and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Center for Transparency (CENTAL). He holds a MAcc (Master of Accountancy) from Belmont University, Nashville, Tennessee, USA and a diploma in Public Financial Management from Duke University.
Under his watch at the LBDI, Liberian businesses have experienced growth in real terms through low interest rate loan stimulus packages; while low income earners have also been afforded opportunities to own their own homes in rural Montserrado County as a result of the innovative flagship US$10 million Mortgage Program.
Among those impressed with the performance of LBDI under Davies’ watch is Liberia’s former Finance Minister Professor Wilson Tarpeh, who feels strongly that the bank has withstood the test of the times and remains a symbol of Liberia’s success story.
With the exception of Davies’ court indictment and subsequent acquittal in the Ellen Corkrum $200,000 theft case wherein Ms. Corkrum transferred $200,000 from the bank’s account, whispers atop the Hill highly favor Davies as someone who could be trusted to steer the country’s financial ship towards and beyond 2017.
The former Senior Senator of Lofa County (2006 – 2014) is a highly experienced financial expert; and among the trio, his work experience gives him the edge over his competitors for the nation’s top financial post. Backed by a Master of Science Degree in Development Economics from the Friendship University of Moscow, Kupee has worked since 1999 with the Ministry of Finance, as Deputy Comptroller General; Commissioner, Bureau of Income Tax; and Commissioner of Customs and Excise. From 1996 to 1997 the former Lofa County lawmaker served as Deputy Governor of the defunct National Bank of Liberia.
After he lost his seat during the special Senatorial elections in December 2014, his appointment as the new Managing Director of the Liberia Petroleum Refinery Company caught many off guard, especially when the media had reported seeing staffers of the dethroned senator carting off office furniture and equipment from his Capitol Building office. Few weeks into his appointment as new head of the cash cow LPRC, it was also reportedly that Kupee’s houseboy stole huge sums of foreign currency from his residence.
Despite these mishaps, Kupee’s chance of heading the Finance Ministry seems like a deal sealed in a political Tupperware. Accordingly to our highly placed Capitol Hill source, Kupee’s appointment seems to be heavily favored by Vice President Joseph Boakai. Accordingly, Boakai needs the political leverage of appointing key public officials as a means of solidifying his support base within the cabinet, as well as ensuring the Legislature’s endorsement of his choice candidate for the top Finance post. As a former senator, Kupee, who knows his way around the Capitol Building, could most likely pass the Senate’s brown envelop litmus test with heavenly flying colors.
James F. Kollie, Jr.
The youthful, ebullient financial expert is the most academically qualified member of the trio. “Doc”, as James F. Kollie, Jr. is known widely, is the first Deputy Minister for Fiscal Affairs, Ministry of Finance and Development Planning. In fact, he was one of the prime architects of the MFDP reform processes that saw the merger of the functions of the Ministry of Planning and Economic Affairs and the Ministry of Finance into the new ministry.
Backed by a Doctorate degree from Walden University’s School of Public Policy and Administration (2010) and an MBA in Corporate Finance from the University of St. Thomas, Minneapolis (2004), Kollie has a strong fiscal policy background, having worked more than 10 years with private, non-private and public sector institutions, specifically in the areas of accounting and finance, policy analysis and program evaluation, with significant cross cultural background, special interest in development programs, poverty reduction strategy, and pro-poor policies, public sector financial management and budgeting; as well as public sector reform processes and grassroots democratic empowerment.
Devoid of any political machinations, the likeliest choice of a successor to the outgoing Finance Minister could be Kollie, given his vast experience in developing fiscal policy, managing the financial resources of Liberia, as well as overseeing and executing all issues relating to government accounting.
“Kollie’s expertise as an institution knowledge reservoir cannot be overlooked or sacrificed at the altar of political expediency,” says a highly placed member of the MFDP team.
Despite the huge pluses in his favor, Kollie’s undoing, even if appointed could be the Liberian Senate that could fight tooth and nail to upend his confirmation. The Senate and the Executive, through the Ministry of Finance Development Planning, have been locked in a bitter war of will over a letter that the Deputy Minister for Fiscal Affairs had written the honorable body requesting their endorsement of a possible reduction in their budgetary appropriation.
The war almost landed outgoing minister Amara Konneh in jail and left a rather sour taste in the mouths of the lawmakers and members of the Executive.