COC Row Rolls: Ellen’s Misstep? -Qualification Crisis Greets Ombudsman

By Lewis K. Glay/ 0886469835/lglay.inprofile@gmail.com.

 

“Massquoi was issuing UP batches and other campaign materials to people when he was Commissioner of the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization during campaign time for the 2011 elections.”

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, presumably wanting a close on the argument on the controversial ‘Code of Conduct’ now being made by the Supreme Court of Liberia as a law binding on Liberians, seems to have slipped in her judgment in naming appropriate team members of the office of the Ombudsman released on Monday, April 3, 2017.

Already, the wave of public criticisms over the appointments of members of the Ombudsman Team has compelled the President to rescind the nomination of Atty. Massa Jallabah due to her age limit which is said to be a qualification deficiency, coupled with her alleged inexperience to occupy such critical position that has very significant bearing on the pending 2017 elections.

It also appears that the wrong judgment of the President points to the appointment of the Chairperson of Ombudsman Team, former LNP Director Chris Clarence Massaquoi, who most recently was admitted into the Liberian Bar Association as Counselor of the Liberian Judicial System.

Critics have claimed that Cllr. Massaquoi is still inexperienced to handle judgments expected to arise from cases coming from complaints the Code of Conduct would prick against would-be violators.

Moreover, it is not only Massaquoi’s  alleged inexperience in the legal profession for such a delicate duty, but he has been branded as being ‘unreliable’ to pass fair judgment due to his link to Ellen Cockrum’s imbroglio  which  brought the Ellen-led administration into public dispute, coupled with his alleged bad ‘administrative practice’ at the Liberia National Police over the years.

In many political gatherings, Massaquoi is still known to be a staunch member of the ruling Unity Party whose Vice President Joseph N. Boakai is a strong contender for the presidency during the pending elections. As one observer noted, “Massquoi was issuing UP batches and other campaign materials to people when he was Commissioner of the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization during campaign time for the 2011 elections.”

Another member of the Ombudsman Team, Atty Edward Dillon, is not off the hook of suspicion as critics focus the make-up of the team by President Sirleaf. Dillon is linked to a close tie with Cllr. Charles Brumskine who is political leader of the Liberty Party, a party President Sirleaf is being alleged of supporting for the 2017 presidency, even though this is yet to be proven.

Atty. Dillon is also seen as having a strong connection with the Liberty Party on grounds that his brother- Darius Dillon is an influential partisan of the LP; however, it is not established  the kind of correlation  to justify such claim.

Accordingly, Section 5.1 of the contentious Code of Conduct termed as an act on political participation dictates that  “all presidential” appointees such as ministers and other public officials, including those in tenure positions desirous of contesting for elected offices must resign two and three years respectively prior to elections.”

As  it stands, three opposition political  parties- Liberty Party, Movement for Economic Empowerment and Alternative National Congress whose contenders are seemed to be in violation of the Code of Conduct are fiercely resisting the legality or lawfulness of COC to bar their would-be candidates  from participating in the pending elections.

However, opinions are divided over the Code of Conduct row, as there are some Liberians who support the enforcement of the law while others have argued that the law only targets certain potential would-be candidates in the elections.

Meantime, the wave of reactions from the public including that from the House of Representatives as quoted in the News Newspaper on Wednesday, April 5, 2017, following the release of the names of members of the Ombudsman office, appears to create deepened concerns as to how and when the legal fray would be laid to rest before the conduct of the pending elections.

 

‘Lies?’- As Counterfeit Reportedly Hits New Banknotes

Central Bank Governor Milton Weeks

“The counterfeit issue is difficult to easily control. What some of the BMs do is that they travel abroad where money printing machines are and print the money. When they are coming back they buy televisions and only use the frames to conceal the counterfeits and cross borders to enter the country… The government needs sophisticated detecting instruments at entry points across the country to hunt down those involved in such business.”

Reports are emerging that the much talked about new Liberian banknotes are falling prey to counterfeit, one of the major reasons which financial experts in the Unity Party-led government defended the printing of the current banknotes in various denominations for circulation.

Those in the know of printing the Liberian currency, when the now circulated banknotes were printed and released, were quoted as justifying that the action on the part of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) was meant to replace the mutilated banknotes of the country with hard code security feature new banknotes.

However, already, people in the business community are said to be experiencing counterfeited hundred dollar bill of the new banknotes, thus defeating the argument about the so-called hard code security feature of the currency which authorities in the regulatory banking sector have boasted of.

“The counterfeit issue is difficult to easily control. What some of the BMs do is that they travel abroad where money printing machines are and print the money. When they are coming back they buy televisions and only use the frames to conceal the counterfeits and cross borders to enter the country,” one source who begged not to be named claimed.

The source observed that people who undertake this risky venture are mostly in the private sector, but use their connections to engage into money laundering and counterfeiting, adding, “The government needs sophisticated detecting instruments at entry points across the country to hunt down those involved in such business.”

Before then, the previous Liberian banknotes which are still in circulation had suffered mutilation and the hundred dollar bill widely counterfeited and periodically, some of the unscrupulous individuals involved in counterfeiting the money were reportedly booked in the country.

However, the new banknotes entered circulation with acceptability problem; especially when they were printed in different looks with the inclusion of a five hundred bill which members of the 53rd National legislature raised qualm against, claiming that they did not authorize authorities of the CBL to print such denomination.

Unlike  the printing of the previous  banknotes  during the regime of  Charles Taylor, which replaced the two currencies  used during the civil war ( JJ and Liberty  banknotes) in a shortest specified period of time, there has not been any indication as to when  the new banknotes would  replace the old banknotes.

Since the new banknotes came into circulation late 2016 amidst public outcries and mounting criticisms, the disparity between the United States and Liberian dollars remains widened with corresponding consequences characterized by inflation.

Currently, prices of essential commodities including food stuffs, petroleum products and transportation fares are on the increase, while vendors decry payments government owes them for goods and services already delivered.

Early this year, the business community protested peacefully for days against the advancing US rate on the money market as well as the high tariff paid for goods imported into the country at the ports of entry, particularly the Freeport of Monrovia.

Consequently, there was very little impact due to the days of protest which took place when President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai were out of Liberia on official duties.

It is recalled that when President Sirleaf returned, she set up a committee to dialogue with the business community to disengage the protest and by the same token, the US rate dropped slightly, but as it stands, the rate has stepped up again.

It is no illusion that the  country is faced with economic uncertainty, which the government has blamed on the fall in the prices of iron ore, rubber and other commodities on the world market, squarely  termed as ‘ recession’ that is affecting  the global economy.

 

Chinese Envoy Puts Liberians On Taiwan Alert -As Elections Approach

By: Fredrick P. W. Gaye, Monrovia, China-Africa Press Center (CAPC) Fellow 2016

DCM LI Zhuang with Liberian journalists at the forum in Monrovia Friday (photo/Chinese Embassy)

 

Liberia’s 2017 presidential and general elections, expected to take place in October, are widely viewed as critical to the country’s success or failure.

While the elections serve as a way to democratic transition in many years, concerns are growing on who to take the mantle of authorities of the country to build on current gains including maintaining the right external relations.

It is based on this that some foreign missions near the country’s capital are putting Liberians on the alert as to which diplomacy would continue to assist the country following the elections.

One of them is the Political Counselor and Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) at the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China near Monrovia, Mr. Li Zhuang, who has put Liberians on the alert, warning against establishing diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

Though Liberia maintains the “One-China” policy, Li said, “It is known that Taiwan authorities still have underground information channels and brokers in Liberia now as they would make use of the October 2017 Presidential and Legislative elections through Dollar Diplomacy.”

The Chinese envoy made the statement on Friday, March 31, 2017, at the Edward Wilmot Bladen intellectual forum organized by the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) in Monrovia.

Li pointed out that Taiwan authorities are prepared to do business with some politicians, especially presidential candidates by providing campaign funds in order to establish or maintain so-called “diplomatic relations” when they come to power.

He noted that Taiwanese authorities are attempting to enlarge their international space by making use of some countries’ political situations and temporary economic difficulties through “dollar diplomacy” or other means.

Speaking on the topic: “One China Policy: Its Impact In Africa,”  the Chinese diplomat said in this context, both China and Africa, including Liberia, are required to be on an alert of the true motives of Taiwan and deal with the Taiwan issue cautiously.

Li said Taiwan authorities will do this by supporting politicians with campaign money which will set obstacles and also make troubles in the development of China-Liberia relations.

He indicated that some Liberians do not understand the one China policy comprehensively for their personnel interests or are blinded by Taiwanese authorities.

“They might have some incorrect understanding on the Sino-Liberia relations, and could therefore tamper with smooth development of the bilateral relations,” he noted.

He pointed out that historically, China-Liberia relations were hurt and suspended twice because of the Taiwan issue and the Liberian people did not benefit from the so-called “diplomatic relations”.

Li said that the Chinese Government appreciates that the Liberia Government adheres firmly to the one China policy, and added that they are willing to develop friendly relations with all Liberians and political parties on the basis of a one-China policy and to further strengthen China-Liberia partnership.

He added: “We hope that the Liberian people and the political parties will continue to cherish what we have achieved over the past 14 years since our two countries resumed the diplomatic ties.”

According to him, adhering to the One-China Principle is in line with the common interests of China and African countries, “Today, 52 African countries adhere to One-China Policy, we are gratified and heartened by the progresses in a wide range of China-African cooperation.”

He recalled that in 1971, the UN Assembly adopted the Resolution 2758 which expelled the representatives of the Taiwan authorities and restored the seat and all lawful rights of the government of PRC in the United Nations.

This, Li noted, was a milestone of China-African friendship, which will go down in history and still remains fresh in Chinese people’s minds.

“Today, 52 African countries adhere to One-China Policy, we are gratified and heartened by the progresses in a wide range of China-African cooperation, he indicated.

Li further recalled that in August 2005, the National Transitional Legislative Assembly of Liberia adopted unanimously a Resolution which recognized the Government of the People’s Republic of China as the sole legitimate Government representing the whole of China.

“The Resolution has demonstrated a very clear and strong commitment of the Liberian people and government to the One-China policy, which has laid down a strong political foundation for the establishment and development of a new long-term stable relationship of mutual benefit and all-round cooperation between our two countries and two peoples. Dear friends, allow me to recall some important events in China-Liberian relations,” he said.

For the deployment of UNMIL in 2003, Li explained that China, as a permanent member of the Security Council of the UN, voted in favor of Liberia and consistently supported the peacekeeping operations in Liberia afterwards.

When Ebola crisis broke out in 2014, China was the first country which provided assistance to Liberia, the diplomat narrated. Currently, he stated that several major projects are underway, “our cooperation in security, agriculture, education, health-care, trade,etc., has made a rapid progress and achieved tangible outcomes which are beneficial to the Liberian people”.

Also speaking at forum, the Managing Editor of the Inquirer Newspaper, Mr. Philip Wesseh, challenged Liberian journalists to read and know more about the One-China policy in order to educate the public.

Wesseh said the One-China Policy has increased PRC’s assistance to Liberia in recent years and maintaining would move the country to a higher height.

Wesseh also informed journalists to read more about the policy in order to educate the public.

Meanwhile, Wesseh has launched an appeal to the Government of the People’s Republic of China, through its Embassy near Monrovia, to expand its ongoing media empowerment by providing scholarships and other training opportunities to more Liberian journalists for further studies in China. This, he said, will further promote the Sino-Liberia relations as well as help in educating Liberians on the One-China policy and its future because they (journalists) are the main channels for information dissemination.

The One-China Principle had been evolved in the course of the Chinese people’s just struggle to safeguard China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. It is the premise and basis for China to maintain and develop friendly relations with countries all over the world.

At present, 174 countries in the world maintain diplomatic relations with China in conformity with the principle on One-China Policy.

‘Ploy’-Dismissed Finance Official Claims

The former head of the SOE Reporting and Coordination Unit at the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) has termed as false and misleading allegation that he illegally opened an account. SOE is state-owned enterprise.

Mr. Siafa Chowoe also denied of stealing money as alleged by Finance and Development Planning Minister, Boima S. Kamara.

It can be recalled that Minister Kamara, on March 7, 2017, dismissed Chowoe for allegedly squandering US47,000 and 1.9 million Liberian dollars. Minister Kamara also accused Chowoe of illegally opening an account where the amounts were allegedly squandered, and vowed to turn him over to the Ministry of Justice.

But in an interview with the In Profile Daily on Tuesday, March 14, 2017, Chowoe denied the allegations, saying, “it was a ploy to have me dismissed”.

According to him, the account was opened legally with the approval of then Comptroller General, Sekou Sanoe, by the directive of then Acting Finance Minister, Dr. James Kollie.

Chowoe, among other things, said the Ministry of Justice will throw the case out because the draft audit report he received on March 2, 2017, makes it clear that all transactions (checks) were signed by the current Comptroller/Accountant General.

He explained that transactions of the amounts in question were done for their intended purposes and so he sees no reason of being held liable.

Chowoe also termed as prejudice the audit conducted in the unit because Deputy Minister for Administration, Juah Feika, had taken actions on him prior to the audit.

“While you are required to report to work daily, kindly note that as of the receipt of this communication and pending the outcome of the audit, you are advised to discontinue the execution of your duties which will be continued by Mr. Benedict G. Fully, your immediate assistant who will act as the Holding Officer of the SOE Reporting and Coordination Unit. Kindly therefore turn over your assigned laptop and vehicle to the Department upon the receipt of this memo,” Deputy Minister Feika said in a communication to Chowoe, dated February 17, 2017.

Chowoe said it was based on this part of the communication he tendered in his resignation on February 20,2017, on grounds that the actions impeded the professional independence of the audit and as well as eroded his professional judgment. James Kollie, acting finance July 22, 2016

“Greetings. I hereby tender in my resignation as Director of the SOE Unit effective February 20, 2017 predicated upon your letter dated February 17, 2017.

The actions taken by administration in your letter, in the absence of an audit finding, has impeded the professional independence of the audit and has eroded my professional judgment, as such I do not see the need to continue as an employee and head of the unit any longer.

However, I will make myself available at any time I am called upon to assist with the on-going audit,” Chowoe said in his letter of resignation to Deputy Minister Feika.

According to Chowoe, after Deputy Minister Feika wrote him on the same date (February 20), rejecting his resignation, he cooperated with the auditing team.

However, Chowoe alleged manipulation in the process. He added that the auditing team did not follow professional guidelines, probably due to the alleged manipulation. As he put it, “There was an entry conference; but no exit conference, which is not in line with professional accounting principles.”

Besides, the former MFDP official accused the auditing team of rushing with its reports, despite his request for the team to give him time to respond after receiving a draft audit report. Chowoe explained that he asked for time because his working laptop had been taken from him and also based on the advice of his lawyer to review his response before submitting it. “I received the draft audit report on March 2, 2017, and asked for time to respond on March 9, since the 8th was a holiday. I knew the auditors were working in deadline; but I had asked for an extension because, as an auditee, it was my right to ask for time in order to digest the draft report before responding,” he contended.

He accused the Director of Internal Audit Unit, Mr. Amos Quermouloue of refusing to receive his response and also refusing to give him (Chowoe) a copy of the final audit report.

“Even in audit, you can do an amended report when you make a report in the absence of the auditee’s responses…go and find out. And you have to wait until your auditee’s responses are incorporated in it,” Chowoe said, adding that this was not the case with the audit report.

Chowoe further took aback by the team’s alleged refusal to even give him 10 days to respond, which he said is the general accounting principle in all audits. “All audits are the same. He (Amos Quermouloue) should have given me the chance to respond before the final report,” he noted.

Meanwhile, Chowoe has accused the Ministry of withholding his February’s salary check, when he had worked for it. He considers the alleged action as a calculated attempt to strangulate him.

Booked For Alleged Voter Fraud

Five of the six persons

 

Police in Monrovia are investigating six persons in connection to fraudulent voter registration in District number 14 of Monsterrado County.

Police said the six persons including a female  were arrested  after an informant give a tip off that the men were carrying on the act.

Police search recovered one hundred and four voter registration cards in black plastic bag under a chair in the living room along with voter forms in a private residence in the district.

A Statement signed by the Chief of Press and Public Affairs of the Liberia National Police  named the suspects as Mohammed M. Kamara, 39, Jamga Fofanna 32, Makula Kamara 19, Sekou  Karmah 32 Makula Kamara  and  Karmah A.M Balloh.

The inspection of the cards by police investigators shows four different registration center codes on them  to include 30297, 30035, 30068,  and 30035.

At the same time the Liberia National Police has promised to reveal details of the investigation to the public after the completion of the investigation.

, , , ,

Foreign Minister Marjon Kamara Applauds U.S. for Support to Liberia

Liberia’s foreign minister, Madam Marjon V. Kamara, says the Government and people of Liberia are grateful to the Government and people of the United States for the wide range of assistance the U.S. is providing Liberia. Read more

, , ,

Senate Protempore Hints 2017 Challenges….Highlights Importance of Coordination In Govt.

Senate Protempore Armah Zolu Jallah has hinted at major challenges facing the nation as activities leading to the much coveted October 10, 2017, general and presidential elections gradually draws nearer. Read more

We stress sincerity in the fight against corruption to attract more investment

IN ITS SEPTEMBER 4, 2011 piece, www.globalissues.org maintained that corruption affects the poorest the most, in rich or poor nations, though all elements of society are affected in some way as corruption undermines political development, democracy, economic development, the environment, people’s health and more.

WE ARE WORRIED THAT Liberia is facing a very grave problem of corruption that threatens basic foundations of society. This is one of the most serious problems which are not natural calamity or disaster.

CORRUPTION IS THE cancer that gobbles up all the socio-economic and political achievements.

THE MAJOR REASONS of fast creeping corruption are political instability, poverty, unequal structure of society, unemployment, lack of accountability, weak political institutions and absence of rule of law.

THEY ARE AFFECTING political stability, equal distribution of resources and power, confidence of local and foreign investors and political institutions.

ALTHOUGH CORRUPTION HAS wide-ranging deleterious effects on society and governance, its most deadly impact is always on the poor. It undermines democracy, hinders in good governance and weakens the democratic institutions. It hampers the economic growth and sustainable developments. Increase in corruption in any society is inversely proportional to good governance.

THEREFORE, WE ARE stressing the need for sincere and holistic efforts by all to battle corruption in order to build trust aimed at attracting more investment.

IF THESE SUGGESTIONS and practical measures are taken, the cancer of corruption can be cured to reasonable extent. Institutions should be made strong for proper working of the democratic system.

PROPER SYSTEM OF accountability and check and balance should be implemented. Justice delayed is justice denied. In time justice can minimize corruption practices.

IT IS MULTIFACETED problem so we want it be countered on all possible fronts with sincerity. We must reform ourselves. We believe that only proper planning and strictly implemented policies with public support can put halt to this menace.

,

Minister Nagbe Against Bad Criticisms

By Mafanta Kromah

The Minister of Information, Len Eugene Nagbe, has urged all Liberians to stop seeing everything Liberia does in the negative way. Read more

,

Unfortunate, but…-Deputy Speaker Describes Tax Increment

By Abraham Morris-231886294820-abrahammorrisabrahammorris@gmail.com

 

The Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hans Barchue, has described as unfortunate the increment in taxes by the Legislature on basic commodities including water and called on stakeholders involved to work in mitigating the situation.

Speaking to journalists at the opening of the 6th session of the Legislature, the Deputy Speaker said though unfortunate, it is the reality of the time and hoped such decision would be inverted.

Barchue said the increment of tax on water was disheartening, looking at the challenges the country faces with regards to acquisition of safe water.

Recalling his action during deliberations on the amendment to the Revenue Tax Code, Deputy Speaker Barchue said while presiding over the deliberation, he resisted certain attempt to increase at certain level on some taxes, but surprisingly, these areas or commodities were reintroduced.

It can be recalled that the legislature in December 2016 during its extra sitting voted for taxes to be increased from 7% to 10% on tobacco, 35% on imported water and 2% for locally produced water and that taxes on residential buildings are increased from 0.083% to 0.25%.

The Grand Bassa County lawmaker indicated that his colleagues (lawmakers) also voted that taxes be increased on land within city or town limits which is currently at two percent an increment of 3.5 percent and that goods and services taxes increased from 10 percent and 5 percent. A 15 percent increment was also proposed to be levied on hotel services, gambling services and restaurant services.