Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Another round of disappointment

By: Sam K. Zinnah

In my personal opinion, the main objective for political governance in post-war Liberia should be to secure democracy by instilling checks and balances, which have been absent throughout Liberia's long history. Such political system “in a way” would limit or reduce the president or group of people’s power to no longer usurp so much power and wield such extraordinary influence over the fate of the majority and by so doing provide the conditions for sustained growth and development - not white washing old buildings and referring to them as development. The first task of political democracy in Liberia should to ensure equal and unhindered access for all to state power, which as history has shown had been the most contentious issue in Liberian political life that to a large extend fueled the violence that we witnessed in Liberia for 14 years. Liberian leaders have either lacked a vision or the will to enforce whatsoever vision they had for the development of the country. The Constitution, which should provide the framework for governance was disregarded and treated with discontent by the very people who should have upheld it. Liberian politicians are more talkative than doers. I grew under the perceptions, which of course I refused to accept, that only "doctors/well learned people" could govern Liberia. This explains why all of Liberia's past and present leaders had spent their energies seeking out doctorate titles, even if honorary, in order to bolster their position and create the erroneous impression that they were the custodian of knowledge.
The native head of state Doe even fought for a doctor degree, thereby discouraging Liberian youths from pursuing academic excellence. In my personal view, the conditions for democracy to strive in post-conflict Liberia and to ensure stability in the Liberian political system should go along the simple scenario of reduction in the President's powers, while at the same time strengthening, scrutinizing, and increasing the power of the National Legislature and securing the independence of the judiciary. With this in mind, the following would address those issues that have over the centuries, decades, or years paralyzed the Liberian political system:
Constitutional Reform - The objective of constitutional reform should be decentralization of state management - giving more power to the regions to determine local policies and development priorities, including such areas as education, social infrastructure and human development, as well as the power to implement these policies such as forming their own budgets, financing developmental policies, collecting certain types of taxes etc.. Likewise local authorities should be held accountable for what happen in their regions and they should be made less reliant on central authorities. Local authorities should have a share in managing state assets on their territories and gaining incomes from it as well for financing projects. To avoid outright manipulation of local authorities, particularly Paramount, Clan and Town Chiefs, article 56, clause B of the 1986 Constitution be revisited and the power of the President to remove these local officials be transferred to a credible and well scrutinized National Legislature acting upona specific number of signatures of the local population in the respective localities of these officials, certified by the national election commission as valid. In this way, we might not have town chiefs coming to bring resolutions of support to the president out of fear of losing their jobs. Given that Liberia is a small country of less than five million and that the level of illiteracy is high, and in view of the fact that power had been the root of all evils in Liberia in as much as incumbents had feared parting with power because it will not be gotten back again, a revisit of article 50 of chapter VI of the 1986 Constitution which states that " person shall serve as President for more than two terms is highly recommended. It should “however”, be re-emphasized, nationally accepted (under international monitored) that no person who have held office for more than 2 separate consecutive terms should be allowed to contest further. Efforts should be made to exploit the opportunity for amendment that is provided for in article 93 of chapter XII of the 1986 Constitution.
Another major case in point for reform should be the Liberian judiciary system. Over the decades, the world have watched the Liberian judicial system make mockery of the word “judiciary” Therefore, there should be a need to revisit article 68 of the Constitution. To avoid a repeat of the Chea Cheapoo scenario, the continuous disgraceful behaviors of Johnny Lewis, it is highly necessary and recommended to exert the independence of the judiciary by making it much harder to nominate & confirm judges, particularly the Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of Liberia since in fact those are the country’s judicial strength
Owing to the rhetorical and political tactics Liberians and the world saw during the Doe and Taylor regimes, it is recommended that a cap or restriction should be placed on the number of times a president can grant pardon within one term. Article 59 of the Liberian Constitution is to wide-ranging without such cap. This explains why Taylor was able to abuse the system by, on several occasions, granting pardon to journalists that his government had accused of treason, even before these individuals were brought to justice, thereby undermining the Liberian judicial process and reinforcing Liberia's status as a banana republic. The President should not be allowed to grant clemency before the judicial process runs its course, and particularly in such cases as treason. Such ugly practice was recently observed again when the Government of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf began pointing proof less fingers against Charles Julu & Moses Dorbor.
Social aspect
Social transformation is one of Liberia’s’ complex issues yet to be well analyzed by Liberian government or Liberian sociologists. From all indication, what has worked for one county or group of people have not work for the next. Triggered by the planetary crises, the Liberia should be undergoing a whole-system of transformation of all aspects of society, from consciousness to economy, from values to politics, from technology to organizations. Some of these forms could be used to transform cultural, society, and community in Liberia.
Liberia’s social aspect’s long-term goal should be to rebuild the country's damaged social infrastructure in such a way to serve as a stimulus for economic growth, as well as to provide opportunities for ex combatants, internally displaced persons and refugees to get involved in productive activities. In this respect the things that matter most to ordinary Liberians would need to be addressed such as health care, infrastructure, education and jobs. One of the mistakes of the past was that development in Liberia was never people-centered. It has always centered literally speaking in the Executive Mansion & in the President’s inner circle’s pockets. Such or similar activities are resurfacing in different forms again. This time, the government is allocating county development funds which have been skimmed into internal affairs minister’s (Ambulai Johnson’s) pocket and the rest to the counties. Once these funds land in the local areas, the intended beneficiaries are left waiting in limbo. This explains why the people as a whole feels themselves estranged from the process of state governance and this in turn provide an inducement to the population to eventually take to violence as a means to realizing themselves when and as soon as this became possible. The simple fact is that there will never be integration or healing the wounds in Liberia unless people begin to feel empowered, that they have a stake in the country's future. No amount of speeches of zero tolerance on corruption, international rhetoric and talking would do. instead of internal Affairs Minister “A.B. Johnson” acting in dual capacity: for eg; county development official whilst serving as Minister, the Liberian legislature should pass a historic law that will comprehensively establish national development benchmarks that will serve as a blue print against which all current and future national development policy from one administration to the next in a consistent manner to ensure speedy and systematic development of Liberia. That historic law should also empowered the General Auditing Commission (GAC) to conduct systematic audit to ensure that county development funds are not continuing to end up in bank account of senior government officials in Monrovia.
A huge percent of the Liberian population was of the strongest conviction that the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf led Government was going to lift Liberia from the very low level of poverty to a better level or to that of the neighboring countries but those hopes are now slowly falling on frozen ears. Since the inauguration of this Government, corruption has been at the all time peak in Liberia. Lots of people are now wondering whether President Johnson-Sirleaf has formed part of the queue of Liberia’s disappointment or is in the process of forming a part. Bold and confident decisions are required in this regard. Take for example the case of the President Sirleaf’s cabinet ministers that work on the Delta mining bidding that was recently canceled by the administration because of the alleged crook & dubious deed involving some of the president’s close aides. The alleged involves are still driving luxury vehicles to work while the victimized company is in an uncomfortable financial pain. Is this a part of the President’s definition of zero tolerance of corruption? What a disappointment again!!!
On the issue of education, the government should concentrate on beating down the cost of education in postwar Liberia while seeking to increase enrollment and set the conditions for quality education in the country. Due to the consistent level of corruption in past Liberian government, there is a huge impression that Liberian students are more focused on politics than in pursuing academic excellence. There is an impression that government does not have much interest in promoting education because it feared opposition to its policies. Attempts by Doe to promote the Agriculture College of the University of Liberia by providing free education as a means to allure students, for example, faltered in part because the government did not have any clear idea as to how to make use of these skills and it was actually not committed to developing agriculture and it was used as a propaganda stunt. Government should put its priorities straight in the education sector: science and engineering as well as information technology. These will prove crucial to the development of Liberia and the creation of jobs.
The economy
The objective of reform in the economic sector should be to ensure accountability, reinforce support for the political system, promote transparency, combat corruption and protect the interests of Liberians to manage their economic affairs thereby fulfilling their fundamental rights as prescribed in chapter III of the 1986 Constitution.
In Liberia, the word politics has become another term for dishonesty and corruption. President Johnson-Sirleaf needs to explore or design different avenue for implementing punity especially when it comes to members of her inner circle. There is already an ever mounting crisis of public confidence in Liberia’s political leaders. President Sirleaf’s failure to exercise her campaign promises (zero tolerance on corruption) is just consider as “another round of disappointment”. The entire world no longer believes what Liberian politicians say because for too long their words never match their deeds. There is nothing in life that can destroy a man’s credibility faster than making a promise and not keeping it. Liberian politicians see government jobs as the easiest way to get rich overnight. Much of the problems are rooted in the fact that many educated people in Liberian society enter Government with very low or no moral character and have little or no respect for public property. This has been encouraged in the past and now because there has been no system by which new and succeeding administrations would be compared by law to pursue and prosecute perpetrators of public crimes in Liberia. Instead, these financial hawkers run away from Liberia and spent some time in foreign country (ies) and later return to Liberia with their stolen riches. They used the same stolen riches to elbow their ways back to public offices. There is a need for an internationally monitored commission of inquiry to probe into the activities of all civil servants in Liberia so that Liberians can try to control the high rate of corruption and save money that could be used to implement development projects in Liberia.
The proposed internationally monitored commission of inquiries foremost in this regard should be to rigidly enforce or to enact laws that will ensure the disclosure of wealth and to speedily exceed to the UN Convention against Corruption. Same commission could also advocate for the imposition of a ban on senior officials in leadership position in Liberia from having foreign bank accounts and to oblige them to submit every six months full and complete information on their financial transactions as well as transactions of their close family members. Foreign accounts held before coming into office should either be closed or not allowed to increase in monetary holdings.
As part of the process of improving tax collection in the first stage and popularizing the idea of paying taxes, it is suggested that tax payments be codified (that is, every citizens and businesses should have a tax code for receiving benefits or conducting transactions). Also, the tax office at the Finance Ministry should be given an autonomous status while under the ministry in order to make it more effective.
Development will never come to Liberia if we continue to rely on foreign companies to do everything. History attests to this. The Indian, Ghanaian, Nigerian and Lebanese business communities in the country have never productively participated in Liberia's development. In fact, they have always tended to set themselves apart from Liberians. A requirement should be to make these people to integrate in Liberia, just as most developed & developing countries are now encouraging dual citizenship or foreigners to integrate or assimilate in their communities. Foreign banks in Liberia have never been a catalyst for local development. In the light of these, Liberia will have to either compel foreign financial institutions to actively participate in the nation's development priorities or embark on a course of creating our own local financial sectors even if it means direct state financial intervention. I am of the belief that in countries such as those on the African continent, state intervention is require since without it the living standards of the people will never be improved. Events on the continent over the past years have proved this. No countries among the developed Western nations have made it to their current level without significant state interventions. This is why I’ve considered that the insistence of international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF that African states turn over development priorities to market forces as a plot. These international financial institutions are encouraging or largely silent with respect to state intervention in the former Soviet Union while criticizing such in Africa. Without state intervention in housing, electricity and other areas in countries of the former Soviet Union the plight of most of the citizens in these countries like for example Ukraine would not have been much better than what we see in Sub-Sahara Africa today. But of course, these countries are in Europe and only Europeans have got the right to benefit from state intervention. In the case of Liberia, we have never had any significant industries for development before the civil war besides the extractive mineral sector. For example, Liberia have never had significant domestic industries managed by Liberians that could produce consumer products such as diary products, or even sugar, needless to mention alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages. Coca-Cola and Club Beer factory are all foreign-owned without any Liberian shareholding. So if we are going to attract investments in the post-conflict future, Liberia like many other Sub-Saharan African states would see these investments going to the mineral sectors and not basically towards manufacturing, where jobs could be created but how would such be implemented when President Sirleaf is refusing to drastically punish some of her cabinet ministers that are involved in dubbing major potential investors in the mining sector?. In such a painful situation, it is now up to the government of Liberia to build-up the credibility to attract investors to boost the mining and other sector of the country.

Sam K Zinnah
Delaware State

Friday, November 21, 2008

United Nations Daily Newspaper Summary

By: U.N.M.I.L News

Former Taylor Associate Denies Committing Atrocities

(The Inquirer, New Democrat, Public Agenda)
· Testifying at the ongoing Truth and Reconciliation of Liberia (TRC) public hearings a former deputy director of police in the regime of President Charles Taylor denied ever committing atrocities during the civil conflict.
· Representative Saah Gbollie told commissioners of the TRC to direct inquiries into alleged atrocities of the defunct National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) to detained former President, Charles Taylor presently facing trial for war crimes in The Hague.
· The New Democrat reports that during his denial, Representative Gbollie threw invectives at Commissioner John Stewart.
· Meanwhile, Commissioner Stewart has vowed never to attend the ongoing public hearings saying the leadership of the TRC has refused to warn witnesses against unruly behavior before the body.
· Under the theme: “Understanding the Conflict Through its Principal Events and Actors,” the ongoing hearings are addressing the root causes of the conflict, including its military and political dimensions.

Press Union of Liberia Gives Chief Justice 48-Hour Ultimatum
(Heritage, The Inquirer, Daily Observer, Public Agenda)
· The Press Union of Liberia (PUL) has given Chief Justice Johnnie Lewis a 48-hour ultimatum to return the camera which he confiscated Thursday from journalist Sando Moore of the Daily Observer or face the wrath of the media.
· In an interview, PUL President, George Barpeen also requested an apology alleging that the Chief Justice Lewis is in the constant habit of intimidating journalists during their reportorial duties.
· The Chief Justice yesterday ordered the seizure of the camera for allegedly photographing him.

Court Begins Jury Selection in Detained Senator’s Case
(The News, Daily Observer, Heritage)
· The selection of a 15-man empanelled jury to hear the murder case involving Margibi Senator, Roland Kaine and 14 others began yesterday a the Temple of Justice in Monrovia.
· During Thursday’s proceedings at Criminal Court “B” five out of the 15 jurors were selected with the balance 10 to be selected at a later date.
· Senator Kaine is charged with murder for his alleged involvement in the killing of 14 men during a farmland dispute in Kolleh Town, Timor District.
· Two other bodies were discovered in the river where the killings took place while 16 other persons are still said to be unaccounted for.

Criminal Court “C” Reschedules Economic Sabotage Case
(News, Democrat)

· Criminal Court “C” has rescheduled the economic sabotage case involving former Transitional Chairman, Gyude Bryant and four others for next week.
· The court’s decision comes after both the Defense and Prosecuting lawyers cancelled submissions and resistance during Thursday’s hearings.
· Meanwhile, State lawyers want the re-arrest and subsequent detention of Mr. Bryant and his co-defendants for failing to turn up in court during the hearing.
· The former Transitional Chairman and the four others are accused of embezzling over US$1.1 million dollars from the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC) during the rule of the National Transitional Government.

GAC Debunks Claims of Professional Impropriety
(Heritage, The Informer)
· The General Auditing Commission (GAC) has expressed concern about what it calls series of unfounded and sponsored attacks against the Commission.
· In a release, GAC Chief of Communication, Ernest S. Maximore said that GAC is not an enemy to any institution or government.
· Mr. Maximore said the GAC was only doing its work in assisting President Sirleaf to set up a unique control system that will produce an accountable government.
· The Movement for the Defense of the Down-Trodden has made series of allegations against the Commission as well as the Auditor General, John Sembe Morlu, II for what the group termed as acts of impropriety at the GAC.

Local Media-Radio VERITAS (News monitored today at 9:00 am)
Press Union of Liberia Gives Chief Justice 48 Hours Ultimatum
(Also reported on Star Radio, Truth F.M. ELBC and Sky F.M.)

Criminal Court “C” Reschedules Economic Sabotage Case

Former Taylor Associate Denies Committing Atrocities

STAR RADIO (News monitored today at 9:00 am)
Global Financial Crisis hits Liberia’s Micro-finance and Exports
· Microfinance and exports have been identified as areas in the Liberian economy that are experiencing the immediate impact of the global financial crisis.
· Financial experts in Liberia say most Liberian-based companies have lost credit lines from overseas banks, which are not replaceable by local banks.
· For exports, revenues from rubber and other products are decreasing as a result of the decrease in commodity prices on the world market.
· The financial crisis is also predicted to have impacts on investment, aid and remittances in the near future.
· The comments were made at a one-day economic round table chaired by President Sirleaf on the impact of the economic financial crisis on Liberia.

Local Official Reports Security “Threat” in Bomi County
· In an interview, the Commissioner of Klay district in Bomi County, Alfred Zinnah says there is an imminent security “threat” at the Klay Checkpoint following the departure of the UNMIL Pakistani contingent.
· Commissioner Zinnah said since the departure of the Pakistani contingent, Klay and its environs have been in darkness saying electricity would help drive away would-be criminals and gangsters.

Liberian Senate Urged to Prioritize Training
· Speaking at the a one-day workshop for the Research Bureau of the Liberian Senate yesterday, the Director of Research, McCarthy Weh spoke of the need to prioritize training as a key component to building a professional bureau.
· The workshop for 25 Researchers and Analysts was sponsored by the National Democratic Institute with funding from USAID.

Truth F.M. (News monitored today at 10:00 am)
Court Begins Jury Selection in Detained Senator’s Case

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Custom brokers association, another disgrace to Liberia

Custom brokers are suppose to be people with ethical, professional, and high moral character but this seems to be the opposite of the Liberian custom brokers association. The Liberian custom brokers association is notoriously known to be intruders into customers, visitors, and private citizen’s properties thus leaving Liberia or the National Port Authority with the ugly image. Hundreds “if not, thousands” of visitors & business people have been rubbed or victimized by the Liberian custom brokers association at the Freeport of Monrovia. Lots of complains have been filed against some of the major perpetrators but they are still seen roaming the yard and corners of the port with bunch of papers in their files claiming to be custom brokers. Many of their victims “including me” are now redefining the association’s name and functions. The name “custom brokers” is now defined or considered as the notorious custom of breaking into people’s barrels, containers, and even pockets at the Freeport of Monrovia.
It is becoming regretful to express to any Liberian abroad who whish to ship anything to Liberia because the custom brokers at the Freeport of Monrovia are now referred to by many Liberians as “worse than the typical waterside rouges”. It is sad that many Liberians who are opportune to share some of the wealth of the west cannot invest in our home country due to notorious behavior of the custom brokers at the Freeport of Monrovia. Usually, contacting the port authorities does not bring any resolution to ones problems. The custom duties are irrational and the path of clearance is extremely bribery and corruption.
The collection of custom duties at the port in Liberia is a good idea if the funds are used to improve and maintain the port and the country’s infrastructures but this has not been the case in Liberia, so where does the fund go? Since there are no proper accountability or used of funds collected, this is considered another form of extortion. When custom officers, on a daily basis, take home extorted goods from merchants. What do their spouses or family members say? (Sweet heart or darling, a good chopping today ooooo; more grease to your elbows yaaaa).
The incident and extent of bureaucratic corruption is everywhere a function of prevailing levels of political and economic competition. In well-developed democracies with heightened political competition, corruption is relatively rare, and in cases where there is strong evidence of it, the effects are often economically insignificant. This is because corruption is bread and nurtured in secrecy; where there is openness in government coupled with political competition, the rule of law is closely observed, and corruption personally contained (Werlin 1973).
A host of factors account for the notoriously abysmal economic growth rate or the absent of it in Liberia. Underdeveloped human resources, extremely low level of productivity, in ability to attract and sustain direct foreign investment, continuous mismatch of capital and needs, and deplorable infrastructures, but prominent amongst these is corruption.
Condemnation of bureaucratic corruption is not quite enough to contain its practice in Liberia. The fact that both developed and developing nations have laws against bureaucratic corruption suggests a universal indictment of extra-legal and executable/punishable laws against it. Since corruption is essentially an opportunistic behavior and exercised by custom brokers in Liberia, a genuine effort to stem it must begin with practical reforms of existing laws, rules of conduct, custom and tradition that govern socio-political and economic relations. For any change to be effective at the various ports of entry in Liberia, it must be drastically enforced and punishable by laws.

I recently shipped five barrels to Liberia. Among those five was one barrel containing thousands of note books for kids in one of the clans in Gbarpolu County. The barrels landed at the Freeport of Monrovia. Few weeks after intensive efforts to retrieve the barrels, My brother was later told that the barrels were not declared on the shipment manifest by the shipper. My question was “what do we need to do to claim the barrels”?. My brother went to the custom offices at the Freeport of Monrovia and called me from there. I asked the gentleman “I spoke to” the same question. His response was, “you need to pay the custom duty for the five barrels before you will be allow to take delivery of the barrels. The total duty calculated for the five barrels was USD 150.00. I immediately went to the bank and transfer the money to my brother. I instructed my brother to make sure a payment receipt be obtained from whoever he was making the payment to. According to my brother (whose name am withholding for security reason), the amount was paid to one of the custom brokers only known as Nimely. The five barrels was being kept by the brokers association. After paying the money, he (my brother) was asked to pay USD 10.00 for each of the barrels to be transported from the warehouse to the port entry. When he pay the total USD200.00, he asked for receipt but was told that he could not get receipt because the deal was off record. He was hurried out of the port and made to wait outside the port to take delivery of his barrels. With not much options left for him after almost three weeks of tireless efforts to retrieve the barrels, he went outside the Port gate and waited. In about an hour, a pickup truck loaded with the barrels arrived and unloaded the five barrels off the pickup truck. They hastily headed back inside the port. When my brother took a close look at the barrels, they were all broken into and half of the content of the barrels was gone. When he contacted them, they told him they were not responsible. My brother immediately called me and reported the incident. When my brother got home with the half empty barrels, I called him back and asked him to count the content of his share of the barrels so that could compare the available content of the barrels to the original one. When he did, I almost went into coma. Out of almost 50 pieces of jeans and 15 pieces of sneakers, he counted less than ten pieces of jeans and less than three pieces of sneakers. I went online and email the port management. In that email, I provided my contact information and that of my brother in Monrovia. I demanded full investigation into the incident and also demanded that the money paid to the custom brokers be verified. In two days of my email, I received a respond from the public relations department of the National Port Authority. In that respond, the department promised to forward the mail or the message to the appropriate group concerned. I few days, someone from the custom brokers association contacted my brother and arrange a meeting. When the meeting was finally conveyed, instead of lunching an investigation into the allegation, my brother was told that I (Sam Zinnah/victim) used derogatory worlds in the email “such as criminal working with the custom brokers association.” The association decided to take a path that they think will silence me. They told my brother to inform me that if I don’t retract my article from the media, they (custom brokers association) will embarrass me. Since that day, I have anxiously been waiting for that embarrassment but yet to see or get one.

In November of 2006, I shipped a forty footer container (TRIU9199576 seal: 19783641) to Liberia. The container arrived the week of December 24th 2006. My experience with the Freeport of Monrovia. The behavior of some custom officers became a painful memory that I will always remember. Upon the arrival of the container, all offices went on the rampage with the intention of grabbing anything as a bribe to let the container out of the port. My custom broker joined the corruption queue and thought he “and his squad could use the opportunity to empty my pocket or bank account. From December 2006 to March 17, 2007, I realized that the custom brokers Association did every thing possible to empty my pockets. The common brokers maybe the ones running in the open but something suggest to me that If the custom brokers, security officers, and other port workers “without portfolio” running around the port do not heavily oil the mouth and elbow of their bosses, they run the risk of being transfer to an area where there is absolutely no chopping or assigned unpleasant functions. So, even the biggest boss knows what’s happening in the corners. During my frustrations from December 2006 to May 2007, I was very investigative and determine to expose some of the dark forest operations at the Freeport of Monrovia. In January of 2007, my container was scheduled to be release. On the scheduled date, one of the managers insisted that he had not received the tele-release from the shipping line. While I was sitting by my phone and waiting for the latest story about the container, my cell phone rang. When I asked what the latest was? I was told that the container could not be released in the absence of tele-release. I immediately called the New York office of the shipping line and reported the issue. In few minutes, an agent from the shipping line called and confirms that the tele-release was sent and received by the Monrovia office. A copy was sent to my email address. I forwarded a copy of the document (with all the shipping information) to my agents who later printed the hard copy of the document and took it to the appropriate offices for verifications. Because there was no cash escort, my agents were told that the documents needed to come from New York directly to the port. I was referred to the GEMAP representative (Adlophus Doring) ‘at the time’ in a telephone conversation with Doring, he said the issue was above his jurisdiction. He then referred me to the port Manager “at the time”. All efforts to get the port manager “Toga Nganangana” went fruitless.
While the container case was dragging, Bobby Jimmy “one of the custom brokers who was supposedly hired by Uriah Glaypo” to clear my container, “with the help of some high ranking port officials”, elbowed his way out of the port with three forty foot containers. Jimmy’s successful exit shows that if corruption has to be combated in any of Liberia’s’ sectors, it must start from the top. These are the same people who in a long time have not only plunder Liberia’s economy, but have done everything to ensure that foreign, even Liberians abroad fear investing in Liberia. We should explain our experiences for the public to read if the heads of the National port Authority finds it frightening to read or considered.

My recent inquiry into some of the causes of corruption in Liberia has made strong connection to the culture of impunity. Much of the problems are rooted in the fact that many people in Liberian society enter Government with very low or no moral character and have little or no respect for public property. Majority of those in high ranking positions live by the three Gs: Get, Grab & Go. These crooks and hustlers fight tirelessly to get into government positions and then grab whatever opportunities they see and get out of the country “Liberia”.
The major reason why these crooks always succeed in getting into high places in government and snatching away people’s or the country’s wealth is because there has been no system by which new and succeeding administrations would be compared by law to pursue and prosecute perpetrators of public crimes in Liberia. Instead, these criminals run away from Liberia and spent some time in foreign country (ies) and later return to Liberia with their stolen riches. They used the same stolen riches to elbow their ways back to public offices and continue their usual routine.
The misuse of office by government functionaries is relatively common in Liberia in areas of public procurement, revenue collection, government appointments and contracts, licensing and permits. In these areas of specialty, graft and venality are readily executed through anyone of the following activities:
A civil servant receives from a private contractor a fixed percentage of awarded government contracts; the kick back may be in kind or cash paid directly into the beneficiary’s pocket.
Police or other law enforcement agents use their offices to extort bribes in lieu of official fees or taxes.
Customs agents insist on payment above the official rates or side payment before providing requisite services to both importers and exporters.

One victim who recently returned from Liberia told me “if you want to see how corruption can cripple a society, go to Liberia.” The victim explained how her container was broken into at the Freeport of Monrovia. She spent weeks chasing BIVA and custom at the Freeport. She said “when I finally took delivery of my container, I had lost five bags of slippers and my personal clothes I had on the container.”

After three months of hustle at the Freeport of Monrovia, my container was finally released on March 17, 2007. Instead of taking the container to the ELWA campus where the container was to be off loaded, it was forced into the Telema fishing company’s yard with custom officers, BIVA representatives, and port securities sweating to enter the container and grab something for themselves. While the container was being of loaded, some custom officers broke into one of the cars and lay away with a bag containing two laptops. In the process, one bye stander saw one of the laptops being smuggled in notorious Jimmy Bobby’s car. A police officer was called to intervene while the rest of the custom officers, BIVA representatives, and port securities were left unattended to. In the process of investigating the mysterious disappearance of the laptop bag, one of the cars from the container (a 1995 black Toyota 4 runner) mysteriously disappeared from the Telema fence. Witnesses or bystanders saw one custom officer driving the 4 running toward the port. I immediately called Star Radio and reported the incident. When the reporters arrived at the port, they were told that there was unpaid storage on the container but how the arrangement was made to get the container out of the port remains the misery of the century. After series of investigations, it was finally discovered that the 1995 Toyota 4 runner was in the process of being covertly bought by notorious Bobby Jimmy, a custom broker. According to notorious custom broker Bobby Jimmy, Uriah Glaypo (another broker) took USD5000.00 from him “Jimmy” and promised to give him the 4 runner in exchange.
From the week of December 24, 2006, the last car was finally released from the Freeport of Monrovia on May 5th, 2007. To date, one of the laptops from the container is at large.
After all these painful occurrences, should we be referring to this so-called association as one of the best in the country or among the worst tainted character organizations? Is the custom brokers association legally charged with the responsibility of breaking into people’s containers, barrels, and even plastic bags at the Freeport of Monrovia?. After the publication of my 2006 , 2007 experience with the same custom brokers association in Liberia, a journalist and philanthropist from Australia emailed me expressing her frustration over the way she was treated by the Custom brokers when she last visited Liberia with relief items intended for war affected kids in Liberia.
From own experience & observation, I think the existence of the custom brokers association is a disgrace to Liberia.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Two Experts Return Home after giving technical assistance to team investigating Email Scam

United Nations in Liberia

The Inquirer newspaper reports that two experts from the James Mintz Group, Inc (JMG) who were in the country to assist the Independent Ad-Hoc Committee to investigate the alleged e-mail scam linking the President office to corruption have returned home.
· According to a release issued in Monrovia recently, the group was engaged to assist the independent Ad Hoc Committee in the identification, reviewing and analyzing certain government computers and servers.
· The JMG experts were to also take a forensic image of the hard drives and servers, and analyze the data from those computers to determine their authenticity and review other information relevant to the investigation. The investigation involves former Minister of State, Willis Knuckles alleged circulation of emails soliciting money from the Liberia Ship and Corporate Registry (LISCR) relative to the extension of that company contract to manage the Liberia’s Maritime Programme. Meanwhile, the Liberian Express and the Parrot newspapers report that the ‘Dunn’s Committee’ headed by United States based Liberian Professor Elwood Dunn has been allotted an amount of US$ 400,000 for the investigation process.

Over-spending, Illegal Payments at NASSCORP --Audit Report Claims
(The News, Heritage, The Monitor)

· The report of audit conducted by the General Auditing Commission (GAC) on the National Social Security and Welfare Corporation (NASSCORP) covering the financial year 2005/6 and 2006/2007 revealed over spending and other illegal payments of honorarium and stipend to board members. The report indicated that between July 2005 and July 2007, the Board of Directors of NASSCORP awarded four increases in the remuneration it established and paid itself.
· According to the GAC, though NASSCORP Decree is explicit that the Director General of the entity shall not receive Board remuneration, the current Director General Francis Carbah and his immediate predecessor participated in honorarium and stipend payments made to the Board amounting to US$17,750.
· The Monitor newspaper quoting a GAC audit report called for the standardization of board fees for public institutions urging the government to ensure a timely resolution. Meanwhile, the Heritage newspaper reports that Mr. Carbah was over the weekend reportedly “stopped” from leaving the country to attend a World Bank Seminar on Social Security Reform in the U.S.

MTA Acquires Additional Buses to East Transport Problem
(The Informer, Heritage)

· The Monrovia Transit Authority (MTA) has announced the arrival of ten new buses to ease the transportation problem across the country. Addressing a news conference at the weekend, MTA Managing Director, Sewan Wiah said the buses came through a grant that was presented by an American based company in Holland.
· Mr. Wiah said though the buses are intended for the use of the public, he said students will be prioritized and that special arrangements will be put in place to allow them pay a minimum fee on the buses.

Press Union Elect New Leadership
(The Inquirer, The Monitor, The News, New Vision, The Parrot, Liberian Express, The Independent)

· The media reports that the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) has elected a new corps of officers to administer the affairs of the Union for the next two years. Those elected are the current Secretary General, Peter Quaqua as President. Mr. Quaqua won the elections by 137 votes from a total of 245 votes cast ahead of his rival Bernard Waritay with 107 votes.
· Broadcast journalist Philip Sandi was elected Secretary General by 120 votes ahead of Jallah Grayfield who garnered 69 votes, Philip Moore 38 votes, and George Walkins 15. The only female in the race, Inquirer’s Melissa Chea-Annan and LBS’s Jacob Parley both won by white ballot for the positions of Assistant Secretary General and Vice President respectively, while Mr. Joshua Kpenneh was re-elected Treasurer after defeating Moses Whenyou of Star Radio with 143 votes to 96. Although the election has ended but there were talks amongst supporters of Waritay that the process was marred by irregularities.

NIC Debunks Bribery Claims
(The News, The Inquirer, The Analyst, Daily Observer)

· The National Investment Commission (NIC) has described as “blatant, unwholesome, and diabolical lies” a local newspaper report that its officials have received kickbacks for the rebidding process for the Western Cluster mining concession. NIC in a press release over the weekend said the story published in the November 7-9 edition of the Liberian Express under the caption “LME, NIC Officials in Bribery Scam as ‘Knucklesgate’ probe gets underway is nothing but falsehood and fabrication intended to ruin the hard-earned image of the commission.
· According to the release, the story alleges that the Public Procurement and Concession Commission has requested a halt to the re-bidding process for the Western Cluster Iron Ore Mining Concession in the wake of reports that two more officials of the Ministry of Lands and Mines and the National Investment Commission may have received kickbacks in the deal. In the face of these developments, the NIC said, it is challenging the author of the story to go beyond mere allegation and provide credible proof to authenticate the story.

German Government to Train Road Builders
(National Chronicle, The Informer, The Monitor, The News, New Vision)

· The German Government has commenced a four-year capacity-building programme for private Liberian road builders. Under the arrangement through Inwent, the German government will develop the skills of local engineers in the field of road construction and maintenance over the four year period. Inwent Senior Project Manager for Business Development and Infrastructure, Heinrich Plote said the German government has been attracted to Liberia’s infrastructure development due to the destruction caused by the civil war.
· Mr. Plote spoke at the end of a planning workshop for members of the Association of Liberian Road Constructors in Monrovia. He said his government would support members of the organization and other private road constructors and enterprises in the road sector in Liberia.
· Mr. Plote said 200 private enterprises in the field of road construction throughout Liberia would benefit from the programme and the constructors will also be taught how to prepare tenders for contracts. Mr. Plote indicated that it has been observed that Liberian companies lack capacity to singularly undertake big projects.

Radio Summary
Local Media – Radio Veritas (News monitored today at 9:45 am)
LET-USA Dedicates US$45,000 School Project in Bong County
· The Liberia Educational Trust USA-branch has dedicated a US$45,000 primary school project in Salala, Bong County.
· The dedication which was carried out in collaboration with the Monrovia Office of LET is an annex to the Martha Tubman Primary School.
· According to the Chairman of LET-USA, Robert Sirleaf the dedication is in celebration of the students of the school and the people of Salala.
· Mr. Sirleaf said the school construction project is among several others being targeted by Government.
· The head of LET-Liberia, Dr. Evelyn Kandakai said Liberia stands to benefit from a total of US$1.3 million.
· The Salala School project was implemented by the Liberia Agency for Community Empowerment, LACE.
(Also reported on Star Radio, Truth F.M. and ELBC)

PUL Elect New Officials
(Also reported on Star Radio, Truth F.M. and ELBC)

More Buses to Ease Monrovia’s Transport Problem

STAR RADIO (News monitored today at 9:00 am)
UNMIL SRSG Takes Night Patrol with Police
· The Special Representative of the Secretary-General Ms. Ellen Margrethe Løj has acknowledged that the Liberia National Police (LNP) is still faced with numerous challenges but said the mission was prepared to join the LNP in facing these challenges which include logistics and infrastructure among others.
· Speaking when she toured several police stations and depots in Monrovia and its environs Saturday night, Ms. Løj said there is nothing the UN wants more than success for the LNP in its operations.
· She said the tour gave her a firsthand impression of the challenges faced by LNP personnel, especially during their night operations.
(Also reported on Truth F.M. and ELBC)

Government to Construct National AIDS Secretariat
· Government says it would shortly construct a National AIDS Commission Secretariat to lead a national response to the disease.
· According to a release, a steering committee has been constituted to coordinate HIV/AIDS activities in various ministries and agencies. The HIV/AIDS steering committee would provide needed policy direction, institutional development and capacity building.