Tribute to Harry A. Greaves, Jr

Wesley Nyenka

On Sunday, January 31, 2016 I received a call from a colleague about the death of Mr. Harry A. Greaves, Jr, known in his close family circle as “Boy Harry”, the man I have known for over thirty years. I first met Mr. Greaves, Jr. when he arrived from the United Kingdom in the early 1980s where he had gone to sit professional accountancy examinations.

In 1978 while in grade school, I moved with my uncle, who was a member of the House of Representatives from Nimba County not too far from the Greaves family home opposite where Sophie’s Ice Cream Shop was located on Tubman Boulevard Congotown, Monrovia. During that time, I developed a close relationship with Mr. Harry A .Greaves, Sr., Boy Harry’s father, Mrs. Arabella Greaves, his step-mother, their two daughters and the rest of the Greaves boys including, Daniel, Reuben and Jimmy.

Reuben moved with Boy Harry in what was then known as Baker Apartment on Smithe Road, Old Road Sinkor. It was during one of my many visits to Reuben that I got to personally know Boy Harry. My interest in Boy Harry was fueled by his professional background as an accountant. Further, I was intrigued by his intelligence and level of organization. I considered him to be one of the greatest minds of Liberia. If anyone has had an opportunity to discuss issues with Boy Harry and you probably quickly realized the depth of his intellect.

Boy Harry exhibited all the attributes that I look for in someone I consider to be a role model. I developed an interest in the Accounting and Auditing profession mainly because of the exam materials Boy Harry brought from England. I was fortunate enough to browse through the materials at his father’s House, which filled me with excitement and led me to take the initial steps to become a professionally certified accountant.

Boy Harry left Liberia in the 1980s and travelled to the United States mainly because of the political instability in Liberia. The rest of the Greaves boys and myself all “scattered” for the same reason, leading into the civil war.

I did not meet Boy Harry again until his father, Harry A. Greaves, Sr. who was like a father to me passed away in 2002 in Trenton, New Jersey in the United States of America. We spoke briefly but did not meet again until Scott Mandeh, Gurly Gibson and I travelled to Liberia to attend the inauguration of Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as President of the Republic of Liberia in January 2006. I met with Boy Harry briefly and informed him that I was interested in coming to Liberia to make my contribution to the rebuilding of our country. Consistent to the way he always looked out for me, he informed me that he would keep me posted whenever there was opportunity.

In August 2006, John Linberg, the former Governance and Economic Management Assistance Program (GEMAP) Controller at the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company called and informed me that there was opportunity for someone to work as the GEMAP Controller under study for two years. Thereafter, the person would replace him, therefore, if I was interested I should apply. I applied for the job and was successful. I was then working for a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania based public accounting firm when I was offered the position to come to Liberia.

GEMAP was an agreement signed in 2005 between the transitional government and its international partners including the US Government, the European Union, the United Nations, the Economic Commission of West African States, the African Union, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. GEMAP was created to assist the Government of Liberia to build and institutionalize effective financial and asset management policies and procedures, contain corruption, and improve overall economic governance.

As a result of GEMAP, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through its partners internationally recruited expatriate (foreign) financial controllers to work at key State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) including Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC), National Port Authority (NPA), Forestry Development Authority (FDA), Roberts International Airport) (RIA), etc, The financial controllers were expected to put in place a sound financial management systems and controls; and transfer knowledge to their Liberian counterparts for a period of two years. Thereafter, their Liberian counterparts would assume their responsibilities.

I returned to Liberia on 31 October 2006 to take up assignment at LPRC. During my stay at LPRC, I developed a closed bond with Boy Harry mainly because of our shared work ethic and high level of professionalism. Boy Harry, the GEMAP Controller and I worked tirelessly with the rest of the staff to transform LPRC. We took a failed company and transformed it into a profitable one. Boy Harry was constantly thinking about how to make LPRC and Liberia better. It was his plan to modernize LPRC, replace the aging tank farm with a modern one. It was also his plan to upgrade the LPRC tank farm in Ganta, Nimba County to serve as a regional distribution hub that would serve Southeastern Liberia and Northern Guinea. It was his plan to seek partnership with investors to build an oil refinery in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County. He was in support of Total, the French multinational operating retail service (gas) station in Liberia. Total’s entrance into the retail gasoline market transformed the retail gasoline sector in Liberia, and forced other local players to innovate.

Outside of LPRC, Boy Harry was working with the Chinese to establish economic empowerment zone in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County. Boy Harry was a big thinker, whose desire to get things done sometimes got him into trouble. He was result oriented and he did not have patience for slackers or any form of apathy.

Boy Harry, the GEMAP Controller and myself met every Friday at a local restaurant for lunch, where we discussed issues related to LPRC and Liberia in general. The Friday lunch was Boy Harry’s idea. It was an attempt to align our visions about LPRC and to develop a closer bond in the interest of moving the company and Liberia forward.

When the Deputy Managing Director for Administration position at LPRC became vacant in 2007, a competitive recruitment process was initiated by the board and management team to fill the position. T. Nelson Williams who later became the Managing Director after the termination of Boy Harry by the President for controversy surrounding the award of a contract to a Lebanese Company contract was hired as a result of this process. Aagoon Tingba, who came second was encouraged to take a position in the controller’s office.

Boy Harry was of the worldview that public corporations (State Owned Enterprises) should not have multiplicity of presidential appointments, especially corporations meant to generate revenue for and to provide budget support to the Government. He believed that their leaders should be appointed by the President through board nomination. In addition, the other senior executives should be appointed by the board. This model prevailed at LPRC during the tenure of Boy Harry and created a real corporate environment that leaned towards effectiveness and efficiency. Many people misunderstood this concept and thought Boy Harry wanted to amass power.

I met many good employees at LPRC when I came on board including Nyonblee Karnga, who served as our Public Relations Manager. Nyonblee became a close part of the Executive Management Team. Public interest in LPRC kept her very busy by issuing press releases and answering media inquiries.

In January 2008, the opportunity at General Auditing Commission (GAC) came up and I discussed it with Boy Harry. He advised me to take advantage of it to Liberia and use it as a bigger platform to make my contribution to Liberia. Due to my professional obligations at the GAC, Boy Harry and I talked and met infrequently until his untimely death, when his lifeless body was discovered on a beach in Monrovia.

Many of us from the 2007 class at LPRC under the tenure of Boy Harry went on to other important positions within the Government including T. Nelson Williams who ended up as Managing Director of LPRC, Nyonblee Karnga, Senator of Grand Bassa, Aagon Tingba, Deputy Minister of Education for Administration, the author as Deputy Auditor General, Audit Service, General Auditing Commission, and etc.

Boy Harry left and imprint on me and everyone he encountered. Thanks for Everything, Farewell and May Your Soul Rest in Perfect Peace, Boy Harry.

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