Global Witness which is an acclaimed international NGO established in 1993, works to break the link between natural exploitation, conflict, poverty corruption and human rights abuses worldwide.
In its report, Global Witness alleged that it uncovered over US$950,000 in bribes and other suspicious payments by a UK mining firm, Sable Mining, through its Liberian lawyer, Cllr. Varney Sherman to past and current officials of the Liberian government to have the company get hold of the concession for Mount Wologizi in Lofa County. Amongst other things, the Global Witness Report accused House Speaker J. Alex Tyler, former National Investment Commission (NIC) Chairman Richard Tolbert, Morris Saytumah, former Minister of State for Economic and Legal Affairs now Senator of Bomi County, and Willie Belleh, former Chairman of the Public Procurement and Concessions Commission (PPCC), among others, of receiving US$75,000, US$50,000 and US$10,000 respectively as “consultancy fees.”
Following the review of the report, which was submitted to the Government of Liberia (GOL) by Global Witness, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf constituted a taskforce which is headed by Minister Koffa as a Special Prosecutor, along with a team of lawyers from the Ministry of Justice, including the Solicitor General, Cllr. Betty Lamin Blamo. At a news conference Wednesday, May 18, 2016 at the party’s headquarters in Congo Town, outside Monrovia, CDC Secretary General Janga Kowo stated that though the party welcomes the appointment of an investigative panel by the President, those serving on the panel must not have any attachment with government or any of its Ministry or agency.
He said the CDC believes that officials and members of the investigative team must include representatives from the Civil Society sector and the International Community to ensure viability, independence, and objectivity in the process. He expressed the fear that officials of government serving on the panel would easily be induced materially “While we welcome the appointment of an investigative panel, the CDC holds the strong view that such investigative panel is headed by an independent person; someone with no official attachment to the Government of Liberia (GOL), nor its principal officers or institutions. We take this position because these charges involve individuals, who are responsible for the administration of the state, and the credibility of a panel comprised only of government employees, could be materially undermined,” Kowo stated.
He stated that from time to time, President Johnson-Sirleaf has boasted of creating accountability and anti-corruption institutions like the General Auditing Commission (GAC), Liberia Anti Corruption Commission (LACC), PPCC and the Bureau of Concessions, amongst others, but these institutions have been “sidelined” and replaced with numerous “presidential committees to investigate high profile corruption, leaving Liberians to wonder what are the purposes of these integrity and accountability institutions.” Mr. Kowo said culprits’ resignation and prosecution in relation to the Global Witness report is an “inexcusable act of moral and legal necessity that will not be compromised, irrespective of status or sphere of influence.” The CDC Chief Scribe noted that international partners like the United States, European Union (EU) and its member states, have spent millions of United States dollars supporting the setup, training and management of these institutions as a way for Liberians to focus on institutional processes to solve problems, but the Liberian leader’s alleged constant habit of constituting presidential committees shows that she (Ellen) lacks confidence in these integrity institutions.
“The recent announcement by the President of a special committee to investigate, yet again, another Global witness report on alleged high-level trans-national official corruption, clearly and convincingly shows that the President has no faith in these domestic institutions that she has boasted of creating with Liberians and international taxpayers’ money. The President of Liberia has from time to time asked the international community, in particular, the US and the EU, to come and provide professional support in various investigations because she wanted to show independence. CDC believes, given the gravity of this corruption allegation, that the President and the Legislature jointly request the Comptroller General of the United States, the President of the European Court of Auditors, and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations through the United States government and the EU to provide support to the independent committee to investigate the matter,” he stated.
He said the appointment of a cabinet minister to serve as head of the investigative task force will “undermine the perception and actual independence as well as cast doubt on the entire investigation.”
Mr. Kowo observed that most of the reports submitted by some presidential committees appointed by the President have not been fully implemented.
“The Global Witness report has cast yet a wider shame on the Liberian nation and so, it must be handled with the utmost vigilance, fairness, and with the supreme interest of the Liberian people being the only consideration. CDC takes note of the never ending special committees usually setup by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, with each report been thrown in the dustbin of history. For example, Dunn Commission report on the Knuckles Gate Email scandal, Tiawon Gongloe Special Presidential Committee Report on Student-Police standoff, and Global Witness report on the carbon credit scandal in which President Sirleaf setup the Negbalee Warner committee. The CDC believes the President’s setting up of an independent committee with inherent membership drawn from among credible civil society organizations, religious groupings, prominent senior citizens, and the Liberian Bar Association, with credible international assistance, would accelerate the immediate priority and underscore the ultimate urgency of overcoming this deplorable challenge to our moral psyche,” he noted.
Meanwhile, the CDC Secretary General has vowed that the party will not relent to take legal action against the Liberian government both locally and internationally if government fails to constructively take action on the Global Witness report.
He stated that the party would not allow the culture of impunity to persist in the Global Witness report released on Liberia. Obediah Johnson