It is not clear who or what was behind then unverified reports that Prof. Wilson Tarpeh went into some shady deals as Minister of Commerce and Industry and whether such reports underpinned his transfer from the Ministry to the Environmental Protection Agency. But, again, these are political times. What is however empirically clear now is that the hands of the former Commerce Ministry are clean, at least in reports linking him to bogus contract. The nation’s chief integrity organization, the General Auditing Commission (GAC), following forensic audit of records have found no iota of link on the part of Prof. Tarpeh to wrongdoing. But as The Analyst reports, Tarpeh’s accuser, former deputy at the Ministry, Jemima Wolokollie, has been booked in awarding bogus contracts.
The trading of accusations between former Minister of Commerce and Industry, Prof. Wilson K. Tarpeh and his former deputy, Jemima Wolokollie, has been put to rest as the General Auditing Commission (GAC) has completed its long awaited audit of the contentious Small Business Pro-Poor Loan Program (SBPLP) clearing former Commerce Minister Tarpeh of any involvement in the operation and management of the loan program.
The GAC, in its report, said the Small Business Pro-Poor Loan Program, which was initiated by President George Weah in December 2018, was being handled by the Liberia Bank for Development & Investment (LBDI). The Program was intended to provide low interest loans to small Liberian businesses.
The audit of the Small Business Pro-Poor Loan Program by the General Auditing Commission (GAC) was commissioned after former Deputy Minister of Commerce, Ms. Jemima Wolokollie accused Prof. Tarpeh of ‘distributing money from the loan and giving it to friends’ as Commerce Minister. But the GAC report said Prof. Tarpeh was not involved in the operation and management of the Loan Program.
However, the GAC report released recently said the entire loan operation, from application receipts and analysis to credit decisions and disbursement, was being handled by the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI) and not by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
Contrary to Ms. Wolokollie’s assertion that Prof. Tarpeh took $500,000 from the account for his own use, the report found this to be a lie.
Instead, the report found only two payments, totaling US$41,596 made from the account, and that it was Ms. Wolokollie who authorized the payments.
The first payment was for $33,216 for a contract she signed without the approval of the Minister. The report later determined the contract was fake and bogus.
The contract was reportedly for the training of stakeholders Ms. Wolokollie claimed to have conducted, while the second payment of $8,380 was for media relations and jingles to promote the activities of the SBPLP but the report found no evidence that the jingles were produced.
The GAC report also found that the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Commerce Minister and Finance Minister was incomplete because the Minister of Justice was needed to attest as required by law.
Total loans disbursed amounted to US$533,317 to 16 beneficiaries in four counties (Bong, Grand Gedeh, Montserrado and Nimba).
The GAC report also observed that omitting the signature of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General on the MOU guiding the loan program was an oversight that needs to be corrected.
The MOU was the instrument signed by the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI) represented by its President, and the Government of Liberia represented by the Minister of Commerce and Industry, and the Minister of Finance and Development Planning.
The GAC report also said that the two payments made from the accounts should not have been made because they did relate to the loan program.
It can be recalled that in May last year, Ms. Jemima Wolokollie, former Deputy Minister of Commerce for Small Business, accused Minister Tarpeh of ‘distributing money from the Loan program to friends’.
Ms. Wolokollie, who was subsequently fired by President George M. Weah, further accused Prof. Tarpeh of taking money from the account of the Program for his ‘own use.’
But Professor Tarpeh at the time dismissed the allegations in a subsequent press conference, describing them as “baseless, false, lies made up by a functional illiterate to tarnish his sweat earned reputation.”