“Detractors Want to Deflect Things They’ve Done” -Cllr. Kanio Gbala Says He’ll be vindicated in NPA Saga

Cllr Kanio Bai Gbala is the Co-chair of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC). He took a one-month leave of absence in the wake of media reports linking him to “conflict of interest” for allegedly being a shareholder in a company that is doing business with the National Port Authority, along with NPA Managing Director Bill Tweaway and the NPA Comptroller Dukuly. Amidst the media frenzy and legal wrangling surrounding the National Port Authority after some of its operatives allegedly siphoned public funds into their own accounts, Cllr. Gbala has come out to clear the air about his ownership into a Liberian company hired by the NPA. As The Analyst has gathered, Kanio sees the media hype as a direct result of individuals who want to deflect the wrongs they’ve done, to witch-hunt the LACC as the country’s premier integrity institution, using him as a target.

Speaking Wednesday to a local radio station about his ordeal, Cllr. Kanio Bai Gbala said he is absolutely unmoved by the events that have unfolded in the couple of days concerning the saga.

“I have said to many of the people that admire and follow us, that this is nothing. It is normal when one steps into public life. When you’re afraid of the heat, you must leave the kitchen; so we are in the kitchen. But what is important is that we will stand vindicated,” Cllr. Gbala stated.

Explaining the rationale behind his leave of absence, Cllr. Gbala intimated that there are two courts that humans are involved with regarding their existence and governance.

“We will come before the court of law at some point in time, if the situation presents itself; but we will also come before a court of public opinion. And in my book, I Kanio Bai Gbala, it is important not only that we are only vindicated in a court of law, but also in a court of public opinion. And that is why I have come here despite the fact that a number of sound colleagues have advised very much on point that I deliver a statement, I should lie low and let the investigation to go on. And that is why I promised them that this will be second to the last public appearance that I will ever make on this matter. It is important for the court of public opinion to be privy to what is unfolding to understand our side since we don’t own newspapers,” he stated.

Cllr. Gbala said he took a leave of absence for a month because he believes his decision is well in place in line with the code of public service.

“The issues that have been raised are grave and important, and I know in this political environment that we find ourselves, even though I am a public employee with tenure, appointed by the president, confirmed by the senate, I can only be removed for cause, and the Constitution provides that: Before you are deprived of life, liberty, property, anything, there must be due process, which means I am not under any obligation to take leave. So I voluntarily decided that I will step aside, because I want this to be a very speedy and impartial process in examining the facts and the evidence. Most times in Liberia we fling accusations on people based on conjecture, based on you-say, I say; based on hear-say by people who are trying to deflect and divert attention from things they have done to place the burden of propaganda on other people. And in that process, they get overlooked and the pendulum shifts on the other side. So I don’t want the situation to become like it’s about the LACC.

“Cllr. Edwin Kla Martin has come to the LACC with great experience. He is leading forcefully. He demonstrated will in the last two weeks as you’ve seen is evident by the kind of efforts and the things we’ve undertaken. He has started to investigate a number of cases, inclusive of the NPA Buchanan case, which by the way is absolutely different from this issue that is being raised; which they seek to make into one issue. Kanio Bai Gbala is tied in with Buchanan Port, that’s a blatant lie. We have a $300-500K case that we started to investigate. Now they want to conflict a purported ownership in a company that has nothing to do with Arcelor Mittal owing money to NPA,” Gbala averred.

He furthered that should the investigation lasts for more than the one-month of your leave of absence, he will allow the independence of professional men and women of the LACC to do their jobs so that there is no perception of bias.

“The law provides that I can recuse myself. And for the record, even when the NPA case broke, the first case with the $300,000 involving the fugitive from justice, I went to the Chairman and I told him, I will recuse myself from this case. He said, ‘Kanio, you’re not playing an active role in this case, why?’ I said, because I have a relationship with Bill Tweahway. And I don’t apologize for that relationship. Everyone has a relationship with people in the country. Their interest only arises when you must take a decision regarding a matter towards that person,” Cllr. Gbala stated.

Quizzed about his purported 10% share in the company, allegedly co-owned by NPA MD Bill Tweahway and others, Cllr. Gbala said he does not own any share in said company, rather, he bought shares for his sister.

“When Rodney Sieh appeared on your show, you asked him if he had seen the ownership of the company and he said no. But what Rodney said was they they’ve done their job and something appears to be wrong here. What I have done is to present a case and present it to the people who have the expertise to now go and find out. In my mind, Rodney did not reach any conclusion regarding whether there is a legal wrong or a violation of law. This is not about Rodney against Kanio Bai Gbala. There is an unnamed accuser. In his article, he said we have from unnamed sources documents that seem to implicate these people. So therefore Rodney is not resting on his own information. He does not have prima facie evidence. What he has is what somebody gave to him and he is reporting it, and he’s requiring the government to go and find out. So there is no aspersion. Rodney is simply bringing information to the public for investigation, which is beautiful. But I can say this: going into the matter, we will be vindicated,” Gbala indicated.

Regarding the ownership issue, Cllr. Gbala said he had read a number of articles from people who said because he had bought shares in a company, he had committed a wrong; thus a conflict of interest.

“That’s the problem we have in this country. Regarding the shares issue, everyone in this country wants to render judgment on what they are not competent to do. What is conflict of interest? What is ownership? What is beneficiary ownership? Yes, I did buy shares in the company, but was protected by the laws of Liberia to do so as a Liberian, especially being Vice Chair, I cannot do so myself, because to do so would put me in commercial activities, even though it still doesn’t amount to conflict of interest because a company was not before me for decision making. Sidiki’s company did not come to the LACC. Sidiki’s company was not securing a contract from the LACC. I was not awarding a contract. I did not work for the NPA. I did not sign checks for the company in question. Even if I had bought shares directly in that company it would still never be a conflict of interest.

“But because I wanted to distance myself further, because I know the law, because I am an ethical person, I chose not to do so. I saw an opportunity. Sidiki is my friend. He brought a company. He’s a Liberian. He said, let us invest. I said I can’t do so, but I can work with you to go there because you know my role. And he ran his company. Are you telling me Sidiki cannot get contracts from anywhere in this country because he’s Sidiki? Is it wrong if I take resources and put it there? Where is the wrong? Conflict of interest says that when there is a matter that will come before you for decision and you will be conflicted based on relationships, then you divorce yourself. I invested in this company,” Cllr Gbala reasoned.

Zeroing in on the issue of beneficial ownership, Cllr. Kanio Gbala said conflict of interest comes in when one owns 25% of shares in a company and you occupy a role that directs the company in administration.

“A 10% share not in my name but in the name of my sister is not a conflict of interest. Other people see that for their people and do that all the time. My sister is an adult, a university student,” he narrated further.

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