The Liberian people’s fight against their major longtime social foe, corruption, has hardly paid off in the past, often pampering scoundrels and fiscal hoodlums into impunity. Every successive political administration would first build steam but in a moment would succumb to the complications associated with the fight against the pandemic. The administration, learning from the unsavory experience, sees the loophole and appears poised to ‘thread where angels had feared’. And the man in the front of it all, recently nominated solicitor general-designate, Sayma Syrenius Cephas, has come out with much venom and militancy which is understandable given the characteristic failed anti-corruption attempts of the past. But it seems even before he got started, outcries mount over what some pundits described as unorthodox and unkempt manner in which he is proceeding, thus generating questions that question the motive of the asset recovery exercise of Government. Some of the serious questions have come from one of the “persons of interest”, Dr. James F. Kollie, as The Analyst reports.
True to President George Manneh Weah’s nationwide declaration that his government would pursue and recover assets and money stolen from the people of Liberia and that there would therefore be a review of audit reports dating back to ten years, the Government has constituted a special team of asset recovers with a special prosecute to effectuate the declaration.
The Asset Recovery Team on Wednesday issued a list of “persons of interests” drawn from a mix of audit and investigative reports by the General Auditing Commission and the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission with prominent members of the erstwhile Ellen Johnson Sirleaf administration featured in it.
Before inks ever got dry on the publication, there comes a litany of outrage and denials negating the veracity of those reports.
The first major outrage has come from the former Finance Minister of the Sirleaf administration, James Kollie, Jr., also listed as a person of interest, specifically in reports of US$13 million from the European Union.
In a communication of June 19, 2019, addressed to Cllr. Sayma Syrenius Cephus, Solicitor General (Designate), Dr. Kollie made a number of inquiries that seem to grossly negate in implication in any audit report of the General Auditing Commission.
He wrote: “I present you greetings and wish to respectfully inquire about the basis upon which my name was mentioned on a list of ‘persons of interest’ issued by you on 19 June 2019. Cllr. Cephas, because the list made reference to GAC Audit Reports for the period July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2017, I really do want to know the following: Is there actually any audit report by the GAC on $13 million provided by the European Union? Did that report, if it exists, ever mentioned my name? Does that report have any responses from me in it? Is the mentioned of me or anyone purely on the basis of unsubstantiated media and press reports?”
He added: “Honorable Solicitor General (designate), I am hoping that you will take these questions in good faith and do everything you can to respond so that the record can be set straight.”
Dr. Kollie said in the communication to Cllr. Cephus that he was constrained to ask those questions because to the best of his knowledge, there was no auditor who ever asked him any question about EU $13 million.
He said he therefore considers the press statement issued by the solicitor general-designate claiming that there is a GAC Audit report as “totally surprising and baffling.”
Dr. Kollie, who is also current head of the Liberia Maritime Commission, said “if there is no GAC Audit Report…I want you to imagine the irreparable damage that you have caused to our reputation.”
He also vouched for Boima S. Kamara, who is included amongst the “persons of interest”, whom Dr. Kollie said “was not even working at the Ministry of Finance in 2013 (the period of the purported report) and so it would be impossible for him to have been involved in any audit at that time.”
He called on Cllr Cephus to respond to the inquiries he raised given the damaging impact of his implication in what he considered a “purported report.”