AFRICA CONFIDENTIAL (an African Economic Intelligent Unit) KNOWS PRESIDENT SIRLEAF SWIMS IN CORRUPTION
By J. Yanqui Zaza
December 31, 2009
In his presentation, he claims that, unlike the late President William R. Tolbert, President Sirleaf has and continues to institute many regulations, lately, the "Whistle Blowing Act" to deter and prevent individuals and corporations from siphoning resources away from government's coffer. Interestingly, he later admitted that although sophisticated regulations have been instituted, even in advanced countries such as the United States of America, investors' influence over government bureaucrats largely contributed to the financial crisis in 1907, 1933, 1986, 2000, 2008, etc. More so, it would be difficult for timid government bureaucrats to enforce regulations against businesses that are partly owned by a president of a country, he concluded.
For the moment let us put aside the debate over the enforcement of regulations in advanced countries and, or poor countries which lack independent regulatory agencies and professional technocrats and let us review the new act. President Sirleaf's executive order providing protection to all who would blow the whistle on people engaged in acts of corruption seems to be a good beginning until it is closely examined. Perceptively, President Sirleaf has created an environment in which it has become difficult to reduce corruption. For instance, after three years, Liberia has not hosted a national conference for Liberians to determine the causes of our chaos and provide the appropriate remedy for the way forward. In addition, she has surrounded herself with advisors who are timid for obvious reasons.
The first question to ask, in reviewing the Whistle Blowing Act, is whether President Sirleaf is having trouble finding evidence in corrupt investigations that have been brought before her. The answer is no, at least not in a number of cases. Let us go back to the Dunn report. Her brother in law (Estrada Bernard) was implicated in corruption, why has she not taken action? Her advisor, Willis Knuckles was also caught in corruption. Why has she not done anything about him? Auditor John Morlu's report on the use of County Development Funds shows that her brother Ambullai Johnson, the Minister of Internal Affairs was short by more than one hundred thousand dollars. The report is gathering dust. Why has she not done anything about Johnson? The Central Bank scandal is still to be acted upon. All of the people involved in the transactions are around. Why has she not done anything about these corrupt acts?
There is also the case of Albert Bropleh who she tried to save by shouting at his colleagues on the Liberia Telecommunication Authority. She fired illegally the people who blew the whistle on Albert Bropleh. Bropleh was thoroughly investigated but the President has been doing everything to save him. Albert Bropleh was instructed to throw out one of the existing wireless companies so that the President's company can be brought into the market since it is too small to have more companies without kicking out some that are already present. This is why the President is still trying to save Bropleh from prosecution for embezzlement. The International community knows of this. Now another Bropleh, the former Minister of Information and Cultural Affairs (i.e., Albert Bropleh's brother) has been implicated in a $300,000 scandal. FrontPage Web Site disclosed a signature of the former Information Minister on documents relating to the $300,000. Her recent comment is that she feels for him.
Auditor Morlu has done more than a dozen audits of ministries and public corporations, the President has not lifted a finger to enforce a single of his recommendations or to prosecute those against whom evidence have been gathered. Why is the President calling on Liberians to provide new evidence of corruption committed by government officials when she is not acting on the cases that are already before her? Is this a publicity stunt to boost her declining international stature? Her Stature is plummeting because the international community has not found her to be genuine about fighting corruption.
In my two last articles I pointed out certain facts, which demonstrate her insincerity. Some people, including the press spokesman at the Executive Mansion reacted to some of the points I made but not to others. Even the reaction did not disprove the point. I stated that Mrs. Sirleaf and her family and friends are gaining a monopoly control of the financial institutions of Liberia. Information provided by Mr. Badio strengthened my point. I had said that Clavender Bright Parker is a major player in banks, national Port Authority and now in minerals and commodity importation. This lady has returned to Liberia and is grabbing everything since her childhood friend Ellen Sirleaf became president. Badio said that Mrs. Parker is chairman of ECOBank. This is in addition to being a member of the board of International Bank where her Ghanaian business partner Ken Ofori-Artta is chairman of the board and President Sirleaf's business partner Steve Cashin is president of the Bank. Dr. Lawrence Zumo, a neurologist residing in the United States, did research and post more information on the Internet about the business relationship between President Sirleaf and Steve Cashin. President Sirleaf and Cashin are part owners of a wireless telephone company in the Ivory Coast. That is the Company that President Sirleaf wants to bring to Liberia and was using Albert Bropleh as the tool.
Let us not forget that one of President Sirleaf's sons is a senior official at the Central Bank of Liberia and another is an executive in another local bank. A third son is now giving out business cards with the title "Senior Advisor to the President." He is involved in a lot of schemes trying to privatize a number of public corporations and collect speaking fees for the president, his mother. Two of the president's sons are running the mechanized rice project in Foya, Lofa County with Ambassador McIntosh. They are doing so with Libyan soft loans made available to Liberia. The other Libyan project that is the Ducor Hotel is being run by Eugene Peabody, a long standing confidante of the President, who ran the President wireless telephone business in Abidjan.
Many people in the international community also know that the President broke the Lebanese monopoly on rice importation and gave it to her friends and children. Allen Brown who she gave the monopoly to using government money has a daughter who is married to one of the President's sons. All three of the current rice importers have connections to the President. John Bestman was her campaign manager, Chief Abdullah is a nephew of her legal advisor and Allan Koffle, an Ivorian who represents her Ivorian business partners and who is a social friend of Clavender Bright Parker. Africa Confidential, the Economist intelligence unit and others who are conducting economic intelligence in Africa know all of this.
One of the sons along with Ken Ofori-Arta and Steve Cashin are doing oil business in Equatorial Guinea. The President of Equatorial Guinea is one of Africa's most brutal tyrants. President Sirleaf has visited him twice and invited him to Liberia and given him Liberia's highest decoration. Recently, she attended his inauguration after he won by 95.5 percent of the votes and locked up and killed most of his opponents. This is the type of man whom President Sirleaf has developed a strong friendship and a business relationship with.
The fact is that Mrs. Sirleaf is building Liberia into a crony capitalist state where her family and cronies have monopoly of rice production and importation, banking and financing, and unfair advantage in every other area of enterprise. Through Richard Tolbert they control investment opportunities where they now dominate as partners with Europeans and other investors in minerals, timber, and rubber. In a recent interview with the Daily Observer, President Sirleaf stated that the Executive would be taking over control of the development funds. What we will see now is the centralization of purchasing with contracts given to one of her children or relatives or friends, with her brother A.B. Johnson, the Minister of Internal Affairs, coordinating the purchasing. This is the same Johnson who cannot account for more than a hundred thousand dollars of county development funds.
So, if President Sirleaf is serious about fighting corruption, let her act on the issues of corruption that are already on her desk, let her dismantle the growing control of the economy by her children, friends, business partners and relatives, instead of assuring whistle blowers that she will protect them. Thus far, she does not need them because the evidence is abundant.