The Ministry Of Justice: What Lies Ahead?

By Gbe Sneh


The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
April 19, 2006


For most of the key ministries of government, the heads and deputies have been approved. These conduits of government plans of action, presumably, are busy with the necessary staffing to ensure a smooth transition. Hopefully, adequate funding will follow in order to get them functioning at full capacity. Once this setup phase is complete, it is time for business, hopefully not as usual.

Time for business begins with a thorough assessment of what each department inherits. This means, taking a look at jobs started, and in the specific case of the Justice Ministry, let’s add jobs neglected, by their predecessors, and weigh these jobs for viability in line with national objectives. For those jobs that meet this criterion, fine tuning procedures that are currently employed, and making any necessary adjustments would be a good start.

The Justice Ministry is the Heavyweight of all ministries; its tentacles reach out to all the other ministries, to the Executive Mansion, to the Capitol Building, and even to every ordinary citizen and non-citizen in the land. Without it, what other sustainable ministries, really, could there be? The following is a brief scenario why.

Let’s say, you get help from the Ministry of Agriculture and make a big cassava farm.
Now, time for you to harvest, Jrateh sends in his boys, led by Bull Dog, to take over your farm. Jrateh takes possession of all your cassava, he makes dumb-boy, farina, and sells some. After that he herds in his goats to fatten up on the cassava leaves. There goes your dream, your sweat. What are you going to do? So, the Ministry of Agriculture supplies you with hoes and cutlasses. But those are not enough protection against Bull Dog and the boys. You saw Bull Dog’s picture; no need to tell you more. This is why the Justice Ministry is indispensable. It can handle Jrateh plus Bull Dog and his boys.

The Justice Ministry inherited several reports on the audits of LPRC, BMA, NPA, RIA, which highlighted gross mismanagement and corruption. Those reports belong to the state, and the proper custodian is the Justice Ministry. State reactions to these audit findings -millions of dollars loss to state - is the job of the Justice Ministry. There is a pending job to make all effort to recoup as much of this loss as possible.

What every incoming ministry team must do, upon taking seat, is exemplified by the commendable steps that Director Greaves is taking in assessing prior contracts entered into by LPRC. Already, as reported, Mr. Greaves and his team have uncovered what amounts to a “sweet heart” contract deal, with conflict of interest implications, duplicate contractual documents with varying terms for the same contract award, along with contract terms violations. We are talking about the a USD 12,000,000 (TWELVE MILLION UNITED STATED DOLLARS) contract between Mechanical Engineering Group (MEG) and the Government of Liberia, through LPRC, then headed by Director, now, Speaker Of The House, Mr. Edwin Melvin Snowe, Jr.

Call it what you may - “Grabbing The Bull By The Horn”, “Cleaning House”. You may even add the old “Witch Hunt”. Anything. Forging ahead in the spirit of the New Liberia that we want to build is another way of describing the move by Director Greaves. His letter to Speaker Snowe, which addresses the sweet heart MEG contract, raises questions that have serious legal overtones. The full text of the letter is carried by Front Page Africa. Please read it. What is the Ministry of Justice going to do about that? Moreover, what are Mr. Snowe’s peers saying about that?

Now, Mr. Snowe is threatening to deal with anyone who links him to anything marked “LPRC”, because now he is untouchable; he is the Speaker of the Republic of Liberia, RL. Ironically, he is holding the Constitution in his hand, ready to throw it at anyone who dares talk to him about LPRC. One wonders which section he is looking at. Really. Let’s talk about “intimidating the public”, an issue Mr. Snowe is championing; how contradictory!

It would be a miscarriage of justice, if the Justice Ministry fails to study these reports and other revelations in order to take the appropriate actions. “Hard decisions are going to be made.”, Madame President cautioned us from the very start. Well, the Justice Ministry has several of these hard decisions to make.

There is also another job that requires revisiting by the ministry: The Freezing of Assets of some Liberians, mandated by the UN. Why was an attempt to effect this UN mandate thwarted in the Liberian Courts during the Interim Period? We probably already know the answer. Since when did Liberia become a renegade member of the very organization to which she has turned, many times over, for her very existence? What makes us responsive to arresting Taylor and remitting him to Freetown, but inactive to freezing his assets, and those of his named cohorts? We want answers to these questions, Minister Johnson-Morris and Solicitor General Tiawan Gongloe.

In the latter days of the outgoing Interim Government, the then Minister of Justice, Cllr. Ja’neh said the department was in the process of studying the above mentioned audit reports, and that indictments were forthcoming. Unfortunately, time was up. That places the issue in the category of a job in process, for which a plan of action must be taken for continuity and eventual completion. Perhaps, more light would be shed by the Executive Branch’s proposed audits that we presume are underway.

If it is in the works for the administration to attempt to recoup Liberia’s looted funds on two fronts, at home and abroad, we are yet to see any concrete effort on the home front. On President Sirleaf’s current visit to Europe, she asked the Swiss government to help Liberia recoup any funds suspiciously stashed by Liberians in European banks. The government of Nigeria has also been asked for help in this regard. On that note, the questions are, why start by looking for needles in a hay stack? Why not begin by looking for our money right here at home? Home is where we start tracking the loot. Let the investigations begin; follow up with any indictments. Those found guilty, must have all assets acquired with looted cash nationalized. Put pressure on the culprits; they might lead us to these foreign banks. There are possible millions that could be recouped from such a move at home. How badly do we need money?

In the spirit of our New Liberia, let the Justice Ministry function this time around. This ministry is the bedrock of all that we call RECONCILIATION, REBUILDING, TRANSPARENCY, ACCOUNTABILITY, AWAY WITH IMPUNITY, RULE OF LAW. Let’s take it easy on the small-small yarna boys; let’s go after the heavyweights!