10 January 2013

Liberia: Suspend Agriculture Minister

Photo: Charles Akena/IRIN
Unscrupulous loggers cutting down trees.

The Special Independent Investigating Body (SIIB) set up by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to investigate the issuance of Private Use Permits (PUPs) in the forest sector has recommended one month suspension of Agriculture Minister, Dr. Florence Chenoweth.

Addressing a news conference Monday to officially release the report, the head of SIIB, Mr. Dorbor Jallah said Dr. Chenoweth's suspension is due to her failure to provide proper oversight of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) as well as her failure to conduct due diligence in the issuance of Private Use Permits.

The committee also recommends that the Board of Directors be appropriately reprimanded for breach of their duty and also failure to conduct due diligence and provide effective control over the operations of FDA in the issuance of PUP.

In the report, the Committee recommended that the suspended FDA Managing Director, Moses Wogbeh, be dismissed for gross misconduct, abuse of power, economic sabotage and insubordination to the FDA's Board and prosecuted appropriately.

The committee also called for the dismissal of FDA's Technical Manager, GIS Coordinator and Commercial Manager, Messrs John Kantor, Towon Nyenty and Jangar Kamara for orchestrating the falsification of government records and receiving illegal payments from PUP's operators.

The committee further recommends that the three individuals be investigated by the Ministry of Justice and Liberia Anti-Corruption Committee (LACC) and if found culpable, they should be made to restitute payments received illegally.

It also recommended the dismissal of Mr. Maxwell C.F. Gwee, Director of Cartography Service at the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy.

The Committee further recommended that Atlantic Resources Limited be mandated to pay all tax arrears and bar from engaging in commercial forestry activities for violating the National Forestry Reform Law (NFRL).

The Committee wants affiliate companies of Atlantic Resources Limited to be barred permanently from engaging in commercial forestry activities.

The committee, among other things, also recommended that EJ and J Corporation and its Chief Executive Officer Eliza Kronyann be prevented from engaging in commercial forest activities unless an independent panel makes determination that the company has the financial and technical capacity to operate a commercial forestry license.

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