The New Dawn (Monrovia)

13 February 2013

Liberia: Ellen Flees to the U.S.?

Information gathered by this paper indicates that the embattled Managing Director of the Roberts International Airport (RIA) Ellen Corkrum has left the country for the United States, amidst calls for investigation.

Information received by this paper further revealed that Ms. Corkrum left the country to fulfill her monthly military obligation in the US over the weekend.

Corkrum was reportedly dismissed by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf for allegedly attempting to defraud the state of US250,000, a claim she (Corkrum) has since denied and insisted that she was still in-charge at the RIA.

But conversations to which this paper was privy revealed that Ms. Corkrum was kicked out of her official residence hours after the deadline given her to leave the resident had expired.

She was said to be contacting family and friends to intercede on her behalf after RIA authorities allegedly cut off power and water supplies from the house. She had also complained of RIA officials breaching security protocols at the assigned residence.

A former classmate of hers who was spending time at the house was said to have been forced out by the RIA officials. To this, the friend was said to have reportedly called the American Embassy to report the death threats.

Corkrum told friends and family members how two officials of the RIA names withheld broke into her home and took away some personal items, without her permission. She claimed that her money, jewellery, and other personal effects and valuables were also taken away. These events were said to have happened days after Corkrum insisted that she was still in-charge at the RIA.

For a week now, there have been claims and counter-claims about financial misappropriations at the RIA involving Corkrum on one hand and RIA Board of Directors headed by Mr. Musa Bility on the other.

Corkrum was said to have been dismissed after she was accused of awarding a contract exceeding US$250, 000 through single-sourcing without receiving authorization from the Board.

Her letter of dismissal also noted that not only did she unilaterally award the amount above, but that the company to which the contract was awarded, the Diaspora Consulting did not exist- something Ms. Corkrum denied.

"The fact is I met the head of this company, Mr. Momar Dieng, through Amara Konneh, the Minister of Finance; the company has been in existence since 2009, and I have only been at LAA for a few months. Musa Bility suggested that LAA used this man and his company; for Bility to say that I paid them $250,000, and that I attempted to defraud the good people of Liberia is simply not true- it is a deception to the people and an attack on my integrity and character," Managing Director Corkrum rejected the claims during her last Wednesday's news conference in Monrovia.

Another institution caught up in the web is Melvin Johnson and Associates, which the dismissal letter said has no ties with the airport or the Government of Liberia.

"He also said I received a plane ticket; I was hired by Bility and the entity to provide legal consultation that's what I do for living. I have a copy of the check he signed to pay me for my services; this is my passport, signed and stamped. I did not violate the law as claimed by him in the letter," Melvin Johnson also told a live news conference last Wednesday in Monrovia.

One reason, in the RIA Managing Director's counter-claims, for Musa Bility's action is the financial regulations instituted during her short tenure, which may have allegedly annoyed him (Bility).

"During my short tenure at the airport, I discovered numerous loopholes through which I believe Musa Bility and others have been stealing; the VIP inventory ordering, the gasoline ordering and issuing process, vendors purchase orders etc. in fact, monies recouped from these loopholes, I pushed to pay the poorest of our workers and citizens in Liberia. This has upset Musa and his cohorts.

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