The New Dawn (Monrovia)

22 February 2013

Liberia: Accounting for Japanese Rice Proceeds Is a Must

editorial

The Commerce Ministry: Accounting for Japanese Rice, Fuel Proceeds is a Must he Ministry of Commerce and Industry seems not to be bothered by the persistent barrage of criticisms characterizing its dismal performance since the appointment of Minister Miatta Beyslow. The Ministry does not even seem to harbor any sense of remorse as a regulator, regarding the un-necessary inflated prices of goods and services across the country.

Since the inception of the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf Administration in January 2006, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry continues to prove very inefficient and ineffective in discharging its mandates as provided for by Act creating it by the Liberian Legislature. The departure of Minister Olunbakie King-Akerele, giving way to Minister Beyslow could not change the face of things as they relate to the price system and quality of goods imported into Liberia.

Whether or not such dysfunctional nature of the Ministry, whose activities center around Minster Miatta Beyslow and her office at the Ministry, reliance on the relationship between the Minister and the President of Liberia could, perhaps, be an attributing factor for the frustrating and dismal performance of the authorities.

As a mark of its worsening nature, the Ministry cannot even account for the proceeds from the sale of the first consignment of 8,617 metric tons of rice directed at Food Aid for monetization to support socio-economic development projects in Liberia, donated by the Japanese Government to the Liberian Government in March 2008. The rice sales was expected to have netted US$4 million, something Minister Miatta Beyslow and other officials of the Commerce Ministry are yet to account.

Also in March 2010, the Governments of Liberia and Japan signed a separate Exchange of Notes for an additional consignment of 19,101 metric tons of rice, which the Commerce Ministry said is still being monetized, noting that portion of that agreement also included mixed petroleum products of 12,404 metric Tons valued at US$ 25 Million, to support Liberia's Socio-Economic Development. Not a single statement regarding the status of the money has been released by the Minister of Commerce up to present.

One had to undergo "a blood test" for verification from Minister Beyslow, who declined to comment - only to be later referred to her Deputy Minister for Public Affairs, Rufus Neufville, who could only remain mute because of his complete lack of knowledge on the project. It is sadden that Minister Beyslow and her lieutenants at the Commerce Ministry cannot tell us what and why, regarding the US$4,000,000.00 from the first consignment of rice sales, and the second consignment too....along with the petroleum products, President Sirleaf must also be asked what and why because Miatta et al serve at her will and pleasure in consonance with the Liberian Constitution.

If and only if, Minister Beyslow and her officials at the Ministry of Commerce are to pursue personal egos over the interest of the majority, why shouldn't the President be asked why? If and only if, the minister and others, who serve at the President's will and pleasure, have completely turned the ministry into a "hustling ground", thus paralyzing its statutory functions to the detriment of the poverty-stricken people of Liberia, why shouldn't Madam President respond to the questions what and why?

The Liberian people's money, through all of the sales under the Japanese donations supervised by the Commerce Ministry must be accounted for. And the challenge is now thrown to 'civil society organizations and rights groups to pursue this matter in the interest of those they claim to be defending or advocating for, if we are to take them seriously.

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