9 July 2013

Liberia: President Gives Auditor General, GSA Bosses the Boot - What's Next?

Robert Kilby appeared on state radio ELBC Monday morning unaware about how his day would end. When the clock struck midday Monday, Kilby, the controversial Auditor General of the Republic of Liberia was out of a job.

It's July but the October Rain Rev. Emmanuel Bowier, former Minister of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism once used to describe Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf came earlier than expected and shock many who had come accustomed to seeing a non-reaction from Sirleaf in the wake of yet another corruption scandal.

Sirleaf, who pledged during her January 2006 inaugural address to make corruption public enemy number one was in fiery mood Monday when she used a midday addressed to the nation to announce the dismissal, with the concurrence of the Liberian Senate, Auditor General Robert Kilby.

The President also dismissed the director general of the general services agency Pearine Davis Parkinson for the conflict of interest saga that had engulfed the two officials during the ongoing budget hearing.

Said President Sirleaf: After review of documentary evidence over the weekend, I am today formally requesting the concurrence of the Honorable Legislature to dismiss the Auditor General, Robert Kilby, for failure to disclose private business activities that represent a clear conflict of interest with his official duties as Head of the institution with prime responsibility to investigate and advise on non-compliance with our public financial management and procurement laws."

Announcing that she will be communicating to the Legislature the causes for the controversial AG dismissal, the President announced that Parkinson too has been booted out of government for failing to exercise due diligence on the matter that was a clear violation of public trust.

"For the same reason, I am dismissing the Director General of the General Services Agency, Ms. Pearine Davis-Pakinson, who approved those contracts in violation of our procurement laws and procedures," she said.

Genesis of the saga

The saga began when Madam Parkinson without preempting the repercussions of her disclosure, revealed at last Tuesday's budget hearing before members of the ways means and finance committee and observers at the hearing that her entity the (GSA) signed and entered into a contact with an accountancy firm owned by Kilby to carry out Asset and Fleet management, Tracking and reporting system at the GSA.

The contract a copy of which landed in the possession of FrontPageAfrica's was made and entered into on December 3, 2012 by the between the GSA and Kilby's Independent Software Certification Company just three months after he took over as head of the GAC.

Kilby's company expressed its desire to enter into a contract for the construction of an asset and fleet management, Tracking and reporting system for the GSA according to the contract setting its own module operandi.

"The contractor convenient that it has the requisite training, expertise, and technical competence in the trade and performed similar working both Liberia and the United States of America, that is to customize the development of a software that will automate the owner's asset and fleet tracking and reporting system for the GSA into consideration, strategic national security interest," states the agreement between the company and the GSA.

The contract also states that Kilby's Firm was to receive the amount of two hundred and twenty thousand United States dollar (USD$ 220,000) which would be based on the scope of work as indicated in the proposal.

The contract which demanded money be paid on an installment basis also set a requirement of up to forty percent (40%) of the above price as a down payment, which is the equivalent of eighty eight thousand three hundred sixty united sates dollars (USD$ 88,360) prior to the commencement of the work.

It was also agreed that Second installment payment of sixty six thousand two hundred and seventy United States dollars ($66,270.00) be paid to the fired AG's company upon fifty percent completion of by the contractor of said work.

Both parties also agreed that fifty five thousand, two hundred twenty-five united states dollars ($55,225.00) be paid by the owner to the contractor upon completion of hundred percent of the said work and that the final payment of eleven thousand forty-five united states dollars ($11,045.00) be paid by the owner to the contractor upon satisfaction that the contractor has performed according to the terms and conditions of the contract.

Additional documents also obtained by FrontPageAfrica suggest that Kilby and the GSA boss inflated the estimates of the contract.

In a submission to Hon. Emmanuel Nuquay, the Chairman of the House Ways, Means and Finance Committee last Thursday, Ms. Peggy Varfley Meres, Executive Director of the Public Procurement Concessions Commission(PPCC) outlined that on August 9, 2012 the GSA wrote the PPCC a letter of its intent to award contracts to kilby's company in the amount of one hundred fifty thousand United States dollars(US$153,000.00) for the development of the inventory Tracking and Reporting System; and to Independent Software Certification Inc(ISCI) in the amount of two hundred, twenty thousand, nine hundred United States Dollars(US$220,900.00) for the development of the Asset and Fleet Tracking & Reporting System, and ninety-seven thousand six hundred eighty United States dollars(US$97,680.00) for the development of a Catalog system.

The PPCC boss also told lawmakers that on September 4, 2012 Victoria Kulah of the GSA signed, acknowledging receipt of the PPCC's a letter requesting bidding and other related documents from the GSA and on September 1, 2012 GSA accessed and printed advertisements from www.gsa.gov.lr and www.tlcafrica.com.

Meres also disclosed that on December 3, 2012 the GSA signed contracts with PSI and ISCI and on April 22, 2013 it responded to PPCC's request for documents, submitting bids, evaluation, reports, minutes of procurement committee meetings, and signed contracts that were requested in September 2012.

The PPCC boss' documents revealed that on May 15, 2013: PPCC replied GSA, informing it that it could grant a retroactive "no objection", as the three contracts had already been signed by all relevant parties but on June 19, 2013 Mr. Boom Wilson, Comptroller and Accountant-General/RL, wrote to PPCC, requesting clarifications with a twenty-four hour ultimatum.

The President in her dismissal statement said the contract given to Kilby clearly demonstrates conflict of interest in his position as auditor general and contradicts article 90 of the Liberian constitution. It was discovered that the fired Kilby taking office on Monday September 3, 2012 replacing Mr. Winsley Nanka who had been acting for several months following the expiration of the term of former AG John Morlu, signed the agreement with the GSA barely three months following his ascendency to the post.

Personal relationship

Parkinson last week told member of the committee that the contract was given Kilby's firm because she had worked with Kilby at two entities which include; the Executive Mansion, and GSA.

She also confirmed that Kilby participated in a bidding process along with three experts from USAID and Kilby firm produced better competence need to carry out the job at the entity.

Kilby a controversial figure rose to head the General Auditing Commission GAC, following a heated debate on the authenticity of his credentials and a hasty senate confirmation despite his first confirmation being thrown out and his nomination withdrawn by the president who would later succumb to reappointing him. FrontPageAfrica came to learn from sources within the presidency that it was Parkinson who prevailed on the president to put her(Parkinsson's) long-time friend, Kilby in the post and insisted that the president nominate him for a second time.

An official at the Ministry of State who spoke to FrontPageAfrica strictly on condition of anonymity recalled last Thursday, that the president did not know know that the pair who had worked together on numerous contracts during Parkinson's days at the Ministry of State were setting her up to open them to yet another avenue to push their agenda. But Kilby would not sail smoothly at his job as Auditor General following his confirmation late last year as he would embark on a firing spree that saw over forty employees lose their job s at his hands, while he wasted no time in hiring over sixty new employees including a personal driver earning over US$700 monthly.

More heads roll

President Sirleaf in an unrelated matter relating to Human Trafficking, also took action called a probe of former solicitor general Wilkins Wright while at the same time dismissing a senior officials at the ministry of justice based on investigation by the Ministry of Justice and the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization.

"I am dismissing the Deputy Minister of Justice for Administration and Public Safety, Col. Freddie Taylor; the Deputy Commissioner of the Bureau of Immigration for Operations, Mr. Robert Budy; and the Director of Border Management, Cllr. Wilson Garpeh," said Sirleaf.

"A team to be headed by the Minister of Labour is instructed to conduct further investigation on additional measures that may be taken and on the role and action to be taken against the former Solicitor General, Cllr. Micah Wright; the Commissioner of the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization; and the Honorary Consul, Upjit Sachdeva."

Reports have branded Liberia a source, transit and destination country for children trafficked for forced labor and sexual exploitation according to an executive mansion release issued last week on the suspension of activities of the operations at Bureau of Vital Statistics.

The reports cite the trafficking of more than five persons to Liberia from Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Côte d'Ivoire, and from Liberia to Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, and Nigeria for domestic servitude, street vending, sexual exploitation, and agricultural labor.

"Last week, Police in Monrovia arrested and are investigating a 53-year-old Guinean national, Zaore Lamah, who had entered the country with two minors and later recruited one from Liberia. He had gone to the Foreign Ministry's Division of Passport and Visas to obtain passports to enable him and the minors to travel from Liberia to Australia," stated the release.

Police preliminary investigation revealed that the man had already obtained birth certificates from the Bureau of Vital Statistics before proceeding to the Passport Division with the three children to obtain Liberian passports for the minors, when authorities there became suspicious and alerted the authorities according to the release.

The Police investigation showed that Mr. Lamah successfully manipulated the system at the Bureau of Vital Statistics, where he changed the children's birthplace from Conakry, Republic of Guinea, to Bong County, Republic of Liberia. He has so far failed to give details about himself, his family, or other relatives presently living in Liberia.

Former Solicitor General Wright's role in the child trafficking case involving an Indian national put on trial during his tenure at the Justice ministry is said to be reason for the President's call for him to be probed and appropriate action taken against him pending findings by a committee headed by the Ministry of labor.


The President also suspended pending an investigation, the Deputy Minister for Public Works for Operations, Mr. Victor Smith, for failure to adhere to the public procurement and financial rules of the Government as relates to the awarding of construction contracts.

Apparently smith is being suspended for his alleged role in his ministry's decision to collect the amount of $ 350.00 on behalf of the Construction Association as capacity building fees. But despite the president's dismissals Monday, many including Representative Acarous Gray says the President must go further. Gray(CDC, District Two, Montserrado County) described Sirleaf's action as a major drive in an attempt to battle corruption since her ascendency as President in 2006. "I commend her 100% for dismissal and suspension of top level officials. I also commit my advocacy in concurring with her quest to the Legislature to dismiss the GAC boss. I therefore hope that a speedy trial where necessary will take place and justice will triumph for the Liberian suffering masses."

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