LIBERIAN PRESIDENT Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf issued her strongest statement to date Monday night on the ongoing controversy regarding Ellen Corkrum, the fugitive former head of the Liberia Airport Authority.
SAID SIRLEAF: "We also understand the tangential impact of gag orders on free society. Moreover, this leadership has done nothing for which it is ashamed. It has absolutely nothing to hide. We have only been the victims of a warped and criminal mind who, to divert attention from her crime, has rendered evil for good. Therefore, well-intentioned as it is, I am concerned that the timing of this gag order would have offered a contrary impression and risk posing serious questions to our continued commitment to the exercise of free speech in the country."
CORKRUM HAS been a thorn in the government's side of late, since she and her fiancé Judge Melvin Johnson began unleashing a slew of secretly-recorded conversations which has so far brought the security apparatus to its knees and the presidency on the edge of uncertainty.
IN RECORDINGS released so far, the pair has successfully managed to put the likes of Musa Billity, Chairman of the Liberia Airport Authority, Defense Minister Brownie Samukai and Police Director Chris Massaquoi on the spot with some embarrassing conversation held outside the glare of the public eye.
WHILE THE CONVERSATIONS BETWEEN Corkrum and Billity and Corkrum and Samukai appear to show a lack of cohesion and coordination among government institutions, the secret recording of the Inspector General of Police in no small way exposed a sinister plot to assist and aid and abet accused officials engulfed in massive allegations of fraud and corruption.
THIS IS WHY we are unimpressed by the President's late arrival to the Corkrum recording bash, a spiraling parade of recordings which has so far brought nothing but embarrassment to the administration.
SADLY, ALL THIS could have been avoided when Corkrum unleashed her first recording of Billity. At the time, the erstwhile former LAA boss was still within reach of the security apparatus and the administration which made very little attempt to hold her accountable or at least question her over the number of allegations piling dust in various circles of government.
PRIOR TO HER FLIGHT, the government was fully aware of the ton of allegations of violations of the Public Procurement Concessions Commission(PPCC) and that Corkrum was responsible for defrauding the government by making unauthorized transfer of funds that amounted to over US$269,000.00 from account number 005USD21235003306 at the bank. While Corkrum insists that she is a victim of a setup and has expressed fears for her life which makes her reluctant to return to Liberia, she is yet to explain why she gave her fiancé who was not a government appointee such a prominent play with government funds.
THE GOVERNMENT was also fully aware, prior to Corkrum's departure, that Diaspora Consultant run by Moamar Dieng had in fact never had experience in airport work but was given thousands of dollars worth to play with by Corkrum. Dieng's consultancy with the Ministry of Planning received a poor rating and to date, there has been no account of how a sum of US$125,000 was expended as there is no work to show for the funds disbursed. The payment to Diaspora Consulting was made on December 13,2012. Adding more misery to Corkrum's debacle is a check in the amount of US$14, 000 paid to her fiancé, Melvin Johnson for attorney fees and contract rewrites. The check was withdrawn from the LBDI bank. In another transaction, Corkrum wired two amounts to her U.S. accounts, one to an account listed as Ellen Kwame, her middle name and another to an account in the name of Ellen Corkrum. Both transactions were conducted in one day.
BY ALLOWING CORKRUM and her fiancé to leave the shores of Liberia, the government has only itself to blame because it had so much information on hand and did nothing to prevent Corkrum from leaving.
PRESIDENT SIRLEAF did not help matters when she heaped praise on Bility on the heels of the filing of indictment against several key players in the controversy.
THE PRESIDENT went to great lengths to thank Bility for always responding to Government's call to take on difficult and strategic assignments. "Because of that, sometimes he gets all kinds of criticisms and false accusations; but in each case, I can say to you that the confidence we have in his carrying out his responsibility with integrity and commitment is strong because we believe in him," she stressed, adding, "Mr. Bility, what you did by just chairing the Commission and giving encouragement to the other members is just exemplary of the things that you do for this Government and this country."
AS EXPECTED, Sirleaf's praise of Bility drew mixed reactions in Monrovia with many questioning the timing of the commendation, coming on the heels of the recent indictment of Bility, who is also the suspended chair of the Liberia Airport Authority.
THE PRAISE CAME after the government indicted several RIA executives including Bility, Ellen Corkrum, former Acting Managing Director, her fiancée, Melvin Johnson as well as the heads of the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI) and the First International Bank.
THE CORKRUM DEBACLE is a clear manifestation of the major problem dogging the Sirleaf administration. One after another, corrupt, inexperienced, and misplaced characters continue to enjoy access to power, bring shame to the government and walk away in a recurring play of impunity. Sirleaf and her government must realize that no government can survive in Africa with a sense of mentality. It simply does not work in the African setting.
LABELING CORKRUM a 'Criminal Mind' makes good headline for the media but we are really sorry Madam President, it came a little too late and this government will simply have to live with whatever bombshell Corkrum and her fiancé drop next.