12 February 2014

Liberia: Gbala Calls Maritime to Account

Monrovia — The outburst of indignation by the Liberia Maritime Authority (LiMA) Commissioner Binyah Kesselley against Rep Bhofal Chambers [CDC, Md., D#2] for alleging that the authority has lavished more than US $200.0 million has prompted reactions from many Liberians. Foremost amongst them is former presidential policy advisor Bai M. Gbala. He is branding the outburst a decoy and he is demanding explanations and accountability. The Analyst, reports.

Former presidential policy advisor Bai M. Gbala, branding the outburst of indignation by the Commissioner of the Liberia Maritime Authority (LiMA), Binyah Kesselley, a decoy from the main issue, has called on the authority to account for and recover the people's money.

The media reported in Monrovia last week that Rep Bhofal Chamber ([CDC, Md., D#2] alleged in plenary that the Liberian government spent more than US $200.0 million on activities that are yet to be established. Given the mystery surrounding the expenditure of the huge amount at the time the nation's economy was experiencing difficulties, the CDC lawmaker thought it was time the lawmakers call LiMA to account for the use of the money.

The allegation however raised not the cooperation of LiMA but the angst of Commissioner Kesselley, who reportedly called the lawmaker's allegation ‘reckless and irresponsible' statement made ‘without checking the facts'. Mr. Kesselley reportedly released the emotional outburst against the representative during a MICAT regular press briefing last Thursday where he “clarify the issues”. Chamber himself has yet to respond to Kesselley's diatribes, but Mr. Gbala believed it should not be a duel between the commissioner and the lawmaker. He believed that it is the Liberian people's business, which requires the people's participation for urgent redress.

The veteran politician said the LiMA commissioner's denial that the Liberian government lavished such huge amount on public relations without stating the purpose for which the amount was expended has raised more questions than it did offer answers.

Moreover, he said, Commissioner Kesselley's statement that the ‘people's making of reckless statements' led to the series of socio-political disasters that assailed Liberia, beginning with the Rice Riot in 1979 and ending with the civil war in 1989, contradicted both history and reality.

Even though the contradiction appeared not to be the mainstay of the policy advisor's response, he said it was necessary that public officials kept the cause of Liberia's civil upheavals in perspective to avoid repeats.

“We beg (the Honorable Commissioner) to differ. In that, we disagree that his analysis predicated on un-defined “reckless statements” did not lead to or gave rise to our devastating nightmare of the civil conflict.

Indeed, the facts of our recent history show that the civil war was a calculated plan by the former ruling class with support of ethnic/tribal bigots,” Mr. Gbala said in his February 10, 2014 response titled, “Reckless and Irresponsible, LiMA Boss Reacts - The Analyst: Some Comments”.

He quoted a UN Panel report as affirming that LiMA's agent, the Liberian International Ship & Corporate Registry (LISCR) used between US 25,000.00 and US $400,000.00 million to finance the Liberia war and noted that that made LISCR a fair game for suspicion.

“Therefore, as stated elsewhere, ‘it is reasonable for Liberians to cry ‘wolf' and to be concerned when and where the names of LISCR and LiMA are mentioned regarding payments of large sums of US dollars to individuals or organizations without indication of the purposes for which such payments were or are made',” the former presidential policy advisor said.

That, he said, brought to focus the main issues that surround the mysterious application of US $200.000 allegedly for public relations purposes.

He said it was clear that neither accounts by the UN's and later the US Attorney General' s Office nor media reports accused the Liberian government or LiMA of applying the amount illegally. The question therefore, he said, was not what the government or LiMA did with the money, but what happened to the money in view of LiMA leadership's denial that the money was not used for money laundering or lobbying.

Mr. Gbala recalled Commissioner Kesselley's July 2013 press conference, in which he confirmed LISCR's application of the money and explained reasons for the misnomer in the 2011 report of the Office of the US Attorney General, and noted that the commission has only succeeded in baffling the issue.

“The First crucial question, then, that remains unanswered and that which the LiMA must answer, among others, is why did this US Company paid, handsomely, for its services as an agent and, perhaps, based in Washington, D.C., failed to correct the nature of services provided for 11 years!!?” the veteran political wondered.

But he said that was not the only question that begs urgent answer.

“The second question that the LiMA CEO must answer is double-barreled: why is LISCR paying or has paid all of those enormous US dollar-payments to the conclave of firms on K Street and others in and around the City of Washington, D. C., USA, without (1), a clear indication of the services performed and (2), why is there an apparent absence of an aggressive public relations program?” he said.

The veteran politician said answers to the questions were demanded not to down play the essence of lobbying and public relations as the means of efficient and effective communication of policy goals and strategies to attract international partnership and donor supporter, but to establish accountability and transparency.

He quoted former deputy house speaker Tokpah Mulbah as revealing that LISCR paid public relations money to Amblib Mineral or AmLib United Minerals, which reportedly operated in Liberia “criminally and illegally”.

The truism of this revelation, Mr. Gbala said, did not only raise three fresh questions, but heightened and justified the Liberian people's demand upon LiMA to account and recover the misapplied funds.

The first of these questions, he said, was why did LISCR fail to correct “the nature of service provided” for 11 years - 2000 to December 2011?

A follow-up question, the veteran politician said, concerned the nature of the services provided. “Why there is not a clear indication of the services provided for which LISCR paid and continues to pay huge sum of money out of the nation's ship registry program? Why is there an apparent absence of an aggressive, transparent and accountable PR Program?” he wondered.

The third crucial cluster of questions, he said, concerned the company, which is at the center of the bribery - AmLib United Minerals.

“Why did LISCR pay US $181,933.00 to this firm for ‘PR', a minerals company, when ‘LiMA/LISCR was not, ever, involved in PR', according to LiMA CEO, Honorable Binyah Kesselly?

How was it possible to make the payment without a known address or contact information of AmLib United Minerals and, for what ‘nature of services' was this amount paid?” he wondered further.

The preceding questions may appear rhetorical, but Mr. Gbala said they were not intended to be so. Rather, he noted that they were forerunners to the actual issue, which was to call LiMA to account.

“In the light of the facts known at this point in time, LiMA must provide credible, satisfactory answers to the questions, and that LiMA/LISCR must recover the US $181,933.00 paid to AmLib United Minerals, including the large sums paid to others for unknown services.

Record of all of these payments is available,” he said.

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