The Daily Observer's front page lead story yesterday revealed a most shocking disclosure.
A loan fund that has been in existence at the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) since 2014 purportedly to encourage small and medium-sized Liberian businesses with loans to improve their enterprises was surreptitiously (secretly) created and managed by MFDP officials.
These officials, led by Dr. James Kollie, MFDP Deputy Minister for Fiscal Affairs, proceeded to dish out this money, to the tone of US$4,111,450, known as Private Sector Development Initiative (PSDI), to themselves and their unprofessionally selected friends and associates, even without collateral!
An MFDP Internal Audit draft report revealed that of the US$4,111,450, US$1,665,434.91 was transferred to the PSDI loan account for loan disbursements, while the balance of US$2,445,995 was withdrawn on "multiple check transfers"--whatever that means.
The Internal Auditors further stated that their attention was drawn "to a specific LBDI check number 133806, valued at US$1,648,037. We observed that the check was written as debit to the LPSL: Account and correspondingly deposited to another account called GOL Operation Account (A/C Number 02-2-0530000182) at the CBL. Details are highlighted in the findings," the report said.
Meanwhile, Dr. James Kollie, who by the way has been handsomely rewarded for his stewardship at Finance with another highly lucrative appointment as Commissioner General of the Liberia Maritime Authority, posted a statement on Facebook denying any wrongdoing.
How can this yet another PhD in the ill-fated Liberian government of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf claim that he has done nothing wrong when, to begin with he and his colleagues, including his former boss, Finance and Development Planning Minister Amara Konneh, never told the public that there was all that money at Finance available to the already struggling Liberian businesses for lending? Instead, they (Konneh, Kollie and other top officials and others kept the information of the loan funds to themselves, and proceeded to share the money among themselves and their friends.
What kind of PhD does Dr. Kollie have if he never learned about ethics and another fundamental administrative violation called "conflict of interest?"
Moreover, in all his lofty learning, the terminal degree, the important and critical policy decisions instituted by government must be shared with the public, especially when it is intended to empower the already struggling Liberian businesses.
Now it has become clear for all to see why this newspaper has for so long complained that this Ellen Sirleaf government has neglected Liberian-owned businesses, favoring instead, at every turn, foreign-owned business enterprises, which already overwhelmingly dominate every aspect of our economy.
And now, here we are, with the government constantly complaining of very serious economic difficulties, owing to the fall in the commodity prices of our primary foreign exchange earners, rubber and iron ore, and the government having undertaken a major economic policy decision to set aside nearly US$5 million to help empower Liberian businesses, and Ellen herself keeping totally silent. Yet, it is a matter that warranted a major media announcement proclaiming this great thing her government was doing for Liberian businesses.
Alas, most Liberian businesses knew nothing about this policy, and nothing still that it included a handsome figure of nearly US$5 million that could have gone a long way to empower the few existing Liberian enterprises. The ones who knew of the fund, we are learning, applied and were turned down. These included two very young and promising Liberian industiralists - the award-winning J-Palm, founded by Mahmud Johnson and Panzsir, founded by Korkpor Daynuah. Both are mass producers of highly competent skin care products of export quality, done right here in Liberia.
On the contrary, the Deputy Minister for Fiscal Affairs, Dr. James Kollie, chose the highly incompetent, unethical, selfish and corrupt path of signing all loan approvals, including loans to his own personal company, Garson Incorporated.
Worse yet, of the forty-six borrowers, only Kollie's company, Garson Inc., has paid part of its loan. The other 45 borrowers are nowhere to be found!
How could Dr. Kollie do such a thing to his poor country, Liberia and its impoverished masses, millions of whom are barely surviving on one US dollar a day?
How could such a highly educated individual make so serious a series of mistakes with the people's money, dishing it out without a single "measure of transparence and accountability? And yet he has the temerity to declare that he has "done nothing wrong."
And there are all the other players--MFDP Minister Amara Konneh and all the other ministerial players in that Ministry; and their boss, the President herself. What have been their roles in the dishing out of all this money? Why was Kollie alone allowed to be the sole determiner of who gets how much of that money, without any proper vetting whatsoever and without collateral? Every one of these officials is called to answer the question of what happened to that money.
We think further that it is not enough for Dr. Kollie to be ordered home. He cannot and should not remain head of the Maritime Authority, one of the nation's prime financial assets, having left such a dismal track record at Finance.