30 January 2018

Liberia: Unwanted Appointee

Photo: FrontPage Africa
President George Weah delivering his first State of the Nation address

'The good or bad one does lives after him' parable is taking shape in the preferment of Elias Shoniyin as Deputy Foreign Minister by President George who is forming his 'Pro-poor' government a week after taking the oath of office. The mention of his name in alleged financial wrongdoings is fueling citizens' roar that he is unfit for reappointment. The New Republic flags the concerns both in written and comments.

The appointment of Elias Shoniyin as Deputy Foreign Minister is being met with acidic public resistance and criticisms, with calls for President George Weah to withdraw his name. A long-serving Minister in the erstwhile government of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Shoniyin was one of several Liberians named to various positions in government at the weekend, as the president forms his 'pro-poor- administration.

Shoniyin is not new to the foreign ministry or the position appointed to. He was first appointed to government in 2006 as Assistant Foreign Minister, and later elevated as Deputy Minister for International Cooperation. He later became Deputy Foreign Minister after series of issues involving the administration of the Japanese Grant emerged.

His maintenance in government for such a period of protraction by the former President is seen as a sort of qui-pro-quo as one of the young people who worked with Madam Sirleaf as candidate in 2005.

One reason fueling huge public protest for his preferment is his alleged involvement in the misapplication of the Japanese funds intended to impact public sector development.

In Hatai shops and on radio talkshows, Liberians are vocal about his activities in the past government, and his preferment by President Weah contradicts the pledge to end corruption.

General Auditing Commission and Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission audits pinpointed wrongdoing with the Grant, and Shoniyin and other officials were highlighted as having played part in what happened.

The Movement of Social Democratic Alternative (MOSODA) is one entity that has come down hard on the appointment, calling on President Weah to withdraw his name.

The entity strongly believes such appointment is a contrast of what the president told the nation in his inaugural address.

The group reminded the president of his pledge to the nation. "I want to admonish you, that the foundation of the New Liberia must be reinforced by the steel of integrity. We need men and women, boys and girls, whose integrity provides the foundation of the trust that is required for Liberian society to benefit her people," MOSODA recalled.

Shoniyin is said to have integrity issue in the wake of his role in the Japanese Grant.

Saying that it is taken aback by the appointment, MOSODA believes "is a total contradiction to your pledge to end corruption, and it is a classic act of an afterthought, given that this individual is hooked in the reports of the GAC and the LACC for mismanaging the Japanese Grant that was given to the Liberian Government to mitigate capacity gap at the International Economic Cooperation and Integration (IECI) at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs."

If President Weah pronouncement about ending corruption is anything to take seriously, MOSODA says Mr. Shoniyin should go nowhere near the new administration.

"This individual is not only a perversion of integrity and a scar in the conscience of public service, but also a carpetbagger whose voracious appetite for wealth is objectionable and pernicious, undermining the zeal of public spiritedness and altruism that are characteristics of public service," the group claims.

It is recalled that the government of Japan in 2014 provided US$$731,412.00 to the Liberian Government for the purpose of building the institutional capacity of the department of International Economic Cooperation and Integration (IECI) the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It aimed to enhance efficiency and effectiveness on the job in a way that leads to maximum productivity and at the same time ease capacity challenges at the Ministry.

A GAC report presented to the Liberian Legislature on the status of the grant highlighted "Misapplication and swindling of L$21,394,360.00 of the Grants allegedly by some authorities who were in charge of the management of the fund."

"As per the canon of the project, the key authority who had exclusive jurisdiction over the fund was Elias Shoniyin, he maintained such power even when he was transferred from the position of Deputy Minister for International Cooperation to Deputy for Foreign Affairs," MOSODA noted.

According to the organization, the fight against corruption "cannot be conducted on the basis of equivocal and vague political pronouncements."

It says it is done through strengthening institutions fighting graft and the flexing of political will by the President of the Republic.

"The fight against corruption must go beyond the airwaves of radio stations and the front pages of newspaper to praxis," it argues, and encouraged the President to take such a bold step starting with Mr. Shoniyin.

Appearing before the Joint Public Accounts Committees of the Legislature on the GAC report, former Foreign Minister Marjon Kamara; Elias Shoniyin, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Thomas Kaydor former Deputy Minister for IECI Department admitted that the intent of the grant was not met.

Commenting on the issue at the time, Deputy Minister Shoniyin told the Committee that 50% of the project goal was achieved, and further admitted at the hearing that US$20m was misapplied, something which, according to him, served as a hindrance to the full implementation of the project.

The then Deputy Minister for IECI Department said the manager of the project at the time, Augustine Nyanplu, who was out of the country denied the allegation, and others at the bank were involved in unauthorized withdraws, leading to the misapplication of the amount in question.

Also in response to questions from members of the Legislative Committees, Minister Kamara (who was not linked to the alleged misapplication of the Japanese Fund) said the project was implemented by 30% and not 50% as was mentioned earlier by Deputy Minister Shoniyin.

In its report, the GAC said it had also uncovered that the IECI Project Management made payments for various transactions, amounting to L$21,394,360 without adequate supporting documents to substantiate the integrity of the transactions, and also noted that payments without adequate supporting documentation could cast doubts on the regularity of the transactions and undermines public sector accountability and transparency.

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