13 February 2018

Liberia: Top Official of Liberia's Anti-Graft Body Accuses Head of Heartlessness, Financial Improprieties

Monrovia — A commissioner at the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), Cllr. J. Augustine Toe, has accused the Chairman of the anti-graft body of "disrespecting his peers and taking them for fools" while insinuating and raising questions over withdrawal of operational funds for the Commission.

"If this issue will make all of us leave LACC in disgrace, I am prepared. But I am not prepared for my hard earned reputation to be destroyed and my children ask why you did not speak when you should have spoken."

"History and prosperity [posterity] will judge me harshly if I do not speak or act now. As I always say, there will be life after LACC" - Cllr. J. Augustine Toe, Commissioner, Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission

In an email exchange obtained by FrontPageAfrica, Cllr. Toe, a former human rights activist, said a growing number of issues at the anti-graft body are "playing on his conscience" and he felt it necessary to bring those issues to the attention of the LACC boss.

Astounding in Cllr. Toe's communication to Chairman James Verdier, was his discovery of the "suspicious secret clandestine" management of the LACC's finances by Verdier in cohort with the entity's comptroller.

He noted in the communication that it was high time he spoke truth to power and that he and other commissioners' silence over the series of missteps at the LACC does not equate them to fools.

Cllr. Toe expressed concerns in the communication over Cllr. Verdier's and the comptroller's denials of the Ministry of Finance releasing operational funds to the entity during a Board of Commissioners (BOC) meeting.

He noted that the comptroller made the BOC to believe that the LACC was in a very bad financial standing.

Cllr. Toe, who could not contain the shock upon finding out the truth of the matter included in the communication to the LACC boss,

"Contrary to the report of the comptroller, a former employee of this Commission called me few days after and informed me that the Ministry of Finance has given the LACC funds a week or two before the BOC meeting.

He then promised to get me in touch with the informer at the Ministry of Finance and true to his words, on Friday, December 22, 2017, the day of the staff meeting, he connected me with the informer at the Ministry of Finance (for your information, that was the reason why I did not attend the staff meeting) who gave me all the documentations of the operational funds released to the LACC."

According to Cllr. Toe, on Jan. 4, 2018, he substantiated the documents he obtained from his informant at the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning and was also able to find out the portion of the operational funds already withdrawn with the consent of members of the BOC.

The disappointed Commissioner added in his letter:

"For your information, since 2015, the former ED started telling me about the reckless manner you were conducting the financial activities of the LACC. From what he said then, I believed him. I have not spoken out, not because I am a coward or a fool."

"But I wanted to keep a good working relationship. I have always considered you as not only a friend but a BROTHER! I did not want the employees to have gotten the slightest impression that you and myself were fussing."

Toe, probably tired of playing loyalty without appreciation, condemned the anti-corruption chairman of being heartless to his colleagues and using them like his servants.

According to him, Chairman Verdier after secretly receiving the operational funds then instructed the comptroller to give the other members of the BOC few gallons of fuel.

He wrote to Verdier: "What a heartless act!! What have we done to you to be so heartless to us? This is greatly disappointing and unfortunate."

"Our cars cannot be serviced or repaired. Cllr. Payma does not have a chair to sit in and work; Cllr. Johnson sits in the heat because there is no air conditioner, the only vehicle for the prosecution division has been down for months, where my program assistant sits has no curtains.

How can we expect productively from these employees when the conditions under which they work are deplorable? If these funds from government no matter how meager are applied with humanity, they would improve conditions under which the staff work.

"Let me say I do not intent to let this issue pass like before. I intend to raise my voice loud on this issue and other issues within my certain knowledge well supported by facts and evidence. But will do so when you return. If this issue will make all of us leave LACC in disgrace, I am prepared."

"But I am not prepared for my hard-earned reputation to be destroyed and my children ask why you did not speak when you should have spoken. History and prosperity [posterity] will judge me harshly if I do not speak or act now. As I always say, there will be life after LACC."

Verdier Claims Innocence

In response to the litany of accusation levied by his colleague, Chairman Verdier refutes the accusations and characterization of him, noting that he was equally concerned if the comptroller was misleading the BOC.

"My information about GoL funding for the LACC is basically obtained from the Comptroller or his office. Why would I want to conceal information about available funding to the LACC? To what end and benefit?

As I am informed, the processing of request and granting of request can be time consuming depending on the MoFDP cash projection.

Approval, release of voucher, returning to the agency for final signature, depositing with financial institution and the agency's account being credited are not the activities I am conversant with," he replied Cllr. Toe.

Verdier added that he relies solely on the comptroller or his office for advice or information regarding availability of funds.

Recently, Verdier came under attack by some former top employees of the LACC for allegedly refusing to pay their remittances and at the same time siphoning the fund, which was made available by the Ministry of Finance under the pretext of buying a generator for the LACC.

The matter is still being investigated by the Senate Committee on Autonomous Agencies.

About the LACC

The LACC was established in 2008 by an Act of the National Legislature with a broad mandate and functions to implement appropriate measures and undertake programs geared toward investigating, prosecuting and preventing acts of corruption, including educating the public about the ills of corruption and the benefits of its eradication.

The LACC is composed of five (5) individual members known as Commissioners; one of whom serves as Executive Chairperson and one as Vice Chairperson.

They are nominated and subsequently appointed by the President of Liberia after confirmation by the Liberian Senate.

The Executive Chairperson and Vice Chairperson are appointed for a term of five years each, and are eligible for reappointment for one additional term of five years.

The other three are appointed on a staggered basis with one Commissioner appointed for an initial term of four years, while the other two for three and two years each.


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