21 June 2019

Liberia: Ex-Officials Fight Back

Former Deputy Finance and Development Planning Minister for Fiscal Affairs, Dr. James F. Kollie, Jr., is seeking answers from Solicitor General Designate Cllr. SaymaSyreniusCephus to show the audit report that has implicated him in an EU13 million missing money.

On Wednesday June 19, Cllr. Cephus issued a list in reference to a General Auditing Commission or GAC Audit reports over the period July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2017 in which he mentioned Dr. Kollie as one of the persons of interest.

The listing was followed by an interview conducted by the Analyst newspaper at which time the papers quotes Cllr. Cephusas saying that the Justice Department has put together a team of professional criminal investigators and lawyers called the AssetsRecovery Team or ART to recover monies that were stolen or unaccounted for under the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf regime as contained in several audits.

But Dr. Kollie, the current head of the Liberian Maritime Authority in a Letter dated on the same June 19, 2019 requests that Cllr. Cephus provides him the particular audit report that name him in a missing US$13 million.

"I present you greetings and wish to respectfully inquire about the basis upon which my name was mentioned on a list of 'persons of interest' issued by you on 19 June 2019, Dr. Kollie writes.

"Cllr. Cephas, because the list made reference to GAC Audit Reports for the period July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2017, I really do want to know the following:

1. Is there actually any audit report by the GAC on $13 million provided by the European Union?

2. Did that report, if it exists, ever mentioned my name?

3. Does that report have any responses from me in it?

4. Is the mentioned of me or anyone purely on the basis of unsubstantiated media and press reports?

Cllr. Cephas, I am constrained to ask these questions because to the best of my knowledge, no auditor have ever asked me any question about EU $13 million and so for your press statement to claim that there is a GAC Audit report is totally surprising and baffling.

And if there is no GAC Audit Report, Cllr. Cephas, I want you to imagine the irreparable damage that you have caused to our reputation. For example, Boima S. Kamara was not even working at the Ministry of Finance in 2013 (the period of the purported report) and so it would be impossible for him to have been involved in any audit at that time.

Honorable Solicitor General (designate), I am hoping that you will take these questions in good faith and do everything you can to respond so that the record can be set straight."

In another response, former Liberia's Ambassador to the United Nations, Lewis G. Browne who has also been listed in "the persons and institutions of interest" wrote:

"Mr. Solicitor-General:

I am constrained to draw your attention to the online and print publications of the June 19 and 20 Editions of the Liberian Analyst Newspaper which quotes you extensively as the source of a "List of Former Government Officials" said to have been investigated and or audited by either the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) or the General Auditing Commission (GAC), and accordingly, have been determined to be liable to restitute, be prosecuted for, and or jailed supposedly on the discretion of the newly-created office of the Assets Recovery Team (ART). My name, and those of other colleagues with whom I was privileged to have served during my tenure at the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT), have been included in those publications erroneously purveying the public impression that we have either been audited by the GAC and or investigated by the LACC, and as a consequence of these audits and or investigations, evidence exists of the collective and or individual commissions of fraud, misappropriation, misapplication or otherwise theft of public monies entrusted into our individual or collective care, for which we must now answer to the ART.

It is instructive that none of the individuals listed under MICAT have either participated in any audit of MICAT by the GAC or have been made aware or participated in any investigation by the LACC. The closest I have come to information concerning the alleged conduct of an audit by the GAC was through a publication in the September 18, 2018 online and print edition of the FrontPageAfrica Newspaper, more than two and half years after I had left the MICAT, under the byline of journalist Alaskai Johnson who was kind to inform me that the source of his story was a member of the Liberian Legislature. This was my first time hearing about the "audit" and the claims supposedly contained therein.

Obviously, one cannot react to an audit that he did not participate in, was unaware of, and was, as yet, unpublished. I therefore felt compelled to limit my reaction to the news article of the FPA, which I did on September 22, 2018".

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