Liberia: Minster Wilson Tarpeh Debunks Allegations By Sacked Deputy Minister Jamima Wolokollie That He's Been Squandering Us$3m Loan Intended for Market Women

Monrovia — The Minister of Commerce and Industry, Professor Wilson Tarpeh has dismissed claims made against him by his former Deputy Minister, Jemima Wolokollie that he orchestrated a "well-organized crime" that involved a loan scheme for female marketers of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC).

Ms. Wolokollie served as Deputy Minister for Small Business Administration at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MOCI) since 2018 until she was sacked by President George Weah for "actions incompatible" with her status as a senior government official.

The ruling CDC also dismissed her from the party after she charged that the party has been hijacked by a handful of people.

But in the aftermath of her dismissal, she has been making damaging allegations against her former boss and the CDC. She challenged them to take her to court over allegations that she initiated a dubious loan scheme within the party.

The Small Business Pro-poor Development Fund (SBPDF) was launched by President George Weah in 2019. It was an initiative intended to empower Liberian owned businesses for the creation of jobs and wealth for the under privileged in society.

Said Ms. Wolokollie: "He has been disbursing the US$3,000,000 and you know it. He has disbursed up to US$513,000 to unknown people that I have no knowledge of. I asked Minister Wilson K. TARPEH for an AUDIT REPORT, names of those he gave the loan to, their phone numbers, business names and locations of their respective businesses and to Minister Wilson K. TARPEH one month ago and I never got a reply. Now!!!! Who is the liar???? Who is the most powerful and corrupt person??? Your lies will never be encouraged by any sound minded individual around the world."

She continued: "I'm defying you to do so. I dare anyone of you to take me to court for a well-organized crime that has no truth. I am challenging you little liars to be more responsible and take me to the law."

"I will not take the responsibility for my boss, concerning this loan. He has a clear understanding of how he gave this loan out and Mulbah Morlu knows it, Minister Tarpeh has the money" but has remain silent."

However, Minister Tarpeh, speaking out for the first time since the allegations were leveled against him over a week ago, said the accusations are false and product of a "depraved mind."

"Let me categorically state here that all of these allegations and others like them, are grossly baseless, false and unfounded. The accusations are nothing but the product of a depraved mind of a functional illiterate," he debunked.

"For the record, the loan program is administered, managed and operated by the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI). The Ministry of Commerce and Industry only provides strategic oversight and guidance as a sector Ministry."

Addressing a press conference at the Ministry of Commerce in Congo Town on Wednesday, July 8, Professor Tarpeh, displayed copies of checks bearing the signatures of Ms. Wolokollie.

Two Accounts One Loan Scheme

According to Minister Tarpeh, the Small Business Pro-poor Development Fund (SBPDF), loan scheme, lunched by President Weah is being run from two separate accounts managed by the MOCI and LBDI.

The Ministry's account, he said was opened in 2019 in anticipation of the launch of the loan program and Ms. Wolokollie is one of the 'A' signatories to the account.

He explained the LBDI committed US$2 million to the loan, and out of the amount, has deposited US$1 million into its own account that no one outside of the LBDI has access to.

The LBDI's contribution, Tarpeh clarified, is not in the SBPDF account opened by the MOCI, but is available to the loan program and is reflected in the total loan resources available under the program.

As of July 3, 2020, he furthered that the account had a credit balance of US$957,582.34 and there have been two check payments transactions over this account since its opening. The checks, he said were authorized and signed by former Minister Wolokollie.

He said: "Ms. Wolokolie claims that she knows nothing about the SBPDF account and the financial activities of the project because it was handled or conduct personally by my office. This too, is a blatant lie."

"Ms. Wolokollie authorized the first payment of US$33,216 for training she reportedly conducted. Ms. Wolokollie also requested and authorized a payment of US$8,380.80 to cover the cost of advertisements and associated activities that she said were needed to support the SDPDF. How can she say she knew nothing about the account when she signed the checks drawn on the account?" he asked rhetorically.

Who Disburse The Loan?

According to Minister Tarpeh, to guide the administration, management and operation of the loan program, MOCI and LBDI entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

And under the MOU, all loans applications are addressed and delivered to the LBDI, and credit decision are made solely by the bank following appropriate scrutiny using its own professional standards, and the Ministry of Commerce and Industry plays no role in the process.

As of March 31, 2020, total loans extended amounted to US$533,317.66. This amount, he noted, includes loans made in Liberian dollars in the tone of L$82,591,290 and loans disbursed in United States Dollars, amounting to US$100,000.

His assertion is in stark contradiction to Ms. Wolokollie's who alleged that the Minister has been disbursing monies without her consent.

Who Are The Beneficiaries?

Copies of documents presented by Tarpeh during the press conference show several businesses as beneficiaries.

They include AYS African Fashion of Montserrado, Fedelity Micro Loan LLC of Montserrado, Foundation for Women Liberia Montserrado and Margibi Counties, Francis T. J Pharmacy of Bong County, Jamel Transport of Montserrado, Joseph D. Solo Agriculture Farm Inc. of Grand Gedeh, New World Finance, Montserrado, Napolu's Business Center of Montserrado, S.B. Woodwork Shop of Montserrado, Trust Savings Credit Union in Nimba County, Universal Empowerment Mission Inc. in Montserrado, Sinoe, Lofa, Grand Gedeh and Grand Kru Counties, Cee-Breeze of Montserrado and James Blamo Business Center of Montserrado County.

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