Liberia: CARI Workers Want Suspended Staff Reinstated

Suakoko — About 100 employees of the Central Agricultural Research Institute (CARI) in Suakoko District have been staged a protest, demanding the withdrawal of the reinstatement of David Tokpah, CARI's director of Natural Resource department, who was suspended in January.

CARI's acting officer-in-charge Mrs. Paulette Findley suspended Tokpah because of his alleged involvement in a theft case involving missing assets at CARI. But Findley reinstated Tokpah on August 3, 2020.

When Findley took over in July 2019, she set up a committee to take an inventory of equipment left at CARI by the UNMIL mission that had worked at the institution from 203 to 2005. Findley instructed the committee to sell the items to address some of the financial constraints facing the institution.

During its peacekeeping mission in Liberia, the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), members of the Bangladeshi contingent of UNMIL, was based at CARI.

When UNMIL shut down in 2005, it donated several items including the 50 KVA generators, fuel tankers, air conditioners, and containers valued over $100,000 United States dollars.

Findley appointed Tokpah to head the committee. Staff accused Tokpah of selling the 50 KVA generator and used the money for his personal use.

Findley suspended Tokpah for time indefinite. The police was called in to investigate and later charged Tokpah with theft of property and misapplication of property and forwarded him to court. The Gbarnga Magisterial Court later cleared of the charge after Findley failed to appear in court.

Arthur Wennah, a CARI scientist, accused Findley and Tokpah of looting the institution's assets when he appeared on Radio Gbarnga, a local radio station in Bong County

Two months after Wennah raised the alarm, a leaked audio went viral on Facebook. Findley and Tokpah were heard discussing how to steal and sell CARI's assets. Findley, in the audio, mandated Tokpah to remove the generator from CARI compound and take it to the vendor whom Tokpah had identified. "You people should take the generator from CARI compound and you should do it quickly because," Findley told Tokpah in the leaked audio.

The two also discussed giving one of the generators to the coordinator of the General Service Agency (GSA) in Bong County to buy his silence. The GSA is the government arm responsible for all assets of the government.

Tokpah threatened to expose Findley if she didn't reinstate him, claiming that he had more "damaging audios" to expose Findley's deals. Two weeks later, Findley reinstated him.

The protesting employees called on President George Weah to take actions against Findley and Tokpah because they embezzled resources at CARI.

Some staffers during the protest also called on Findley to reinstate Wennah, who was suspended for reasons FrontPage Africa has not established up to press time, stating that he has done nothing wrong to warrant such punishment from Findley. They described Wennah's suspension as a "witch-hunt" for the fact that all his claims levied against Tokpah and Findley were true.

Mark Yarnley, a scientist at CARI, accused Findley of dismissing staffers critical of her leadership.He said Wennah has been vocal of Findley's schemes.

"Since Madam Finley took over CARI, she has been witch-hunting people who were closed to the former leadership of Dr. Marcus Jones and Dr. Walter Wiles," says Yarnley. "Instead of us working to improve the entity, CARI has turned to an area where when the boss is not pleased with you because of your opinion of her leadership, she targets for no reason," he said.

Koiboi Johnson, CARI's accountant, is also pushing for Wennah's reinstatement. Johnson wondered why a whistleblower would be suspended for issues that have come to light and then the culprit is reinstated. "This is someone that needs the urgent attention of the President of Liberia, Dr. George Weah. Findley's action against Wennah is wrong and should be condemned by those who mean well for this country. You suspended a worker for raising alarm about corruption and reinstate someone who admits to stealing an institution assets. We are calling on the president and all those concerned to look into this. This is a travesty of injustice being melted against," Johnson said.

Commenting on his reinstatement, Tokpah said he was cleared by the court of all the charges levied against him and sees no reason why his colleagues are protesting against his reinstatement. "For those at CARI who don't want to see me back should begin resigning because I have been reinstated and there is nothing they can do about it," he said. He brags about being one of the brilliant scientists of the institution that the government of former president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf spent so much money on to educate and as such CARI can't allow such money to go in vain without giving back to the institution.

Asked about his admittance to the leaked audio where he and Findley were plotting to steal the institution's assets, Tokpah said plotting to steal a generator and doing it are two different things. "Planning to do it is one thing and doing it is another things. Those are things of the past. We are moving on now," he said.

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