Wednesday, 4 May 2011


Opposition leader’s comments mark a surprising alliance with the ruling Unity Party and for obvious reasons. Political observers have in recent weeks questioned the motives behind the opposition to the referendum when many of those on the ballot, especially for the presidency would not qualify if the ten-year clause holds.

Monrovia –
he leader of the opposition Liberty Party, Charles Brumskine says he supports the reduction in the number of years required in the “Residence Clause” of Article 52 (c) of the Constitution. But in a broadcast radio and television address relayed across Liberia Wednesday, Brumskine questioned why the residency requirement should only be reduced to five years, and not eight years or one year?
Brumskine’s comments days after the beginning of campaigning for issues on the referendum ballot. On August 17, 2010, a Joint Resolution 001 was adopted by the National Legislature comprising both the Senate and House of Representatives of the 52nd Legislature proposing a Constitutional Referendum to amend four provisions in the 1986 Liberian Constitution. The proposed amendment includes articles 52(c),72(b) and 83(a) and(b).  The last time in living memory that Liberia held a referendum was to adopt the 1985 revised constitution during the Samuel Doe administration.
As a result of the resolution, the National Elections Commission (NEC), in keeping with Article 91 of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia, which among other things, states that “the Elections Commission shall conduct a referendum to amend certain provisions of the said 1986 Constitution for as specified by law”, is gearing up for the voting moment set to pave the way for elections later this year. The date for the National Referendum is August 23, 2011 and Only Liberians with valid 2011 Voters' registration cards will be eligible to vote in the forthcoming National Referendum.
Siding with ruling party
Brumskine’s comments marks a surprising alliance with the ruling Unity Party and for obvious reasons. Political observers have in recent weeks questioned the motives behind the opposition to the referendum when many of those on the ballot, especially for the presidency would not qualify if the ten-year clause holds.
But Brumskine explained that while some contend that the proposed reduction of the residency requirement to five years was passed by the Legislature primarily to ensure that President Sirleaf qualifies under that provision of the Constitution, enabling her to contest the 2011 election, Liberty Party supports a change. Said the Liberty Party leader: “Of course, Liberty Party could selfishly contend that the duration of the residency requirement should be longer than five years, ensuring that its Standard Bearer would qualify and the President would not. But whatever the arguments, pro and con, a reasonable argument cannot be made that individuals seeking the high offices of the land should not be required to have resided in the Republic for a definite period, immediately prior to the elections.”
The referendum in August will mark the first time that the Liberians would be asked to amend the Constitution, since the referendum that brought it into existence.
In expressing support for the referendum, Brumskine outlined several reasons for his party’s decision. Brumskine asserted that his party supports moving the time of the elections from October to November, but would have opted for a later month to allow more campaign time during the dry season.
The opposition leader also said his party supports a change to the simple majority voting system for Legislative races, but the justification cannot be because requiring legislators to be elected by absolute majority vote would always necessitate run-offs, and therefore be too costly.
Said Brumskine: “The cost of conducting elections today, like most public expenditures, could be better managed. The simple majority system of election for legislators should encourage cooperation and consolidation among smaller parties and independents, to ensure that the larger political parties do not continue to win most legislative elections.”
Backing Age Limit Rise for High Court
Regarding the age-limit of the Chief Justice and the Associate Justice, Brumskine said his party supports increase in the retirement age for justices of the Supreme Court, but would have delayed that issue for a more comprehensive round of constitutional amendments. However, the opposition leader stated that Liberty Party would name this amendment the Gladys Johnson Amendment. “The illustrious jurist retired from the Supreme Court about a month ago because she had attained the age of seventy. Justice Johnson could have served the judiciary for at least another five years,” Brumskine said.
The Liberty Party boss said it is important that all of the issues on the referendum ballot be approved, some more quickly than others. “While a Liberty Party Government would have placed more issues on the ballot for the consideration of the Liberian voters, we cannot afford to have the constitutional amendment process aborted. We too have our disagreements with some of the referendum propositions and the timing of the process, but we have concluded that there is nothing so fatal that would cause us to forego this first in a life time opportunity to decide whether or not we agree or disagree with certain provisions of the Constitution.” 
Brumskine further noted that it is agreed in most segments of our population that the Constitution is in need of serious repair.  “The document clearly shows that its philosophical underpinnings bear little resemblance to the dreams and aspirations of the Liberian people.  Quite a number of the provisions of the Constitution are designed to bolster an imperial presidency and diminish democratic opposition.
The opposition leader cited the Supreme Court of Liberia construed Article 54 (d) of the Constitution, as giving the President the authority to appoint City Mayors for the first time in the history of our country. Instead of proposing an amendment to the Constitution, ensuring that Liberians can once again elect their City Mayors, the Legislators, in their collective wisdom, have not seen, as important and urgent, the need to affirm the original intent of the Constitution, by including a proposition that would allow the election of City Mayors. 
Six, Nine Years too long for Reps, Senators
The Liberty Party boss also said although the people, at least in theory, have the right to elect their chiefs—paramount, clan, and town—Article 56 (b) provides that the President can remove from office those elected by the people for “proved misconduct.” That undemocratic provision will remain untouched.  
Regarding the terms of the President and Members of the House of Representatives, Brumskine said six years for each office are too long, while those of Senators, nine years, are unreasonably long. Thus he said, in the interest of good governance those provisions also should have been considered for amendment. But it would have taken too much courage on the part of our current office holders to shorten their own tenure in office.

Brumskine said Article 34 (d) (ii) provides that even after the national budget has been enacted into law—passed by the legislators and approved by the president—vendors and other creditors or claimants of the government, may not be paid, except upon warrant, which is subsequent approval, by the President. Given the political culture of Liberia, the Liberty Party boss said, this provision has made it difficult for Liberian business persons who are not members of the ruling party to do business with their government.
Based on these and other inherent flaws, Brumskine said his party’s preference would have been for a major review and revision of the Liberian Constitution.  Nevertheless, he said, even incremental changes, which correct some of the shortcomings of our constitutional scheme, are welcomed by Liberty Party.
Brumskine said the Legislature has forced voters’ hands on the issues. “We must consider seriously our duties as citizens and seize this opportunity to begin fixing our constitutional order, as we strive to create the space for the growth of democracy in Liberia. This referendum is a key test of how we want our democracy to work and Liberty Party urges all citizens to participate and vote YES on all of the propositions.”
Brumskine said the time is ripe that the debate on these important national issues is joined, so that citizens may be fully informed before going to the polls. Thus far, he said, the government’s constitutional mandate to educate the population on the propositions of the referendum has been wanting. Notwithstanding, we must not miss this opportunity!
Brumskine, Liberty Party Alone on Referendum
The Liberty Party boss described the first series of ballot measures as important because they test the framework of our democracy and should help put us on a sustained course of constitutional reconstruction.
While Brumskine supports the referendum, other politicians have a different view. In fact, Liberty Party was not a signatory to a recent opposition party stance against the referendum. Dew Mayson, the political leader of the New Deal Movement told reporters recently that the referendum does not only go against the letter and spirit of the Liberian constitution but is tailored to qualify the incumbent President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to run for a second term and assist her party in winning seats in the national legislature. The New Deal Movement party boss who is poised to being the political leader of the proposed National Democratic Coalition (NDC), brands the pending national referendum as immoral and unconstitutional.
A resolution signed by parties opposing the incumbent said: “In the supreme interest of strengthening our democracy against the unveiled attempts by the President and her party to sabotage this democracy and possibly plunge our country into another round of chaos, we the leaders of the opposition political parties do hereby pledge to work together to ensure the defeat of these referendum when it is presented to the electorates in august. The political parties currently negotiating the effort include the National Patriotic Party(NPP), the National Democratic Party of Liberia(NDPL), the Liberia People’s Party(LPP), the Congress for Democratic Change(CDC), the United People’s Party(UPP),the Movement for Progressive Change(MPP), Liberia Equal Rights Party(LERP) among others.



A line of demarcation has been drawn between the former Managing Director of the Liberia Petroleum Refinery Corporation Harry A. Greaves and the current Managing Director T. Nelson Williams with Williams distancing himself from the findings of the General Auditing Commission suggesting serious issues of improprieties at LPRC.
Williams' clarification comes in the wake of assertions attributed to Greaves in Wednesday's edition of the Concord Times, in which Greaves suggested that he left over $US9 million as profit when he inherited over US$2M as debt. Greaves said during his tenure he liquidated debt and added value to the corporation by an annual profit of US$5M.
Greaves further explained, according to the Concord, that under his administration, he undertook a massive restructuring program and spent US$1.5M on retired workers. More importantly, Mr. Greaves pointed fingers at the current administration headed by T. Nelson Williams whom he called on to tell the Liberian people, what happened to the money he left at the corporation. Greaves went on to say that his successor is under obligation to explain what led to the reduction of the over US$9M to less than $3M.
Greaves further explained that it is interesting that in just over 18 months of the new administration of the LPRC, US$6M has been used without explanation, going as far as to suggest that during his administration, he made quarterly financial reports to the employees of the corporation under the tree and that employees are living witnesses and can testify to that. Greaves is quoted as saying that the current management halted the transparency process.
William Draws line
In contrast, Williams explains that under his watch, LPRC has been able to reduce losses by 45 percent and conducts not only quarterly but also monthly financial statements and the statements are shared regularly with the board of directors, the executive management team and the workforce leadership.
Reacting to Greaves, in a FrontPageAfrica interview Wednesday, Williams said he was baffled that his former boss, under whom he served as Deputy for Administration, was taking cheap shots at him in the aftermath of an audit covering the period he(Greaves) served as managing director.
Said Williams: “He was dismissed on the fourth of September 2009. Three days later, the president instructed me to act until I was finally appointed. Nelson says he did not arrive at LPRC until September 8, 2007 almost at the end of the 2nd auditing period. 
The report of Former Auditor General John Morlu suggests that financial management at LPRC for the period under audit was marred by irregularities. Williams, in an interview with FrontPageAfrica explained that he was not Managing Director during the period covered in the audit report. I wasn't here. This was something that was negotiated by the former AG and he responded to it, referring to the Addax-Nigeria deal which was the subject of controversy during the Greaves tenure. Williams said the contract was negotiated by Greaves on behalf of the Liberian government. A similar contract was negotiated by Williams II on behalf of the Liberian government between NNPC and Sahara Energy Limited. To date, the Sahara deal has not been audited.
Williams explained that at the time of Greaves dismissal, LPRC had in its coffers US$ 8.5 million and today has has 10.4 million, debunking Greaves suggestions that the company had less than $3 million today.
Contrasts from Greaves
Williams further explained that LPRC has paid a total of $1.3 million to Motherwell Bridge in connection to the Rehabilitation project and paid $US5.0 million to the Liberian government in 2009/2010 for dividend and taxes. LPRC, Williams said, has also paid over $600,000.00 for expenses related to major tank farm repairs in 2009/2010.
In statements attributed to Greaves in the Concord Times Wednesday, declared that he paid over US$7.8M in taxes to government during his tenure.
Besides Williams, the former LPRC boss also took jibes at Winsley Nanka, a former financial officer, now serving as Deputy Auditor General. Greaves noted that if the GAC audit claims he mismanaged US$13M, then Nanka should help to explain where the money went since he was the chief financial officer at the LPRC. “If they said that amount of money was missing, Winsley Nanka must have known about it.”
The GAC audit among other things reported that the LPRC management failed to provide General Ledger for the financial year ended 31 December 2006 to enable the auditor general validate the total withdrawal from its LBDI account in the amount of US$9,474,543.00 during the period ended 31 December 2006.
The GAC findings also said the LPRC management also failed to provide details on accounts payable for the periods ended 31 December 2006 and 2007, and thus the basis on which US$832,538.00 of the account payables were liquidated. “Recordings of cash transactions in the tune of US$1,669,606.00 were missing from the General Ledger presented to me for the period ended 31 December 2007, thus again impacting on the truth and fairness of the financial statements,” the report stated.
The report also said the cash flow statement of LPRC has significant omissions (e.g. presumptive corporate tax of US$220,239.00) which indicate that both the income statement and the balance sheets are in error and there were a large number of undocumented and unsubstantiated financial transactions made possible by the severely weak internal controls over financial management. This further cast doubts on the integrity of the financial figures presented in the LPRC financial statements.
The report also said Greaves expending the corporation's funds on activities indicated as Confidential Public Relations Services without full documentation and not substantiating the expenditure indicated a weak control environment and a bad tone set at the top of the Corporation, further casting doubts on the accounts presented for audit.
The LRPC management under Greaves, according to the report, also did not produce financial accounts on the basis of IFRS or other generally accepted accounting principles. This resulted in large inconsistencies in the income statements and balance sheets presented for audit, thus creating a significant material impact on the cash flow statement presented.
The audit also said Greaves and his comptroller Kamau Lizwelicha contravened the law when management destroyed documents and records and when they purportedly stored all its documents in electronic form without any evidence of an approval from the Minister.
“Management further contended that its external auditor Monbo & Company authenticated the obligation. This alone is not sufficient appropriate evidence. I am the principal external auditor of the Government of Liberia, as per Section 53.3 of the Executive Law of 1972.
Nigerian oil deal vague
After a review of the document representing the contract between the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the LPRC for the purchase of specified barrels of crude oil per day to the Government of Liberia (GOL), and also the contract signed between LPRC and Addax Limited for the sale of the said crude oil to Addax Limited, the Auditor General said, he made a determination that the  entire Nigeria Oil Deal was covered with vagueness, meaning it was executed in a manner that lacks transparency and accountability. Managing Director Harry Greaves single handedly managed the contractual arrangement without much involvement of the Board of Directors. “I therefore could not assure whether the deal met the desired benefit for which it was intended,” the Auditor General reported.
The report said the Nigerian Government agreed to the Government of Liberia's (GOL) request to provide 30,000 barrels of crude oil per day. However, the bilateral agreement was given to LPRC because the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) indicated that it does not deal with governments or any sovereign authorities, but with public companies. Even though the NNPC did not sign the prepared agreement with LPRC for the supply of the agreed 10,000 barrels of crude oil per day, the former went ahead and supplied the oil, a situation unexpected in business dealings. “
The Auditor General said he sent a team to Nigeria to interview NNPC but the Nigerian firm could not indicate the substantive basis for consummating a contractual agreement in the absence of a valid contract that was duly signed and notarized. “The oil was lifted by Addax, a Company contracted by Managing Director Harry Greaves, which was effectuated without applying the provisions of the PPC Act, 2005. The Board's approval was also not evidenced prior to awarding the contract to Addax, and it was therefore a unilateral decision.”
The AG disagreed with Greaves' assertions that he(Greaves) considered the transaction as a sale contract and not procurement, since the Procurement Act ''mentioned disposal of assets only''.
The Auditor General said Greaves tried to confuse the issue when he argued that “LPRC's contract with NNPC was a procurement contract,” but “LPRC's contract with Addax was a sales contract.” First, the agreement with NNPC was a bilateral agreement. This is evidenced by the Minister of Finance, Antoinette Sayeh's letter dated 31 July 2006 indicating to NNPC that LPRC will represent the Government of Liberia in this transaction, as NNPC indicated that it could only do business with a commercial entity. Second, Managing Director Greaves did not provide evidence that the contract with NNPC was competitively bidded since he claimed it was a procurement contract, thus falling under the provisions of the PPC Act,
Greaves, according to the audit, failed to provide evidence of competitive bidding for either Addax or NNPC. “Either way, he contravened the PPC Act, 2005. Granted that the contracts among LPRC, NNPC and Addax, were even without blemish, the non-adherence to provisions of the PPC Act, 2005 in the selection of Addax, constitutes a major risk, as the fee declared as receivable for the oil lifting may not have reflected a fair deal for the LPRC, and thus GOL.
As indicated, NNPC did not sign the oil supply agreement with LPRC and yet permitted the oil to be lifted by Addax on behalf of LPRC. There was therefore no legal basis for Addax to lift the crude oil in the absence of a valid contract that was duly signed and notarized, although NNPC consummated the agreement when it allowed Addax to lift the crude oil,” the Auditor General report stated.
Snowe not in the clear
In his recommendation, the Auditor General recommended that the Managing Director should always ensure due compliance with Section 905 (e) of the Revenue Code of 2000; that is, Management should withhold taxes on all payments that meet the criterion and remit same into Government's revenue account within the stipulated period.
The GAC also demanded that US$50,469.07 withholding tax should be refunded by LPRC and paid into GOL account and the department of Internal Revenue of the Ministry of Finance should exert the penalties prescribed in Section 905(h) against the LPRC for its non-compliance. LPRC's Management should pay the cumulative bank charges amounting to US$2,644.60 and close the Project Account held with Ecobank.
The report said that Managing Director Greaves and Comptroller Kamau Lizwelicha should be held accountable and made to properly justify the difference of US$339,833.77 discovered between the General Ledger cash balance and the balance per cash book in the year-end bank reconciliation report;ensure timely and proper recording of transactions in the general ledger and moreover ensure that monthly bank reconciliations are done properly.
The report also said that former Managing Directors, Edwin M. Snowe and Harry A. Greaves, Comptrollers, Siaka Sheriff, John Linberg and Rajan Labote should be made to properly account for the total amount of US$ US$8,527,337.00 withdrawn from the entity's account (held with LBDI) for the financial year ended 31 December 2006. Former Managing Director Edwin M. Snowe and former Comptroller Siaka Sheriff are being held to account for US$56,138.00 for withdrawals made from LPRC's Account held with LBDI between January 1-14, 2006 for which they failed to account. Former Managing Director Harry A. Greaves, former Comptrollers, Siaka Sheriff, John Linberg, and Rajan Labote are being held to account for US$ US$8,471,199.00 for withdrawals made from LPRC's Account held with LBDI between January 20 to December 31, 2006, for which they failed to account.
The report also said Greaves, former Comptrollers, Rajan Labonte and Kamau Lizwelicha should be made to also adequately account for the unrecorded withdrawals amounting to US$1,669,569.65,
The release of the GAC findings covering the Greaves era sheds some light on the controversy which dogged Greaves at the time he served as head of the lucrative corporation. While much remains to be answered, the play of the blame game raises more questions than answers with some accusing Greaves of trying to shift the frailties of his era on the current administration. The key, observers say could lie in how the audit of LPRC, like the scores of others put out by the GAC will play out over the coming months. Will those cited be prosecuted? For now, the game of he-said; he said has raised the stakes for the enigmatic Greaves and the legacy he left behind at LPRC, still clouded in controversy, eclipsed in a sea of unanswered questions.


“I Killed Her For Disrespect”

 Alleged Sister-killer Narrates How He Hacked Her to Death and Her Subsequent Burial in a Swamp

Sitting square-faced and staring about remorselessly on the prisoners’ bench at the Monrovia City Court at the Temple of Justice on Tuesday, 18- yr old Preston Prince Myers bravely explained that he gruesomely killed his sister for disrespecting him.
The accused was charged with murder and arson after being investigated by the Liberia National Police (LNP) for allegedly killing his 12-year-old sister, Precious Myers with a shovel and later buried her in a swamp in Dixville, outside Monrovia. The incident occurred on Wednesday, April 27, 2010, Police said.
Detailed inquiries by the police as contained in a charge sheet submitted to the court, copy of which was obtained by FrontPage Africa revealed that on April 27, defendant Preston Prince Myers and his little brother, Debester as well as the victim were at their parents’ residence in Dixville Township during the afternoon hours of that fateful Wednesday.
Bravely explaining and commenting on the allegation levied against him, Myers revealed that his father adopted the child, but she was always in a habit of leaving classes during school hours and coming home to monitor his activities at their parents’ home.
On that fateful day of her cold-blooded murder, the defendant told the police, that Precious, his sister, left the campus again and came home. When he asked her why she returned home before the school’s dismissal time, she began to argue and rain profanity on him, which angered and prompted him to kill her with the shovel.
He further explained investigators that he and Precious got in a heated argument for leaving his little brother at the school campus and returning without him. While the argument was ongoing, defendant Myers told the police that he sent the little boy to buy palm oil.
“Precious kept arguing with me, so I slapped her and she ran into the room. I then ran after her into the room, where I continued beating her. She started shouting with the name of oldma, Ma Elizabeth to come to her rescue, but the oldma did not come. I was misled by my anger and then took the shovel from the corner of the room and struck her twice on the neck. She went unconscious and started bleeding from her throat,” Myers coldly told the Police.
The suspect also explained to the Police that after striking his sister with the shovel twice on the neck, her tongue protruded out of her mouth, and he became very afraid, believing his sister was dying.
“I hurriedly took her body to a nearby swamp and buried her. Later, I returned home and quickly changed my clothes soaked with blood and washed my body,” suspect Myers bravely told the police.
According to the Police, defendant Myers confirmed that Ma Elizabeth who had earlier been called by the victim came later and inquired what had transpired between them, but he told her that both of them had an argument and that she was beaten.
Police noted that when Ma Elizabeth asked about the victim’s whereabouts, Myers lied that his sister had followed the little brother to buy the oil.
When the lady entered the house and discovered the blood, according to the police, Myers said he was bitten by a snake, which was killed and thrown into the bush.
“Defendant Myers, with criminal motive to destroy all evidence and abscond the crime scene, searched his mother’s bedroom, where he found a bag containing L$4, 700 and some lappers belonging to his mother and other personal belongings and subsequently set the house ablaze and left the vicinity by way of Barnesville,” the charge sheet stated.


No Press Freedom?

Says Quaqua As PUL Gets First Ever Media Defense Team

Mae Azango FPA Staff Writer 

Peter Quaqua, President of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) announced that the Union now has a strong defense team of willing lawyers who will commit themselves to protecting the rights of Journalists and various media institutions in the Country. He made these remarks on Tuesday at celebrations marking World Press Freedom Day in Monrovia.
According to Mr. Quaqua, Cllr. Cyrenius Cephas, Tiawon Gongloe, Kwame Clement, Bendor Wla Freeman and Kathleen Makor have agreed in principal that they will begin committing their services to the PUL and its members, especially during times of lawsuits.
“There have been attacks on our members and various media institutions over the period under review. Mr. Rodney Sieh was imprisoned by this regime for thirty days, but was later released after intense pressure for him to write a letter of apology from the Liberian Chief Executive and other top officials of her government. This kind of manipulation from the government does not demonstrate that it’s indeed serious about Press Freedom in Liberia.” Mr. Quaqua said on Tuesday.
He maintained that the action of the government is a clever attempt to make the Liberian media very inactive and weak. Mr. Quaqua used the occasion to the government to recognize “World Press Freedom Day.”
Mr. Quaqua said the Liberian government has spoken about press freedom in many shapes and colors, but is yet to make any public proclamation about it and how the day can actually be recognized in the country.
“The government uses the media to announce World Malaria day and World Women’s day, but we are still waiting for the recommendation for world press freedom day in a statement that will be delivered by head of state. Since we last celebrated world press freedom day in Liberia our government has made some minimum but significant additions to the press for press freedom. While the atmosphere may seem physically welcoming, there are certainly new frontiers to confront and new barriers to cross.” The PUL President told a gathering of Politicians and Liberian media executives. 
The tough speaking PUL President said Since the Union last celebrated May 3, there has been a reduction in the number of attacks on journalists by security personnel and public officials. According to him there were fewer than five in the last year but in all of the reported cases, lacks of punitive actions remain a business as usual. This means, according to Quaqua, that people are beating on journalists performing their jobs and going with impunity.  “As we witness the reduction in the assault on journalists a new frontier was open.”
 Making reference to some of what the PUL President said were draconian methods of media curbing in the country he said ‘SLAPP’ has remain the easiest way to create media censorship in the country.
 “SLAPP” means strategic law suit against public participation. President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was rewarded US$5 million dollars by the civil law court in the case against the new broom newspaper. The paper was said not to appear in court, even though the president herself refuse to show up.  We saw the consolidated group rewarded US$900,000 by the jury against the New Democrat news paper. The paper took appeal to the Supreme Court but we have been told that the matter has been withdrawn from court for settlement. We also saw the guilty verdict brought down by the jury against the FrontPageAfrica Newspaper in favor of the famous former Agriculture Minister Dr. Chris Toe, who was said to have been made to resign his post. He was rewarded a handsome amount of US$1.5 million dollars in damages, the paper refused to take an appeal.” Mr. Quaqua furthered.
The last case, according to the PUL President was filed by a private individual, James Jens against the New Dawn News paper for criminal malevolence.  The case was thrown out of court by the magistrate without going into its merits.