Friday, September 3, 2010

Defense Minister Samukai – Under the Gun: Exhausted Funds, Projects' Lapses Cast Dark Clouds

Written by Nat Nyuan Bayjay
Source: Frontpage africa
Monrovia, Liberia
A number of incomplete projects highlighted in the annual report of the Ministry of National Defense is hovering dark clouds over Minister Brownie Samukai, with a little more than a million dollars worth of expenditures either unaccounted or unexplained. The Minister has also found himself entangled in allegations that he has inserted key members of his family in the inner circle of the Ministry.
The Ministry of National Defense is constitutionally mandated with the responsibility of protecting and providing external security for the nation, ensuring the safety of all residents, businesses and properties within the borders of Liberia.
Amidst all of the resources pouring into that direction, information available to FrontPageAfrica suggests that funds intended for various projects of the Ministry of Defense have been exhausted, though most of the projects have not been completed.
Vital among some of the critical issues dogging the minister involves the renovation of the renamed Edward Beyan Kesselley Barracks (EBK) which cost half a million dollars.
FrontPageAfrica has learned that the renovation work of the EBK which amounted to US$505,000 left the kitchen, the basketball court and tennis court incomplete while what appears like a kid pool was renovated to replace the swimming pool.
Other incomplete projects, according to documents and information in FrontPageAfrica’s possession, include the fencing of the EBK put at $150,000. Expenditure of how the amount of $180,000 allotted for the resettlement of former President Charles Taylor’s once-feared Anti-Terrorist Unit (ATU) remains unaccounted, according to the sources within the Ministry of Defense.
Other allotted funds with controversies still lingering are: US$250,000 for Demobilization and Deactivation program in 2006, US$102,000 for EBK project, US$100,000 for widows’ payment, US$340,000 for undisclosed expenditure and US$96,689 for EBK renovation.
According to the report, the bus stand or stop was the only completed project on the EBK.
Nepotism reigns
On charges of tribalism and nepotism, the Defense Minister is being reported of appointing five of his relatives during his current tenure. Similarly, the manipulation of the selection of almost all additional staff that was not part of the sponsored American seventeen weeks of training was said to be influenced by him which is said to be breeding the lack of absolute loyalty and dedication to the Minister at the Ministry.
The Controller, Mr. Nyumah, is said to be a cousin while Edison Samukai-Chief of Intelligence and Logistics-and William Samukai-Chief of Information Technology and Logistics-are reported to be his brothers. The source furthered that the Senior Nurse at the Edward Binyah Kesseley Barracks, Marsu Davis is his fiancée.
As comptroller, Nyumah is the principal advisor for budgetary and fiscal matters (including financial management, accounting policy and systems, budget formulation and execution, and contract audit administration and organization). The Comptroller supervises and directs the formulation and presentation of defense budgets, negotiates prices for transactions involving the provision of goods and services by the Ministry.
He also allegedly literally manages all the finances for the entire military, and holds the purse strings for all military purchases, including all of Liberia’s military hardware, artillery and weapons.
The source alleged that Minister Samukai intentionally transferred his brother Edison Samukai as Chief of Intelligence Office for the Ministry, something that is said to be a sign of the Minister and his brother Edison having a complete monopoly on the country’s intelligence.
Edison’s duties include heading up the National Communications System at the Ministry of Defense. He directs and administers personnel security policy--including security awareness and briefs his brother on activities of his deputies and assistant ministers and the rest of the staff.
The Minister is being accused of buying numerous cars for his purported fiancée, Marsu Davis, one of which was reportedly involved in an accident with another that was reported purchased immediately following her graduation.
Minister Samukai also stands at the center of personally interfering with the running of the newly trained Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) including training, promotions, and punishments where it is being alleged that he is personally responsible for transferring and moving soldiers around.
The Minister’s privately run security firm, the EXECOM Security Guide Services, is being said as a conflict of interest. The information establishes he allegedly secures huge contracts with many of the largest firms through his influence as Defense Minister for the security firm.
‘Major Transformations At Ministry’: Samukai Says In Annual Report.
In an apparent quest to respond to some of the critical issues against him, Samukai, in the Ministry’s annual report described as major transformations changes that have taken place at the Ministry since he took over the country’s Defense body.
The Annual Report: “Since our appointment to the management of the Ministry, we have undergone several major transformations, which have shaped the image of the Ministry of National Defense and the AFL. In an effort to assist the entire security sector reform process, we have been instrumental in providing internal and external risk and security assessments for the development of the a National Security Policy, a framework that has an upward trend in the establishment of our National Defense Strategy, the mission of the army and the vision to which the new army will be able to provide strategic direction in the protection of our borders, by land, air and sea”.
Relative to allegations of unpaid settlement to former ATU personnel, the Annual Report stated that some 3,000 former ATU members were paid the questioned US $180,000 at the Maltida Newport School on Newport Street in Monrovia.
“In July of 2006, the Ministry was mandated by the Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia, Her Excellency Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to find an amicable solution to the issue of some 3000 former members of Taylor’s Anti-Terrorist Unit (ATU), who were claiming benefits for services rendered the government of President Taylor. An agreement was reached between the Ministry and leadership to ATU to provide US $180,000 (one hundred eighty thousand United States dollars), as final settlement to the issue of severance benefits, for the ATU. This amount was paid to all 3000 former ATU members at Maltida Newport School on Newport Street”.
The Defense Ministry’s Annual Report further explained that the settlement of severance benefit for the former ATU personnel extended to the inclusion of 400 other undocumented personnel of the former AFL who it said claimed severance entitlements.
The Report explains: “Additionally, parallel to the settlement of severance benefit for the ATU, there was the issue of 400 undocumented personnel of the former AFL, claiming severance entitlements. This claim was centered on the absence of these personnel during the re-documentation process of the AFL. Again, we were obliged to give the necessary audience to the leadership in order to find a solution. An agreement was reached between the Ministry’s authority and the leadership to compensate those concerned with six months salaries for each person. A total of US $32,000.00 (thirty two thousand United States dollars) was expended to fully compensate all 400 personnel, which brought the issue to a final settlement”.
One issue that has entangled the Defense Minister is the haul-and-pull between his Ministry and hundreds of widows of the disbanded AFL and other security apparatus which has seen Monrovia’s principal streets being blocked on several occasions in their continual demand for benefits they claim they are entitled to as a result of their late husbands’ services to the nation.
The Minister in July told widows via a news conference that there was “not a dime to compensate” them.
The Minister at the time said the Government made available to the widows L$78, 260 through series of installments.
According to Minister Samukai, as far as the government was concerned, the issue of the ‘AFL Widows’ had been adequately dealt with and as such there will be “absolutely no (more) budgetary allotment to honor any benefit to any group under the banner of the widows’ organization or association.”
Earlier, reports of some soldiers of the newly trained AFL boycotting their military camps while others were speculated of picking plums in order to address purported news of hunger on the EBK Barracks rocked the Minister who later dispelled the information, suggesting that it was out of appetite that the soldiers had resorted to picking plums.

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Drawing the line in Liberia

Crimes sponsored, committed, or masterminded by handful of individuals cannot be blamed upon an entire nationality. In this case, Liberians! The need for post-war justice is a step toward lasting peace, stability and prosperity for Liberia. Liberia needs a war crimes tribunal or some credible legal forum that is capable of dealing with atrocities perpetrated against defenseless men, women and children during the country's brutal war. Without justice, peace shall remain elusive and investment in Liberia will not produce the intended results. - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Men with unhealthy characters should not champion any noble cause

They pretend to advocate the cause of the people when their deeds in the dark mirror nothing else but EVIL!!
When evil and corrupt men try to champion a cause that is so noble … such cause, how noble it may be, becomes meaningless in the eyes of the people - Bernard Gbayee Goah.

If Liberia must move forward ...

If Liberia must move forward in order to claim its place as a civilized nation amongst world community of nations, come 2017 elections, Liberians must critically review the events of the past with honesty and objectivity. They must make a new commitment to seek lasting solutions. The track records of those who are presenting themselves as candidates for the position of "President of the Republic of Liberia" must be well examined. Liberians must be fair to themselves because results from the 2011 elections will determine the future of Liberia’s unborn generations to come - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's greatest problem!

While it is true that an individual may be held responsible for corruption and mismanagement of funds in government, the lack of proper system to work with may as well impede the process of ethical, managerial, and financial accountability - Bernard Gbayee Goah

What do I think should be done?

The situation in Liberia is Compound Complex and cannot be fixed unless the entire system of government is reinvented.
Liberia needs a workable but uncompromising system that will make the country an asylum free from abuse, and other forms of corruption.
Any attempt to institute the system mentioned above in the absence of rule of law is meaningless, and more detrimental to Liberia as a whole - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's Natural Resources
Besides land water and few other resources, most of Liberia’s dependable natural resources are not infinite, they are finite and therefore can be depleted.
Liberia’s gold, diamond, and other natural resources will not always be an available source of revenue generation for its people and its government. The need to invent a system in government that focuses on an alternative income generation method cannot be over emphasized at this point - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia needs a proper system
If Liberians refuse to erect a proper system in place that promotes the minimization of corruption and mismanagement of public funds by government institutions, and individuals, there will come a time when the value of the entire country will be seen as a large valueless land suited on the west coast of Africa with some polluted bodies of waters and nothing else. To have no system in place in any country is to have no respect for rule of law. To have no respect for rule of law is to believe in lawlessness. And where there is lawlessness, there is always corruption - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Solving problems in the absence of war talks

As political instability continues to increase in Africa, it has become abundantly clear that military intervention as a primary remedy to peace is not a durable solution. Such intervention only increases insecurity and massive economic hardship. An existing example which could be a valuable lesson for Liberia is Great Britain, and the US war on terror for the purpose of global security. The use of arms whether in peace keeping, occupation, or invasion as a primary means of solving problem has yield only little results. Military intervention by any country as the only solution to problem solving will result into massive military spending, economic hardship, more fear, and animosity as well as increase insecurity. The alternative is learning how to solve problems in the absence of war talks. The objective of such alternative must be to provide real sustainable human security which cannot be achieved through military arm intervention, or aggression. In order to achieve results that will make the peaceful coexistence of all mankind possible, there must be a common ground for the stories of all sides to be heard. I believe there are always three sides to every story: Their side of the story, Our side of the story, and The truthBernard Gbayee Goah


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