Sunday, October 17, 2010

Liberia: Names in Deal to Bankrupt Country


When the news first leaked, it said top-level Liberian officials had joined a deal that, if carried out, would have economically bled this country to bankruptcy. The deal was with a British firm in the business of carbon harvesting. London got involved in the investigation and now those said to have been behind the big money deal have been named in a report by a presidential Committee headed by Cllr. T. Negbalee Warner.

The scandal came to light when, in 2007, the environmental rights organization Global Witness, discovered that a UK-based company, Harvesting Corporation (CHC) approached the Government of Liberia to negotiate the allocation of a 400,000 hectare forest carbon concession - a fifth of Liberia's rainforest - in order to sell carbon credits to clients who want to offset their own carbon emissions. Global Witness raised serious concerns about the deal with the company, including their relative inexperience and the lack of consultation, effective safeguards or monitoring mechanisms.

The organisation said it was concerned by a potential financial loss of over US$2 billion to the Liberian government and highlighted the lack of fundamental information regarding the viability of the project.

But now, the Liberian officials discovered to be behind the deal, many close confidantes of the President, have been listed.

Those the investigation claims were involved in the deal and must be fired immediately are: Mr. Augustin Johnson, Manager of CIS at the Forestry Development Authority, Mr. Joseph Neufville, Technical Advisor, and Mrs. Peggy Varflay Meres, Executive Director of the Public Procurement and Concession Commission, and forward them to the Ministry of Justice for further investigation and possible prosecution as recommended by the report. Mrs. Meres told this paper Wednesday that she has done nothing wrong.

Those listed for further investigation and possible prosecution, and sent to the Ministry of Justice, are: Rivercess Senator Jonathan Barney and former Minister of Internal Affairs, Mr. Ambulai Johnson.

Those sent to the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission for further investigation are: FDA Managing Director John Woods, FDA Legal Officer, Counselor Benedict Sorgbeh, and Chief of Staff at the Ministry of Planning & Economic Affairs, Edward Eesiah.

This follows the recommendation of the report.

Those to be reprimanded are: the Minister of Planning & Economic Affairs for what the President said his failure to exercise due diligence by issuance of a blanket Concession Certificate covering Forest Management Contracts. This is consistent with the recommendation of the report.

But Minister Konneh, one of the President's confidantes and one of the names behind Liberia Rising Vision 2030, a visionary think-tank group for the future, has rejected the report. In a press release sent from the US, he claimed the report is intended to tarnish his image now that the presidential election, in which President Sirleaf is a candidate, is nearing.

Mr. Michael Foster of Carbon Harvesting Corporation (CHC) of the United Kingdom and Mr. George Antwi, Agent for CHC in Liberia, are slated for prosecution under the bribery laws of Liberia and for extradition.

October 12, 2010

President Sirleaf, releasing the report Tuesday, said the deal "brought to the world's attention by Global Witness of the United Kingdom regarding the arrest of a UK citizen who through fraud and misrepresentation had been granted allocation of 400,000 hectares of forest by our Forestry Development Authority for harvesting carbon credits be investigated by Global Witness.

The President said she was taking "an additional step not covered by the report to direct the Ministry of State to deepen, expand and strictly enforce the existing restriction on visits to the President by investors and business people as may be requested by Legislators, Government Officials, relatives, and political and personal associates. This goes beyond the recommendation of the report."

Report of the deal that would have led the country to bankruptcy if implemented, according to British experts, led officers from the City of London Police's Overseas Anti-Corruption Unit (OACU) to arrest the CEO of UK-based Carbon Harvesting Corporation, Mike Foster. This followed Global Witness investigation into a deal involving the trade of carbon credits from a proposed carbon concession in Liberia.

Global Witness said for the last 2 years, it has been examining the financial, social and environmental risks involved in the proposed deal. In meetings with Global Witness Foster made references to irregular payments made to a Liberian government official and a politician via a middleman. Global Witness then felt obliged to notify the police as reported in the Financial Times on Friday 4th June.

"As a post-conflict country where natural resources played a significant role in fuelling the war, Liberia now faces the challenge of managing its forests and other resources in a way that benefits the country's citizens and prolongs peace. Successfully overcoming decades of corruption and breaking entrenched patterns of resource mismanagement will require sustained political will, civil society engagement, and support from donors and other stakeholders," a Global Witness spokesperson said.

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Everyone is a genius

Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. – A Einstein

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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