Monday, October 19, 2009

Liberian senate not for hustlers

Liberian senate not for hustlers
-Urey cautions electorate

One of the senatorial contenders in the Montserrado County Senatorial By-election, Clemenceau Urey, said unless the electorate elects individuals with the requisite educational credentials and vision to ensure that the National Legislature is not a place for hustlers, the future of Liberia remains bleak.

Mr. Urey said Liberia is at the cross-roads and if the needed changes so desired must be effected within the Liberian Senate, it would require men and women with the courage, vision and determination.

In a brief chat with heads of media institutions at his campaign offices in Paynesville, outside Monrovia on Monday, October 12, the 61-year old senatorial aspirant said “based on my experience and educational background, I am the right man for the job.”

The soft spoken Montserrado County senatorial candidate challenged individuals contesting the by-election to allow the content of their individual characters to interplay in the election, adding, “let our character remains a mirror through which the Liberian people can best judge us.”

Commenting on the question that Liberia needs a strong private sector and his ascendancy to the Liberian senate would deprive the sector, the Insurance Executive said, the senate which is referred to globally as the “House of Elders” is a retirement job and I will still play a supervisory role in my entity, adding, “my son is now prepare to run my insurance company.”

Mr. Urey, who is the proprietor of the Atlantic Insurance Company, said his desire for the senate is not to accumulate wealth as perceived by some of his opponents, but to ensure that the necessary changes that are currently taking place within senate are strengthened.

Also speaking at the forum, a member of the “Urey for Senate Campaign Committee,” former Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Morris Momolu Dukuly, pleaded with the media to deal with the aspirant as an individual and not on the basis of which political party he represents.

Mr. Dukuly said Mr. Urey has built himself an enviable credential over the years and as such it would be unfair not only for the media, but for anyone to demonize him simply because of his or her dislike for the Unity Party.

The Unity Party candidate comes to the race with a wealth of experience in both the private and public sectors. He holds a Bachelor of Science (BSc.) degree in Political Science from the University of Liberia in 1972 and also holds a Master in Public Administration (MPA) and another Master in Business Administration (MBA) respectively.

LBDI syndicate

Syndicate uncovered at LBDI

-over US9, 000.00 disappears in thin air

The National Social Security & Welfare Corporation (NASSCORP) has uncovered a major syndicate at the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI) in which at least 18 beneficiary’s accounts at the bank have been tempered with.

“About two weeks ago, we uncovered a syndicate that had to do with the withdrawal of our beneficiaries’ money from their established accounts by unknown persons”, NASSCORP Director General Francis M. Carbah alarmed Friday, August 28.

Speaking at a news conference in Monrovia, Mr. Carbah said NASSCORP recently introduced benefit disbursement system known as the ‘Direct Bank Payment Service’, under which the entity assists and facilitates the beneficiaries to establish their accounts at the LBDI, where it periodically transfers an undisclosed amount of United States and Liberian dollars for the beneficiaries to be withdrawn at will.

The NASSCORP boss explained that about 18 of the beneficiaries reported that their accounts at the LBDI were tempered with by unknown persons who withdrew the money in question in addition to L$25,000.00.

“Upon receiving this report, we immediately informed the management on LBDI and requested that they furnish us with the signature cards of those who accounts were tempered and also requested the LBDI management to launch an investigation into the report with the view of establishing the identity of those allegedly involved in the syndicate”, he said.

Mr. Carbah said the investigation also involves interrogation of personnel of NASSCORP that are involved into the processing and payment of claims and that no screw will be left unturned, adding, “as soon as the culprits are nabbed, we will inform the public”.

He assured the affected beneficiaries that NASSCORP will possibly pay the benefits as part of its obligation to the beneficiaries and urged them to remain calm as the entity puts into place additional appropriate control mechanisms that will avoid the reoccurrence of the crime.

The NASSCPRP boss said as part of the control and preventive mechanism, the institution is currently engaged into the re-verification of beneficiaries that includes the scanning of selected documents and photographs of claimants and the issuance of new beneficiaries Identification (I.D) Cards with new security features among others.

“On account of this exercise, payment has been very slow, because each of the more than 3,000 beneficiaries has to be re-verified and re-issued ID cards before proceeding to the bank for payment. He said the new process will remain in place until the exercise is completed.

LBDI President, Francis Dennis when contacted Sunday via mobile phone, confirmed the syndicate, but noted that not a single staff of the bank is involved into the organized stealing. He added that contrary to NASSCORP report; only five of the 3,000 accounts were tempered with.

Mr. Dennis said the money in question was withdrawn by a group of individuals bearing false ID cards of NASSCORP. He however said that the appropriate mechanisms have been put into place to ensure that the situation is brought under control immediately.

According Mr. Dennis all NASSCORP beneficiaries account has not been transferred to the bank central office on Randall Street so as to closely monitor those accounts.

Mr. Dennis said the measures were put into place following a meeting the executives of the Bank and NASSCORP’s Director General. He said state security has already been alerted about the syndicate and that as far as he knows no arrest has been made.

Riot at MTA

Riot erupts at MTA

The Headquarters of the Monrovia Transit Authority (MTA) in Gardnerville, Somalia Drive, was a scene of riot when employees of the company over the weekend, went on the rampage in demand of better salary, death benefit, fair labor practice among others.

Members of the Liberia National Police (LNP) who were dispatched on the scene to calm the situation encountered the aggrieved employees who entered the compound and toke some of the buses to allegedly create roadblocks to prevent vehicles from plying the Freeport-Paynesville highway and attempted taking some of the buses to unknown destinations. The police later retrieved the buses.

The employees claimed that the decision to take away some of the buses is to up blockade around Monrovia and its environs including the Capitol bye-pass, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to indicate the seriousness of their plights.

The workers among other things complained that the MTA management has refused to have them undergo group insurance scheme, something they noted endangers the lives of employees.

According to employees, the management also refused to insure the buses that transport more than 3,000 persons to their various destinations daily, adding, “you can not run this institution without insuring the buses and people that work here.”

“Our lives are in danger on a daily basis because in case of accident, the company will not be under obligation to cater our well-beings,” the protesters said. They also alleged that the management was denying them the right to unionize.

Our reporter who covered the riot scene noticed more than 40 buses packed with some parts extracted.

At the end of the riot, MTA Managing Director Senwan T. Wiah denied the allegations when reporters contacted him for reaction.

“I am not going to dignify some of those questions with answers, because they have no basis “, the flamboyant MD told reporters.

Meanwhile the employees and the management have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to address the situation. The MOU was carved by the Ministry of Labor along with other interested parties.

Morlu discovers financial pitfall in govt.

Morlu discovers financial pitfall in govt.

-LPRC, BMA are nobody’s private investments

“We cannot treat Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC), like our investment of 18 percent in Cemenco or our 30 percent in the Mittal Joint Venture. The National Port Authority (NPA), LPRC and Robert International Airport (RIA) etc. are neither Cemenco nor Mittal, says Liberia’s Auditor-General, John Morlu.

“I have not been given any reason why some autonomous entities are in the National Budget while others are outside of the National Budget. Why would the Social Security Administration be outside of the National Budget? They are collecting mandated fees from businesses to pay out later to beneficiaries under various schemes, Morlu averred.

He said in America, at the state and local level, there is a generally accepted accounting principle called GASB 34. Under GASB 34, the states and localities include in their budget the revenue and expenditure of all business type activities like LPRC.

“I am confused while people who claimed to study and work in America would choose a different path for Liberia’s financial governance? Again, I have not seen a convincing legal argument or an accounting argument for which public corporations and autonomous entities cannot be in the National Budget,” Morlu intimated.

“Furthermore, some of our autonomous commissions including the National Investment Commission (NIC), General Services Agency (GSA) and the National Election Commission (NEC) are in the Budget, but others like the Bureau of Maritime Affairs (BMA), Liberia Telecommunication Authority (LTA) are outside of the National Budget,” he revealed.

Morlu said the Liberian government is confusingly difficult to audit primarily due to its overlapping structures created over the years which makes it extremely difficult to assign accountability.

Additionally, he noted, the structure of the Liberian government is further confusing by the division of institutions including, Ministries, public corporations and autonomous agencies as well as autonomous commissions.

In a 38-page speech delivered recently in Gbarnga, Bong County at programs marking the 45th anniversary of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL), Morlu said the problem will continue to exist until those institutions can be included into the country’s national budget.

“We at the GAC have maintained that all these institutions be included into the National Budget, because their inclusion into the National Budget will give a true reflection of the potential of the economy unless specifically set aside by the National Legislature,” the Auditor-General argued.

Drawing his analysis after the model of the United States, Morlu said for instance, the US has more than 200 public corporations and autonomous commissions, but they are included in the Federal Budget of United States of America.

He said in the very United States in which the government and people of Liberia so subscribe to, included into its Federal Budget, Social Security Administration, Federal Communication Commission, just to name a few, but it is disheartening to note that in Liberia, they are kept outside of the National Budget as if they were private investments.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

ARRAL condemns abuse of Liberian Children

The Anti Rape Reporters Association of Liberia (ARRAL) has condemned the act by the civilian staff of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) for the sexual abuse and exploitation of Liberian children.

A statement issued in Monrovia over the weekend said it is cognizant of the fact that one of the prime suspects of UNMIL who was under probe allegedly committed suicide as a means of perhaps escaping justice, the government of Liberia should leave no stone unturned in speedily bringing to book all those linked to the crime.

The deceased, Ford Knight allegedly committed the crime on August 24, after being restricted to his Old Road residence by state security and UNMIL because of his pre-existing medical condition.

At the same time, the group is commanding President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for the nomination of commissioners to the Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR).

The group said the nomination of commissioners of the INCHR signifies the President’s commitment to the promotion, protection and respect for the rights of every Liberian.

According to the group, the nomination also shows the Liberian Leader unwavering support and desire to upholding the rule of law as promised in her inaugural address on 16th January 2006.

The INCHR, the release furthered is, in addition to its mandate charged with the responsibility to monitor and ensure the implementation of the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and address other human rights concerns in the Country.

Prison visitation is your own risk

The Government of Liberia has warned journalists and other individuals wanting to visit the Monrovia Central Prison and other government detention facilities in the country to bear responsibility of their own securities at these centers.

Deputy Minister of Justice for Administration and Public Safety, Eva Mappy-Morgan said the facilities are insecure and allowing people or group of people visiting those areas would be chancy to their lives, though there is presence of United Nations Peacekeepers and UN trained Liberia National Police Correction Officers at these facilities especially the Monrovia Central Prison.

The Deputy Justice Minister who fall short to further detail the gravity of insecurity at the various prison and detention centers in the country, said although the government will provide some level guidance to people visiting those facilities, but their security remains with themselves.

The Ministers’ latest statement came after the Ministry of Justice, Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization (BIN) and the Liberia National Police (LNP) has refused to grant authorization to the Liberian Journalists for Human Rights and Good Governance (JHRGG) to visit the MCP and holding cells at the BIN and other police stations in the greater Monrovia area.

The Journalists in separate communications to the Justice Ministry, BIN and the Police asking for authorization to tour these facilities with the objective of among other things, getting clearer picture of the condition of prison and detention centers and expose any form of violation and abuse that would have been seen at these facilities.

The JHRGG is a collaboration of Liberian Journalists who are desirous of increasing awareness on human rights, governance and development issues in Liberia.

The actions by the law enforcement institutions to deny journalists access and subsequent declaration of these facilities as chancy have been described by pundits as very worrisome to the country’s security.