The Inquirer is a leading independent daily newspaper published in Liberia, based in Monrovia. It is privately owned with a "good reputation".

“All Withdrawals Were Made For The Benefit Of The AFL” –Says Sumakai On Witness Stand

The former Minister of National Defense, Brownie J. Samukai, who is standing trial for allegedly misappropriating funds kept for the pension or welfare of soldiers, among other charges, says all withdrawals from said account were made for the benefit of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL).
Defendant Samukai who testified as the first witness of defense yesterday informed the court that all missions and operations were authorized by the Commander-In-Chief to the benefit of the AFL in accomplishing their mission.
The benefits for which the withdrawals were made according to the witness were to support the AFL mission in Mali for pre-deployment training, the provision of death benefits of AFL personnel to their beneficiaries and all support to operations order than war to include but not limited to Operation Restore Hope, Operation White Shield and Watch Over 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.
“As Minister of National Defense, I am the direct representative of the Commander-In-Chief of the AFL with the complete authority under the Executive Law responsible for and including all matters relating to the training, welfare, operations, administrations and logistics in the successful; execution of all missions,” Defendant Samukai reminded the court.
“Consistent with the Constitution, Chapter 6 Article 50 as well as the Executive Law Chapter 24, 24.1 and 24.2, all actions of the Minister of Defense are upon the order of the Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia,” the former Minister of National Defense maintained.
“I took the decision as Minister of National Defense consistent with the Public Financial Management Act as the accountable officer in the agency and all decisions were always subject to the review by the President as Commander-In-Chief and at the time of the opening of the account in 2009, the command leadership of the AFL were still in training and evolving,” Witness Samukai emphasized.
He then explained how the decision to open an account for soldiers came about following the 2009 Armed Forces Day celebration when a strategic meeting was held with the AFL chain of command where recommendations were derived because between the periods of 2006 and 2009 and subsequent years, it became clear that soldiers who were getting sick and others who succumbed to illness were not adequately provided for within the constrain of the national budget.
Witness Samukai recognized documents placed before him by the defense counsel dated January 13, 2015 as a referenced approval of death of gratuity to Haji Fataima Wali-Abduramah; March 25, 2014 as a referenced approval of the usage of AFL Funds with subsequent reimbursement, March 20, 2014 as a referenced renovation of Todee Barrack, redeployment training among others, March 25, 2015 as an Executive Mansion approval for the usage of AFL Funds, January 13, 2015 as a letter referencing the approval of death gratuity and May 31, 2016 a request to withdraw and transfer funds.
Defendant Samukai told the court and the counsels that to support the AFL operations and ensure that they should be captured during annual budget preparation under reimbursement basis were the two conditions under which the instructions were given him to effect the withdrawals from the pension account for ‘unrelated expenses’ adding, “All withdrawals made out of this account having sought and received the authorization of the Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia.”
He explained how on January 18, 2018, he informed the public through a press conference about the government’s decision to reimburse the AFL pension funds in the amount of US$ 1.3 million following discussions with the incoming President George Weah and the outgoing President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
He said such reimbursement have begun taking effect under the leadership of President Weah and noted that it was ordered that henceforth, there shall be no further deduction from any AFL personnel to this fund and that all monies belonging to the army shall not be interfered with the Minister of National Defense.
Following the testimony of the first defense witness, as prime defendant, charged with felony which is a high level of crime under the Liberian jurisdiction, the court has instructed the clerk to issue a Writ of Subpoena on the Minister of Finance, Samuel Tweah especially and the Deputy Minister of Finance for Expenditure to produce the letter of request, vouchers and other instruments today.

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