By Alex Yomah
Sixteen senators of the Liberian Senate yesterday voted to submit the Minister of Agriculture to the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), and the General Auditing Commission (GAC) for further investigation on allegations of frauds.
The Liberian Senate’s decision was triggered by its statutory Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry investigative report submitted to plenary.
“In view of the many malpractices discovered at the Ministry of Agriculture, some of which cannot be penned down in this report, the committee therefore recommends that the LACC and GAC be charged to conduct an investigation and audit into these allegations and others mentioned in the report,” the report stated
“The Committee also recommends forensic audit to be conducted on the Ministry’s payroll as it is believed that Ghost names and unfair qualifications and remunerations are affecting the Ministry’s budget and the physical assets of the Ministry should form part of the investigation,” Committee report said.
In the investigative report submitted by the Chair of the committee, Jim Tornonlah of Margibi County, as per its mandate, during its investigation, Madam Cooper admitted that she was not in proper control of the Ministry, so she could not perform at expectation because her deputies were all appointed by the President, so she does not have supervision over them.
According to the report, when the Minister was asked if she was a signatory to any account of the ministry, under oath, Madam Jeanie Cooper “Lied” to the committee by saying “NO”; but the committee proved the contrary by evidence of a LBDI’s Agriculture value chain project account #001USD 2130314040, where she served as category “A” signatory along with three other persons who are not employees of the Ministry of Agriculture, instead contractors, thus rendering the work of the comptroller of the Ministry valueless.
In the same vein of the investigation, it was discovered that Madam Cooper did give four contracts to four of her advisors working in her office for a two-year period, including her brother Zubin Cooper.
For evidence Mr. Thomas Gbokie- PMU- Agriculture Knowledge Management Advisor “annual salary US100,000, February 15, 2021-Feb 14,2023 project value US$99,984-small Holder Agriculture Transportation and Agri-business revitalization project(STAR-P)
Mr. Sylvester W. Taylor- Financial Management Advisor- project value US$99,984.00- Annual salary US$50,000.00, February 3, 2021- February 2, 2023-small Holder Agriculture Transportation and Agri-business Revitalization project (STAR-R)
Mr. Zubin L Cooper Communication and marketing Specialist-annual salary US$100,000 Feb 15, 2021-Feb 14 2022- project value: US$99,984- Small holder agri-business Revitalization
Mr. Luakena A. Tolbert- financial investment and communication consultant-annual salary 60,000, July 1, 2020-June 30, 2021-project value: US$60,000.
According to the committee report, Mr. Laukena A. Tolbert is not an employee of the Ministry of Agriculture, but a signatory of the Ministry of Agriculture’s account.
In the committee’s investigation room, it was also discovered that a contract of US$298,146.42, was awarded to Mr. Momolu Tolbert, CEO Liberia Cocoa Corporation by Madam Cooper to supply F1-Hybrid Cocoa seeds to the Ministry of Agriculture. On the contrary, all of the seeds brought by Mr. Tolbert are all dead, and they were not the F1-Hybrid Cocoa seeds.
On the issue of FABRAR Liberia, Inc., being awarded a contract under the Star–P project of the Ministry of Agriculture, madam Cooper admitted that she is the founder and CEO of FABRAR, but she did not have anything to do with the contract, but yet, she signed on behalf of the Ministry for FABRAR to supply 200 metric tons of rice.
The Project Management Unit has been without a Director for over two years, because Madam Cooper had refused to advertise the position for the vetting of a qualified director; instead, she appointed one Ansu Konneh who does not have the relevant qualification to run the institution against the policy of the Ministry of Agriculture and the international partners that support the Ministry of Agriculture.
Mr. Konneh runs and signs all documents on behalf of project Management Unit (PMU) without being vetted. In addition to the allegation, the committee added that Madam Cooper alleged that 20 vehicles of the Ministry of Agriculture had gone missing without knowledge.
The committee also discovered that the US$ 5.5 million Coronavirus emergency fund could not be adequately accounted for among others.
Senate On Minister
By Alex Yomah