Liberia’s Anti-Corruption Commission has accused government officials of refusing to cooperate with efforts to verify their assets.
In a report released over the weekend, the commission accused 22 senior government officials, including Defense Minister Brownie Samukai and Police Director Chris Massaquoi of “deliberately” refusing to cooperate with its assets verification team.
Neither man was immediately available for comments.
Anti-Corruption Commission Chairperson Frances Johnson-Morris said the huge amounts of “unexplained wealth and material omission” raise red flags with the commission.
“We arrived at the description of unexplained wealth on the basis of a person’s lawful income.
The commission accused the former deputy minister for administration at the Ministry of Public Works, Stephen Yekeson, of having deposited US $305,590.00 into three separate bank accounts outside of his official salary of L$14,137.50.
“If someone is making, for instance, US$2,250.00 in special allowances and making L$14,000 [per month], to have in your account over a period of maybe two, three months depositing an aggregate of $300,000 plus, then it seems to us that that cannot be explained. They did not explain satisfactorily how they got that money,” Johnson-Morris said.
She said all the officials whose assets needed verification were invited to appear before the commission.
“We do not do the exercise in the absence of the declarants. If we cite you, we invite you. We tend to take time within a 10-day period that you will be available to come. So, these people participated in the exercise. We did not do it behind their backs,” she said.
The commission said former Internal Affairs Minister Blamoh Nelson held a series of cash deposits to his accounts at three different banks totaling $105,000.
But, Johnson-Morris said the commission observed an omission of Nelson’s property declaration form as well as a series of cash deposits to his accounts at three banks.
Nelson told VOA he has cooperated with the commission.
“What had happened, the actual declaration form has a narrative portion and a financial statement portion, and on my financial portion I declared the value of my real estate property to the tune of $220,000. I have my residence and [a] couple of other structures in Grand Kru. In the narrative, I was supposed to have listed the buildings. That is where the omission comes from. I didn’t list them,” Nelson said.
Nelson expressed dismay that the commission mentioned the omission in its report, even though it appeared to have accepted it.
He said the commission needs to employ well-trained people who can study financial records properly.
“I think the commission needs to get some people well-trained who can do forensic analysis of financial records properly and not engage in this mischief that these young people are doing,” Nelson said.
Johnson-Morris said a copy of the report has been submitted to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf along with the names of the officials who have not cooperated with the verification process.
“Normally, we forward [a] copy of the report to the president because she is the appointing power. We inform her about the refusal of these people, and, if she wants to take any action, then it is within her purview to do that. We are saying that the assets declared, some of it cannot be explained,” she said.
Butty interview with Johnson-Morris