Liberia: Dismissed Commerce Minister Jamima Wolokollie Vows to Expose Minister Wilson Tarpeh by “Letting the Cat Out of the Bag”

Madam Jamima Wolokollie insists that there should be an independent investigation into the loan disbursement preferably conducted by clergymen and women in order to ensure a fair outcome

MONROVIA – Contrary to assertions by the Minister of Commerce, Mr. Wilson Tarpeh, that his dismissed deputy, Jamima Wolokollie, was a signatory to the account from which the Small Business Pro-poor Development Fund was being disbursed to small business entrepreneurs, Madam Wolokollie has challenged the Minister to call for an audit of the fund and submit himself to an independent investigation. She vehemently debunked signing check for the disbursement of any loan while at the ministry.

Min. Tarpeh had explained during a press conference last Wednesday that Ms. Wolokollie’s allegation of him misapplying the fund were “false and product of a “depraved mind.”

He said, “Let me categorically state here that all of these allegations and others like them, are grossly baseless, false and unfounded. The accusations are nothing but the product of a depraved mind of a functional illiterate,” he debunked.

“For the record, the loan program is administered, managed and operated by the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI). The Ministry of Commerce and Industry only provides strategic oversight and guidance as a sector Ministry.”

According to Minister Tarpeh, the Small Business Pro-poor Development Fund (SBPDF), loan scheme, lunched by President Weah is being run from two separate accounts managed by the MOCI and LBDI.

The Ministry’s account, he said was opened in 2019 in anticipation of the launch of the loan program and Ms. Wolokollie is one of the ‘A’ signatories to the account.

“I wrote him a memo requesting him to kindly give me an audit report and also tell me which criteria he used to give the loan to the people he gave the loan to, give me their telephone numbers, locations and their names. Before I got dismissed, that memo was written, Minister Tarpeh never addressed that memo.”

Jamima Wolokollie, Former Deputy Minister for Small Business Administration

As of July 3, 2020, he furthered that the account had a credit balance of US$957,582.34 and there have been two check payments transactions over this account since its opening. The checks, he said were authorized and signed by former Minister Wolokollie.

He said: “Ms. Wolokolie claims that she knows nothing about the SBPDF account and the financial activities of the project because it was handled or conduct personally by my office. This too, is a blatant lie.”

“Ms. Wolokollie authorized the first payment of US$33,216 for training she reportedly conducted. Ms. Wolokollie also requested and authorized a payment of US$8,380.80 to cover the cost of advertisements and associated activities that she said were needed to support the SDPDF. How can she say she knew nothing about the account when she signed the checks drawn on the account?” he asked rhetorically.

According to Minister Tarpeh, to guide the administration, management and operation of the loan program, MOCI and LBDI entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

And under the MOU, all loans applications are addressed and delivered to the LBDI, and credit decision are made solely by the bank following appropriate scrutiny using its own professional standards, and the Ministry of Commerce and Industry plays no role in the process.

Cat Still in the Bag

Despite the clarity that Min. Tarpeh sought to provide on the fund, Ms. Wolokollie told Fabric Radio, a local FM station in Monrovia, that the Minister was being dishonest and challenged him to avail the process for an audit and independent investigation by clergy men and women.

“I’m not part of the disbursement of the loan,” she maintained.

She added, “I want a speedy investigation now, I’m prepared for it. I’ll bring out all my documents.”

According to her, two weeks before she was dismissed, a senior staff meeting was called during which she asked Min. Tarpeh about the progress of the loan disbursement. She disclosed that Min. Tarpeh gave her a flying sheet which revealed that US$513,000 of the US$3 million had been disbursed. He then asked her to take over the disbursement from that level, she said.

“I wrote him a memo requesting him to kindly give me an audit report and also tell me which criteria he used to give the loan to the people he gave the loan to, give me their telephone numbers, locations and their names. Before I got dismissed, that memo was written, Minister Tarpeh never addressed that memo,” she explained.

She further disclosed that the US$8,000 that Mr. Tarpeh told journalists was used for publicity was an inflated amount what was not used for the purpose she spoke of.

Ms. Wolokollie revealed that Mr. Tarpeh told informed her that it was necessary for the Ministry to do jingles to publicize the loan scheme and make the President’s initiative more visible to the people. She said, after meeting with the requisite staff within the ministry and doing on their background study, US$3,000 came up at the total amount needed for the exercise.

However, Min. Tarpeh, according to her, insisted that she inflated the amount to US$8,000. She said the Minister told her he needed to use the additional US$5,000 to repair his official vehicle which was in the garage since the government did not have money to repair it at the time.

She said Min. Tarpeh claimed to have used US$3000 to repair the vehicle but has since failed to account for the remaining US$5,000 though the jingles and publicity were never done.

She said she requested that the US$5,000 be placed back into the account but her request was ignored.

“I wrote Min. Tarpeh – I have copy of my memo – and he refused to do it. They never did the jingles, they never put the ad in the papers, they never put the money back into the account, that U$5,000 went in breeze,” she said.