Liberia: Ex-Bomi County Senator Sando Johnson Frowns at Setting of Payment Plans For Current, Former Government Official Found Guilty of Corruption
MONROVIA – Former Bomi County Senator Sando Dazoe Johnson says the ‘strange phenomenon’ of setting up payment plans for current or ex-public officials found guilty of embezzling state funds that has engulfed the justice system of Liberia is undermining efforts towards the fight against the menace.
It can be recalled that in February 2021, the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), in a statement issued, said it has finally cleared Montserrado County district # 15 Representative Abu Bana Kamara following months of restituting monies he (Kamara) “criminally” received from the Government of Liberia (GOL),
The LACC’s action stemmed from an investigation it launched in May 2019 into a report that Representative Kamara was criminally and clandestinely receiving double salaries and benefits while serving as Deputy Managing Director of the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC) and from his previous job as Deputy Minister for Administration at the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications.
In the agency’s leaked report which went viral on the social media at the time, Representative Kamara was accused of receiving the amounts of US$$8,164.70 and LD 271,114.74 as salaries for the portfolio of Assistant Minister for the Ministry of Post, including a 14% interest which amounts to US$1,002.68 and L$33, 294.90.
But in a “TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN” clearance dated February 21, 2021, a copy which is in the possession of FrontPage Africa, the LACC pointed out that it has concluded investigation into the allegations of acts of corruption including double emolument and fraud involving Mr. Abu Bana Kamara, the former Assistant Minister for Administration of the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications and has cleared him because, he has finally completed the payment of the funds fraudulently taken from the Liberian government.
“In view of the above and as per agreed upon restitution plan, Hon. Kamara has fulfilled all payments in the amount specified above and is therefore cleared of all financial obligations to the Government of Liberia in line with the restitution plan. In view of the foregoing, and given that the said investigation has been concluded, we are pleased to inform you that the investigation found no criminal liability on the part of Hon. Abu Bana Kamara in relations to the allegation levied” the clearance signed by Baba V. Boakai, Program Manager of the Enforcement Division at the commission stated.
Though the commission at the time argued that it action was in line with its restitution program which commenced in 2014, there has been no record of the LACC requesting former or current officials accused of stealing public monies to restitute in government’s coffers when found guilty by its investigation.
Few weeks after he was declared the victor, the Supreme Court of Liberia in February 2021, upheld a March 2020 ruling from Judge Yamie Quiqui Gbeisay of Criminal Court ‘C’ against Mr. Brownie Samukai and two other co-appellants and sentenced them to two years in prison each for misapplication of US$1.1 million intended for the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL).
Mr. Samukai and former Deputy Minister for Administration and James Nyumah Dorkor, former Comptroller of the Ministry of Defense were found guilty of the crimes theft of property, misuse of public money and criminal conspiracy.
Though they were given separate jail terms of six months and two years if they failed to restitute the amount within a one-year period, the High Court ruled that the prison terms could be suspended if the convicts restitute 50 percent of the fund within six months and make full payment within a year.
But speaking in an interview with FrontPage Africa recently, Mr. Johnson said the setting up of payment plans by the court or the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) for former or current government officials found guilty in audit reports released by anti-graft institutions is discouraging the fight against the menace that is eating every fabric of the Liberian society.
He called for the incarceration of those found guilty of corruption by the courts along with petty criminals without any interference or political consideration.
Mr. Johnson maintained that people should bear the consequences of their actions, including the bleeding of state coffers to the detriment of the citizens by being put behind bars, instead of walking freely soliciting monies to repay for their actions.
“They have to do more to punish people for corruption. One of the things I disagree with is that, once people steal and they are found guilty by the court, I disagree with ‘let’s do payment plan’. People have to go to jail for their actions or what they done or the economic crimes they committed”.
Avoid selective justice
He maintained that the creeping habit of government, through the courts setting up payment plan for past or current public officials found liable of corruption is a resemblance of “selective justice”.
Mr. Johnson furthered that it does not augur well for petty criminals to be placed behind bars at various prison facilities across the country, while payment plans are set up for those considered as ‘big shots’ who are found guilty of embezzlement and economic crimes committed against the state.
“The government has to be very strong and straight to the point and avoid getting involved into selective justice. People have to pay for what they did; if you did well, you must go free, but if you did wrong, you must be punished. It should not be done on the basis of (political) party, family or friend-no”.
He stated that the CDC led-government has to do more in the combat against corruption in the Liberian society and build the capacity of its citizens.