Former House Speaker Alex Tyler, A Poster Child of Corruption in Liberia?
Monrovia – “Forget the politicians. The politicians are put there to give you the idea you have freedom of choice. You don’t. You have no choice. You have owners.
Report by Lennart Dodoo – [email protected]
They own you. They own everything. They own all the important land, they own and control the corporations that’ve long since bought and paid for, the senate, the congress, the state houses, the city halls, they got the judges in their back pocket, and they own all the big media companies so they control just about all of the news and the information you get to hear.
They got you by the balls. They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying to get what they want. Well, we know what they want.
They want more for themselves and less for everybody else. But I’ll tell you what they don’t want. They don’t want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don’t want well informed, well educated people capable of critical thinking. They’re not interested in that. That doesn’t help them” ― George Carlin
George Denis Patrick Carlin (May 12, 1937 – June 22, 2008) was an American stand-up comedian, social critic, actor, and author. Carlin was noted for his black comedy and thoughts on politics, the English language, psychology, religion, and various taboo subjects.
His thoughts on corruption best describes the Liberian scenario as dying day revelations show the extent to which politicians who practically came into power flat bellied and dull skinned have gulped in so much from public coffers to the extent that some are bearing striking resemblance to Humpty Dumpty.
The litany of corruption reports in Liberia over the past 12 months is one that puts citizens in a state of distress when it becomes glaring that the only aim is to live a life of luxury.
Though it was beclouded with politics, perhaps one of the best things that has ever happened to Liberia was the removal of J. Alex Tyler as Speaker of the House of Representatives.
His name has surfaced in almost every damning corruption scandal uncovered during his tenure as the third powerful man in the country.
Those who live for the crumbs of his dubious exploits argue that he is not guilty until pronounced guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction.
That’s true. However, isn’t it disturbing that one man’s hand is in almost every cookie jar in the republic? What a perilous situation! Where is our sense of integrity and self-esteem?
How Did Michael Allison Die Whistle Blowing?
One of the greatest and glaring travesties of justice that should not erode the minds of Liberians – at least for those who care about justice – is the death of Cllr. Michael Allison and the investigation on circumstances surrounding his death.
Allison was on the brink of exposing a well-calculated conspiracy by a web of government officials, mostly from the House, to defraud the entire nation of its much needed cash attained from the sweats of poor tax payers.
Cllr. Allison blew the whistle that led to investigation by the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission, (LACC), and involving Tyler at which time he served as Speaker of the House.
As a NOCAL consultant, Cllr. Allison was expected to have received half of a US$25,000 consultancy fee from the nationwide legislative consultations regarding two draft oil bills, the NOCAL Act of 2013 and the Petroleum Act of 2013. Over US$900,000 was allocated for the Legislature to conduct said consultations.
Controversy surrounding the draft bills deepened when it was revealed that then Speaker Alex Tyler decided to pre-finance the project and made available a check in the amount of US$12,000, which pricked the interest of the LACC, who later launched an investigation into his actions.
Cllr. Allison’s body was “discovered on the beach on 4th Street in Sinkor, Monrovia on Thursday, February 12, 2015, just few days after blowing the alarm on Tyler.
Without investigation into why his payment was bloated as a consultant, the case went down the drain following Allison’s death
Tyler, perhaps, owes a lifetime gratitude to former Justice Minister Benedict Sannoh whose flimsy, haphazard and smeared investigation branded Cllr. Allison as a “criminal”. The suspected ‘thief’ was celebrated and the whistle blower demonized – an insult to Allison’s family.
Disgraced By Global Witness
Chilling details emanating from evidence presented to the court by the Special Presidential Task Force revealed that former Speaker Tyler threw himself into the alleged bribery syndicate by demanding US$250,000 from Sable Mining to effect changes in the PPCC Act.
It all started when Piprek (the head of Sable Mining Liberia Ltd.) was looking for suitable premises for accommodation, helicopter landing facilities, and offices.
In July 2010, he (Piprek) came across a premises owned by Tyler but was rejected because it turned out to be very expensive.
However, on August 6, 2010, he (Piprek) got a call from Tyler for a dinner at Boulevard Café on 14th Street, Sinkor (now called Fuzion d’Afrique); during which he informed Tyler that they were not taking up the property.
Also during the meeting, Tyler advised that he (Tyler) knew the importance of the Public Procurement Concession Commission Act changes to Sable Mining and that he (Tyler) could help Sable Mining get the changes quickly for an amount of US$250,000.00.
The rejection of Tyler’s property was based on discussion Piprek held with Sable Mining West Africa CEO, Heine Van Niekerk.
At the dinner, Piprek explained to Tyler that Van Niekerk sent him an email exchange between himself (Van Niekerk) and Cllr. Varney Sherman indicating clearly that the company should not entertain Tyler’s request and that Sherman would take care of the discussions with Tyler.
Investigation show that Sherman appeared irritated that Piprek was engaged in discussions with Tyler.
The evidence here show that Tyler – a man who was supposed to ensure that laws being passed were in the best interest of the Liberian people – was caught allegedly selling his country.
How much more could a man want in addition to all the privileges accorded him as Speaker? Isn’t this tantamount to killing the people he represented softly?
Bong County Technical College Saga
Tyler was named alongside Maryland County Representative Bhofal Chambers, former Representative Ketehkumuehn E. Murray along with a Chinese national as co-owners of the construction company that presumably won the contract for the construction of the Bong County Technical College – a project which began in 2010 and was expected to be completed in 2011 but is still ongoing.
It was originally expected to be US$4,394,776.97 project, but the contract’s worth grew to US$7,604,926.97 and changing the completion date to May 2017 without any significant changes to the original design of the building.
According to the Internal Audit report, the contractor was awarded the project without any competitive bidding process, without compliance with the Public Procurement law or regulation, without being registered in the Ministry of Public Works’ database as a recognized, credible construction firm, and without being a properly registered business in Liberia.
Rep. Chambers after an initial denial later admitted being a shareholder of the company though he said he wasn’t aware that the company was engaged in such a project.
But Tyler has since denied being a 7.5 percent shareholder. The Articles of Incorporation of the Liberia China United Investment Company shows his signature as one of the incorporators, yet he denies his involvement with the company.
The Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission upon investigating the matter wrote in a press statement: “Allegation of “Conflict of interest” and “Violation of the Constitution of Liberia” involving Ketterkumuehn E. Murray, J. Alex Tyler and Bhofal Chambers former and current law-makers in relation to their shares in the China United Investment Group; the investigation found these public officers in violation of article 90, section A, B, & C of the Constitution of Liberia, as well as the National Code of Conduct, section 1.3.6.
“The investigation recommends penalty as required in Part 15.1 of the Code of Conduct which includes dismissal, removal from office, reprimand; fines; demotion; seizure and forfeiture of the State of any property acquired from abuse of office and interdiction/suspension from duty with half pay”.
Part Owner of ‘Illegal’ Logging Company
Tyler’s name surfaced again in the latest Global Witness Report on Liberia dubbed “Hold The Line”. He is named as part owner along with Moses Kollie, and Ricks Toweh of a logging company which is, according to the Global Witness, among a group of illegal loggers that have lied, cheated and stolen from the Liberians through illegal logging activities.
“All of Liberia’s large logging contracts are fundamentally illegal, a fact that if not addressed immediately could undermine the important work being undertaken by the government and its partners to ensure Liberia’s forests do not again fuel conflict and corruption.
“Global Witness has collected evidence demonstrating that logging companies are illegally owned or controlled by politicians such as House of Representatives members Alex Tyler, Moses Kollie, and Ricks Toweh,” the Global Witness indicated.
Tyler is yet to comment on the recent Global Witness report though the logging company had earlier told the Liberia Extractive Industries Initiative (LEITI) that he was not a shareholder in the company.