LACC Reports Trouble Lawmakers…As Rep. Lawrence Seeks Judicial Recourse
By C. Winnie Saywah-Jimmy
Several individuals and institutions were at the close of last week entangled in the web of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) with a recommendation that they be prosecute by the Ministry of Justice for the misuse of public funds.
The LACC boss, Jerome Verdier, addressing a regular press briefing at the Ministry of Information recently told the public that the Commission’s action came days after energetic investigations of these individuals and institutions and it has resolved that those involved be held liable and prosecuted for the alleged misuse of said resources.
Among several persons indicted and expected to be prosecuted are three members of the House of Representatives to include SekouKanneh, owner of the Don Kan Gas Stations, Adolf Lawrence and Speaker Alex Tyler.
Cllr. Verdier said relative to the Don Kan Gas Station, Representative Kanneh was charged with forgery in accordance with Sub-chapter E sub-section 15.70 of the Liberian Penal while on the allegation, the LACC said it is investigating Speaker Tyler and Rep. Lawrence on account of some US$22, 500 that was paid to the Natural Resources Legal Expert Nkrumah Michael Allison.
However, within 24 hours after the LACC’s pronouncement was made and recommendations released for action, one of the three lawmakers in person of District 15 of Montserrado County Representative, Adolph Akwe Lawrence, sued the Commission and termed the LACC’s chairperson manner and form of releasing the information to the public as being “irresponsible, vicious and unacceptable.”
Expressing his actions already taken at a press conference at his Capitol Building, Representative Lawrence said his legal representatives have filed for an ‘Action of damages for wrong’ before the Civil Law Court and prays for a judgment against the defendant in the amount of US$ 10, 000 as special damages, US$ 2, 500 as general damages and US$ 2, 500 as punitive damages during the December 2014 term of court.
Plaintiff Lawrence, a lawmaker who should be protected under the Liberian Constitution while going to or coming from session and is currently in session due to the State of Emergency attached a copy of the Professional Service Agreement entered on March 14 by the House of Representative where Speaker Tyler’s signature is affixedhead of that body and expert Allison as consultant with he (Lawrence) as chairperson on the House’s Committee on Natural Resources affixing his signature as one of the witnesses.
The Agreement among other things established that the House of Representatives as employer shall “pay or cause to be paid the amount of US$ 25, 000 to consultant for the review and analysis of the bills, payable in two installments; 50 percent upon the signing of this Agreement and 50 percent upon completion of the report.”
Howbeit, the Agreement further states that “All misunderstanding of this agreement which may need clarification and or settlement shall be resolved via negotiation notwithstanding either party reserves the right to pursue court action after exhausting the negotiation procedures specified herein without further notice to the other.”
Representative Lawrence claimed that the LACC as an integrity institution did not exercise due diligence in gathering the facts surrounding said transaction neither did it inform him of any misconduct if any to afford him the opportunity to respond.
He said the 50 percent earlier paid the consultant to begin the work as agreed under the contract was neither owned by the House of Representatives, the National Oil Company of Liberia nor the Government of Liberia, so then it behooves him to ask which government institution or agency is claiming that their money was missing.
Representative Lawrence described it a gross violation on the part of the LACC to confiscate the funds without a court order and is further confused as to why the LACC is still holding on to a portion of the confiscated amount since September 24 especially when Allison has confirmed to it that he had earlier received the amount of US$ 25, 000 as personal cash advancement from Speaker Tyler while the paying government agency has stated publicly that the transaction was genuine and legal.
Meanwhile, the LACC Chairperson Verdier clarified that the manner and form of the transaction at the bank brought in the Commission to speculate that there was some foul play because if the lawmakers claimed that an agreement was entered, no single member of that body needed to follow the consultant at the bank since the check was in his name and the agreement is clear.
Chairperson Verdier said secondly, the House of Representative should have given notice to the paying agency that the contract demanded a 50 percent up-front payment and that the money was paid already thereby putting to rest any future suspicion.