When Lawmakers Break the Law; Poor, Innocent Liberians Left to Suffer

Source: FrontPage Africa


THE INTERNATIONAL watchdog group Global Witness on Monday reported that a member of Liberia’s House of Representatives Moses Kollie has six percent shares in a logging company which stands to benefit from 80 percent reduction in annual fees paid by timber concessionaires, contributing to a loss of US$10.3 million dollars to Liberia.

The GW report warned that logging companies in Liberia are trying to get out of paying millions of dollars in tax to the country’s cash-starved government through a dubious new law.
ACCORDING TO Global Witness, members of the Liberian House of Representatives have drafted legislation to reduce the annual fees paid by timber concessionaries by 80 percent. “This could cost Liberians US$10.3 million a year in much needed revenue. In a clear conflict of interests, one of the lawmakers supporting the move holds shares in a logging firm that stands to benefit financially. The news comes as evidence mounts that the companies concerned are contributing next to nothing to Liberia’s development,” the report said.
THE GW report comes on the heels of a recent series of investigative reports detailing possible conflict of interest issues on the part of the head of the National Investment Commission, Richard Tolbert.
BOTH TOLBERT and Alex Tyler, Speaker of the House of Representatives recently paid a visit to Russia under the guise of coincidentally attending an Investment and parliamentarian conference. An investigation by FrontPageAfrica later uncovered that Liberia was not among the list of countries invited to the conference.
LAST WEEK, two members of the Bomi caucus, in separate interviews with FrontPageAfrica, distanced themselves from what is being described as an ‘entertainment mission’ by the speaker and not an official one. Caucus members declared in interviews with FrontPageAfrica Tuesday that the trip did not meet the approval of the Caucus neither did it seek its interest. Both senators of Bomi expressed shock over the Speaker’s clandestine trip which they denied ever having knowledge of; noting that the trip was a mystery. Bomi County Senior Senator Lahai Lassana said: “In my capacity as the Senior Senator of Bomi, I’m not aware of the trip made by Speaker Tyler. I don’t think the trip he made to Russia along with Dr. Tolbert, as being reported by your newspaper, on behalf of the Western Cluster Iron Ore deposit in our county, was on behalf of the county”. Junior Senator Richard Devine, said it was impossible for the Speaker to attend an international conference in the name of the Caucus without the consent of its members.
NOW THE GLOBAL Witness report pointing to conflict of interest breach by a member of the House of Representatives is poised to shed more light on the legislative body which has been embroiled in reports and allegations of corruption since it was inaugurated in 2006.
THE WATCHDOG GROUP says it has copies of the Articles of Incorporation of the logging concessionaire International Consultant Capital, dated 20 August 2007, which show that Moses Y Kollie owns 6% of the shares in the firm. Moses Y Kollie is also a member of the Liberian House of Representatives, representing Lofa County. Accompanying the draft law is a report of the Joint Committee on Ways, Means and Finance, Judiciary and Agriculture, on the Act to Abolish Land Rental Bid Premium, which includes signatures of members of the House of Representatives who support the proposed legislation. Moses Y Kollie is one of these signatories.
IF THE REPORT IS TRUE, Representative Kollie must move at once to clear the air on the matter and clarify whether or not his shares and interest in the company was a motive for speedily drafted a legislation to reduce the annual fees paid by timber concessionaries by 80 percent.
LIBERIA HAS COME a long way since the end of the civil war and lawmakers have repeatedly deny using their offices to conduct unscrupulous business deals under the table. But the latest involving Representative Kollie is no doubt an indication that the post-war legislative body is in need of some cleansing. The future of Liberia depends on it and once again it appears elected and appointed officials are mortgaging Liberia’s future for their personal benefit against the common good of the nation.

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