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Blatant lie

-Commerce Minister Tarpeh replies Jemima Wolokollie

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Commerce Minister Prof. Wilson K. Tarpeh terms as blatant lie, accusation by dismissed Deputy Commerce Minister Jemima Wolokollie that he disbursed US$3 million loan for the Small Business Pro-poor Development Fund (SBPDF) of which she says she was not in the know.

“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,” Minister Tarpeh said Wednesday, 8 July during a press conference in Monrovia.

Minister Tarpeh insists that it is a blatant lie, Mrs. Wolokollie’s claims that she was not in the know of the SBPDF account and the financial activities of the project because it was conducted from his office.

According to him, the loan program is administered, managed and operated by the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI) while the Ministry of Commerce and Industry only provides strategic oversight and guidance as a sector ministry.

He recalls that in December 2018, President George Manneh Weah formally launched the Small Business Pro-poor Development Fund, saying the Government of Liberia contributed an initial US$1 million while the LBDI committed US$2 million toward the project, bringing the total to US$3 million dollars.

Minister Tarpeh discloses that in anticipation of the launch of the loan program, the ministry opened a demand deposit account with LBDI in 2019 which according to him, former Deputy Minister Wolokollie was allegedly signatory to.

“In September 2019, the government paid its US$1 million commitment and was deposited into the account. LBDI paid US$1 million of its commitment into an account over which it has exclusive control; no one outside of LBDI has access to this account,” Minister Tarpeh explains.

He continues that LBDI’s contribution is not in the SBPDF account opened by the Ministry of Commerce, but it’s available to the loan program.

As of 3 July this year, Minister Tarpeh says the account had a credit balance of US$957,582.34, further disclosing that there have been two check payment transactions over the account since its opening.

Minister Tarpeh reveals that former Deputy Minister Wolokollie authorized the first payment of US$33,216.00 for training that she reportedly conducted.

Additionally, he says former Deputy Minister Wolokollie signed the check, requested and authorized a payment of US$8,380.80 to cover the cost of advertisements and associated activities that she needed to support the SBPDF.

Responding to Wolokollie’s claim that there is no record on the loan that was given out, Minister Tarpeh explains that the Commerce Ministry and LBDI entered into a memorandum of understanding that states that all loan applications are addressed and delivered to LBDI.

“Credit decisions are made solely by the bank following appropriate scrutiny, using its own professional standards. The Ministry of Commerce and Industry plays no role in the process,” Prof. Tarpeh narrates.

He details that the bank makes semi – annual reports to the ministry covering the activities of the program for each reporting period.

In order to prepare potential beneficiaries for the program, Minister Tarpeh indicates that the ministry conducted a vetting process together with the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning and the Presidential Delivery Unit, saying Madam Wolokollie was part of the process.

By Ben P. Wesee–Edited by Winston W. Parley

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