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FDA, Lands & Mines connived

The head of Liberia’s Public Procurement and Concession Commission, James Dorber Jallah, says the management of the Forestry Development Authority colluded with some officials of the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy and some [companies] in violating the statutes and laws governing the forestry sector here, particularly the Private Use Permits and the Community Right Laws.

Prior to recently being appointed to head the PPCC in August 2014, Mr. Jallah chaired a special investigative body that reviewed and evaluated PUP contracts entered at the FDA under indicted former Managing Director, Mr. Moses Wogbeh’s administration and made report to President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in December 2012.

Mr. Wogbeh is on trial at the Criminal Court “C” along with former FDA Technical Manager John Kantor; former Manager for Commercial Forestry, Jangar Kamara; FDA’s former Manager of Geo Information System, Augustine B.M. Johnson; former County Surveyor of Grand Bassa County, David Blayee and former Director of Cartography at the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy, Maxwell Gwee.

They are facing multiple criminal charges, including economic sabotage, criminal conspiracy, forgery or counterfeiting, obtaining and issuing deceptive writings, and obstruction of government function by public servant.

The defendants have pleaded not guilty to the indictment in which prosecutors claim the accused issued up to 61 illegal Private Use Permits between April 2010 [and] December 2011 that authorized commercial logging operations on nearly 2.5 million hectares of land area and caused government to loss over US$6 Millions in revenues.

Notwithstanding, the Special Independent Investigative Body or SIIB of Mr. Jallah claimed to have discovered 63 PUPs of which two were issued during the administration of Mr. John Woods; while the balance 61 PUPs –  were issued under the administration of defendant Moses Wogbeh.

The indictment further claims that the former FDA’s GIS Manager co-defendant Augustine Johnson; FDA’s former Technical Manager for Research, John Kantor; former GIS Coordinator at FDA, Torwor Yanty allegedly received directly from several logging companies in excess of US$100,000.00 as compensation or reward.

Mr. Jallah told the court Monday that with the exception of the former surveyor of Grand Bassa County David Blayee, all the other defendants were interviewed; and that PUP sites were visited in several counties to review firsthand the PUP situation, followed by evaluation and report to President Sirleaf.

He said the investigation discovered that the management of FDA had colluded with some officials of the Ministry of Lands and Mines and some [companies] in violating the statutes and laws governing the forestry sector, particularly the PUP Law and the Community Right Law… to the detriment of the government and people of Liberia.

In the case of the indicted former FDA head, Moses Wogbeh, Mr. Jallah said he did not [exhibit] prudence in the exercise of the duties of his offices and that he had connived and colluded with parties to award fraudulent PUP contracts in violation of the LMRL and the Community Rights Law.

As for Mr. Maxwell Gwee, former Director of Cartography at Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy, Mr. Jallah told the court that the investigation uncovered many forged verification letters on the basis of which many of the PUPs were granted.

In the case of Mr. Jangar Kamara, former Manager for Commercial Forestry, witness Jallah said following the imposition of a moratorium by President Sirleaf, the defendant without authority wrote communications to the SGS essentially, authorizing violations of the moratorium.

The witness continued that evidence was unearthed that co-defendant Mr. John Kentor had personally received monies from logging companies; while in the case of the former surveyor of Grand Bassa County, evidence was discovered to his arbitrary issuance of “corrections certifications” by which he without due authority, increased the allocation of land.

The report to which Mr. Jallah testified yesterday was according to him, presented to President Sirleaf under authority of the Special Independent Investigative Body or SIIB, which included him as chair and his members Justice Felecial Coleman, Father James Sirleaf, Ms. Diasner Dlo, Mr. Thomas Doe Nah and Ms. Kou Dorliae.

The indictment has claimed that the defendants’ action resulted to the [shipment of] over 40,000cm3 of logs.

Current FDA Managing Director, Mr. Harrison S. Karnwea, Sr. testified int eh case on Monday, April 6, 2015 as Prosecutors’ special witness, specifically giving details on the inner workings of the head of the FDA.

By Winston W. Parley

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