Dismissed Deputy Commerce Minister for Small Business Administration, Madam Jamima Wolokollie has called for a comprehensive audit of the loan program initiated by the government titled, Small Business Pro-Poor Development Fund (SBPDF).
The call comes barely a week after Commerce Minister Prof. Wilson K. Tarpeh clarified his involvement in disbursement of the Government of Liberia’s US$ 3 million dollars loan to small businesses.
President George Weah in December 2018 launched the Small Business Pro-Poor Development Fund (SBPDF), with an initial contribution of US$ 1 million from government, while the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI) committed to give US$2 million, bringing the total to US$ 3 million. Since then, the public corridors have been overwhelmed by speculations and disagreements over how the loan was being handled by the Ministry of Commerce & Industry.
Dismissed Deputy Minister Wolokollie, about three weeks ago, opened up on both the social and conventional media, claiming that she had been kept in the dark by her boss, Minister Tarpeh, who, according to her, took over disbursement of the loan, expending over US$ 513, 00.00 to purported beneficiaries, who are yet to be properly identified.
But days after her appearance on OK FM 99.5, where she also made some strong comments about issues in the governing Coalition for Democratic Change, President George Manneh Weah dismissed Madam Wolokollie conduct incompatible with her status as a public official. She was subsequently expelled from the CDC.
Addressing a press conference in Monrovia on July 8, 2020, Minister Tarpeh denied he was single-handedly disbursing loan to beneficiaries from his office.
He presented pieces of documents which he claimed bear evidence that Mrs. Wolokollie had been involved in the administration and disbursement of the loan prior to her dismissal by the President.
He termed Madam Wolokollie’s outburst as maliciously twisted comments aimed at burying the facts surrounding the loan program and defame his good name and the reputation of the Commerce Ministry.
Tarpeh explained that the loan program is administered, managed and operated by the LBDI, with the Commerce Ministry only providing strategic oversight and guidance as a sector Ministry and that, Mrs. Wolokollie, then as one of the “A” signatories to the loan account, is knowledgeable or should be knowledge about the processes governing the loan.
However, in her latest response, Mrs. Wolokolie is calling on the General Auditing Commission (GAC) to audit the entire Small Business Pro-Poor Development Fund (SBPDF) or an independent panel be constituted, drawing its membership from the religious community and other moral institutions to investigate the program and make findings public to allay the apprehension of Liberians.
She described Minister Tarpeh’s recent press conference as a failed attempt to cover up his alleged dishonesty and lack of courage to do public business with transparency and accountability, particularly in managing the SBPDF.
On the question of money spent to repair her then assigned vehicle, Mrs. Wolokolie clarified that after she endured several months without a vehicle, Minister Tarpeh directed and approved the request for US$ 3,040.00 to be used for the repair of her assigned vehicle and the repair work was done by Africa Motors Service Center, evidenced by available documentations.
She exhibited documents showing that Prof. Tarpeh instructed that US$3,040.00 be taken from the US$8,000.00 allotted for radio jingles to publicize the loan program. She further challenged the Commerce Minister to prove he ever spent the remaining US$ 5,000.00 for radio Jingles and other means of publicity before the disbursement of the loan. Editing by Jonathan Browne