The Role of Minister Amara Konneh
More than five months ago, the President of Liberia, Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf named a three-man committee to probe a proposed Carbon Concession agreement between the Forestry Development Authority or FDA and a UK-based company, Carbon Harvesting Corporation.
The appointment of the committee was in reference to a report released by Global Witness concerning the existence of a carbon concession agreement between the Liberian government represented by the Forestry Development Authority and the UK-based CHC covering one0fifth of Liberia’s protected areas.
The report also noted that the negotiations on the agreement violated the Act which created the Public Procurement and Concession Commission or PPCC, and that bribes were offered, solicited, paid or promised to several current and past government officials for their consents and support for the agreement.
Global Witness also disclosed that the agreement had little or no benefits for Liberia, but exposed the country to significant potential habitats and concession administration/enforcement challenges.
The President mandated the three-man committee to determine whether or not specific procedures of the PPCC Act were duly followed in the negotiation process, the basis for which the deal was structured and reasons for single sourcing the proposed concession to Carbon Harvesting Corporation, as well as whether any act of impropriety such as corruption, conflict of interest, bribery or any form of irregular payment was made directly or indirectly to any officials of the FDA, members of the Inter-Ministerial Concession Committee, the FDA Board or any government official.
The three-man committee, headed by Cllr. T. Negbalee Warner, worked for five months, engaging all of the parties, intelligence sources as well as accessing documents relating to the negotiations/agreement and released its findings and recommendations to Madam President for action.
The job was done and a draft report which included a number of recommendations was then presented to the President.
No sooner had the draft been submitted when a local newspaper published a story giving prominence to the issues raised against Planning and Economic Affairs Minister Amara Konneh as well as the committee’s recommendation for the President to reprimand him ( Minister Konneh) and institute legal actions through the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission .
Of course, the release of the draft of the Warner Report to the media resulted to hard feelings and hot reactions.
“And to Minister, I just want him to know that we appreciate him. I continue to have the greatest of confidence in his commitment, in his capacity and in his integrity. I want that message to be sent out to everybody (applause)…,” was the explicit confidence expressed in Minister Konneh by President Sirleaf at the end of the recent cabinet retreat held in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County.
And of course, it was a major shock received by the Negbalee Warner-led Carbon Harvesting Probing Presidential Committee.
From the onset, the Planning Minister had remained firm that he did not sign any carbon harvesting certificate.
What he did admit to signing was a certificate for forestry management, noting that he has provided all of the necessary information to a British investigating team on the issue, and that he was prepared to resign if the committee can provide evidence that he signed a carbon harvesting certificate.
Having read the Warner report and Konneh persistent reactions, I think there is a need to take a look at what the committee report refers to as ‘a carbon harvesting certificate’ and the certificate for forest management which Minister Amara Konneh said he issued.
I am also sure that the Warner Committee has a copy of the carbon harvesting certificate it said Konneh issued, while at the same time, Amara is also in possession of his.
I am also of the strongest conviction that the public would be pleased to understand the details about the issuance of a carbon harvesting certificate, as well as a forest management certificate. And when these are made public, we all would be able to determine who’s actually telling us the truth of this carbon harvesting concession agreement saga, as it relates to the role of the Minister of Planning and Economic Affairs, Amara Konneh.
More than the foregoing, I and many other Free Thinkers do believe that it is politically unhealthy for the President of Liberia and Chief executive of all her cabinet ministers and heads of other agencies of government, to continue “ putting her neck on choppin’ board” with the highest degree of emphasis.
In my mind, it’s better behind closed-doors, especially during cabinet meetings than in the public.
While it is Madam President’s the constitutional prerogative to be pleased or displeased with her officials, it must also be understood that “what they do here; how they do what they do here, will go a long way in determining the impact-negative or positive of their activities on the lives of our people nation-wide that they will regard her ( the President) as a reflection of whatever they’ve done, and how they’ve done what they’ve done” in the interest or against the interest of the people of Liberia.