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Opinion

Lookin’ Inside From Outside – The Carbon Harvesting Corporation Investigation

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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 assiduously for five months engaging all of the parties, intelligence sources and accessing documents relating to the negotiations/agreement and released its findings and recommendations to Madam President for action.

Among  the various issues raised against  all of the parties/individuals in the carbon  credit trading concession agreement, was the role of the Minister of Planning and Economic Affairs. In section 7.15 of the its  findings, the committee stated that it  realized during the course of the investigation, the issuance of a concession certificate for  the CHC contract by the Minister of Planning and economic Affairs, Amara Konneh in violation of the PPCC Act. It said the action of the Minister was not based on compliance with the statutory procedure established by the PPCC Act. His issuance of the Concession Certificate was in violation of  Section 89 of the PPCC Act. Section 138 (1) of the PPCC Act states that “any person who contravenes any provision of this Act shall, upon summary conviction, be liable to a fine or a term of imprisonment not exceeding two (2) years.”

In view of the foregoing, the committee recommended that Minister Amara Konneh be reprimanded and such further actions be taken may  be deemed necessary in keeping with the government’s anti-corruption policy. Including, at a minimum, formal criminal investigation of their knowledge and role in respect of the entire CHC Carbon Credits Concession.

Reading and  making a thorough analysis of the Warner Committee report in its entirety, one can only conclude that justice was done to all parties/persons involved in the CHC Carbon Credits Concession negotiations/deal.

And considering the role each of the individuals involved, one would only suggest that the role of the Former Minister of Internal Affairs m Ambullai Johnson was the gravest and most significant as a very influential official of government on the FDA Board besides being a Minister of Internal Affairs then and also a senior influential cousin of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, while the role of Minister Amara Konneh, a young official of government in his forties was very light.

Deducing the report, it is understandable that Cousin of the President and then Minister of internal Affairs may have exercised the highest degree of influence on the Minister of Planning to issue the certificate, and for fear of  being mixed up in an unfortunate family trap being very cognizant of the fact that Ambullai Johnson was a very close and influential relative of the President, he had to succumb.

Considering how African Governments are run ( mostly on the basis of family and other influences),  Ambullai Johnson would have done something else very negative that would have cost Amara Konneh his good Ministerial job as a young man had he refused and insisted on compliance with the PPCC Act.

But one thing  Amara Konneh must understand is that the report did not link him to corruption, bribery or any form of request for what he may have done, as compare to the findings of the report on Ambullai Johnson (US$2million benefit) and others.

In my mind, Minister Amara Konneh could be given consideration if anything was to happen further based on what I thing, from my own analysis of the report.

My only concern is how the draft report got to a local newspaper that decided to single out the Minister of Planning and Economical in its publication, when his role was minimum, though he may have violated the PPCC Act, according to the Negbalee Committee report.

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