U.S. $1.2M Bribery Fees: World Bank & Global Witness Are Silent!
By J. Yanqui Zaza
Elected Officials Taking Bribes in the form of "Signing Bonuses"?
The hottest news in Liberia, after the Ebola crisis and the recent senatorial elections, is, once again, corruption. This time, lower-paid employees such as police officers are not involved. Rather, they are well-paid Liberian lawmakers who sought additional payment that is beyond the legal form of bribery (i.e., consultancy fees paid to elected officials to increase investors’ profits).
Consultancy fees (legal bribery) and kickbacks (illegal bribery) are part of an economic system, which dictates that INVESTORS MUST GET HIGHER PROFITS BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY. Such an economic system, embraced by our current government, is the primary reason why Liberia is poor. In the current bribery case, some colleagues of Mr. Alex Tyler, the Speaker of the House of Representative, demand that the Speaker should exonerate himself from a $25,000 corruption allegation before he presides as head of the Liberian House of Representatives.
However, no one is commenting on the legal bribery of $200,000 disbursed to 30 Liberian Senators and $1 million paid to 73 members of the House of Representatives. Published reports stated that the Liberia National Oil Company disbursed $1.2 million as consultancy fees, from which the Liberian Senate was given $ 200,000 USD and $1,000,000 (one million United States dollars) was left exclusively for the House of Representatives. If there was no mischief, why should government pay two sets of compensations (regular salary and consultancy fees) to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (i.e., amount undisclosed) and lawmakers to write, review, edit, attest or sign official documents, including the oil agreement?
Most importantly, how does such an economic arrangement (more profits for investors and additional compensation for elected officials) benefit society? I guess responding to critics, the Liberia National Oil Company stated that Oil Block # 16 agreement would benefit society because there was no harm done. This is how NOCAL described its performance in a December 31, 2014 article called “Ebola Problem: “Liberia Oil Company simplifies Oil Bid Round Process.” (FrontpageAfricaonline.com). The Accounting Firm Ernst & Young and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) used their experience and knowledge to produce the concessionary agreement between Liberia and Liberty Petroleum Company. http://www.libertypetroleumcorporation.com/properties.html
The above Company’s website does not disclose any relevant financial reports such as 10ks or annual reports. So, how did the experts verify the Company’s assertions? In any case, solvent or not, big business has to grease the wheel of business in order to maximize its profits. Therefore, if the payment of consultancy fees paid to elected officials were to be eliminated, profits of big business might decline, although not necessarily at the demise of business.
The payment of consultancy fees to elected officials results into awarding sweet heart deals, which reduces cash flow to government coffers. This usually forces government to borrow money from the World Bank/International Monetary Funds. Consequently, the cash-trapped position, poor countries reduce investment in education, infrastructure, etc. as exposed by the Ebola Crisis in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
Well, the World Bank, Liberia’s premier economic adviser, cannot question the bribery scheme, because it needs to earn interest on money lent to cash-trapped countries.
But why is Global Witness silent about the $1.2 million consultancy fees NOCAL disbursed? This international NGO was established to reduce corruption, poverty, etc.
|The Liberian government paid $31,000, predictably, to each Liberian Senator, to approve an Oil Agreement between Liberia and the Liberty Petroleum Corporation|
To its credit, Global Witness, after the harm was done, stated that a significant number of the Liberian concessionary agreements negotiated by President Sirleaf government since 2006 is fraudulent. Also, it did not shy away from advising against the government’s decision to enter into the oil block # 16 concessionary agreement. Sadly, instead of Global Witness questioning the role of the World Bank/IMF in writing the concessionary agreements, Mr. Jonathan Gant, on behalf of Global Witness, wrote this writer an email asking for the veracity of the story that NOCAL did pay $31,000 to a Liberian Senator.
Certainly, the World Bank has business interest in poor countries. But what is the interest of Global Witness? Talking or fingerpointing after the harm is done does not generate cash for the poor countries. To understand why Liberia, with lucrative resources, has a high rate of poverty status, let us also review the master/slave relationship between Rome and Jerusalem narrated by Reza Aslan in his book called “The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.” He wrote,
“Roman dominion over Jerusalem began in 63 B.C.E. It had served as the religious, economic and political capital of the Jewish nation for a thousand years. Situated on the Southern plateau of the shaggy Judean mountains, Jerusalem, at the time of the Roman invasion, was home to a settled population of about a hundred thousand people. Despite its exalted status in the hearts of the Jews, the truth is that Jerusalem was little more than a trifle to be passed among a succession of kings and emperors who took turns plundering and despoiling the sacred city on their way to far grander ambitions.
In order to control its colonies, Rome did maintain close supervision over the Jewish cult and, in particular, over the high priest, the de facto leader of both the religious and political influence. So, Rome took upon itself the responsibility of appointing and deposing (either directly or indirectly) the high priest, essentially transforming him into a Roman employee. Rome even kept the garments, handing them out only on the sacred festival and feast days and confiscating them immediately after the ceremonies were complete.”
The author’s narrative that Rome did business with many “…emperors who plundered and despoiled the sacred city Jerusalem on their way to grander ambitions…” does this mirror the activities of the World Bank, which has and continues to do business with corrupt leaders as long as the leaders accept the dictates of the World Bank. But it is sad and heart wrenching when Global Witness, an anti-corruption NGO, says nothing about World Bank’s involvement in awarding another sweet heart deal. It was more troubling for an anti-corruption NGO to have turned a blind eye on the recent $1.2 million payment of consultancy fees to well-paid lawmakers at a time when government was soliciting money to purchase glove for physicians to protect themselves from the deadly Ebola disease.