Dr. James Kollie, Maritime Commissioner, was former Deputy Minister for Fiscal Affairs (MFDP) and signed all the loan approvals. President Sirleaf wants him to return from his trip abroad to answer to the audit.12 loan recipients disappear without traceBy Alvin WorziAn audit report on the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) has revealed that 24 borrowers who received cash loans amounting to US$965,400 have not made any repayment, according to the arrangement.The report also says an additional twelve (12) businesses received an amount of US$545,700, but none could be located anywhere in Liberia, and the telephone contacts of the individuals who owned these businesses were permanently switched off.The loan, through the Private Sector Development Initiatives (PSDI), was meant to financially strengthen Liberian owned businesses, which were expected to repay, and the repayments would revolve or be disbursed to other Liberian businesses.PSDI is a project established in 2014 at the MFDP to provide loans to Liberian owned small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). The process would have created jobs and accelerated the participation of Liberian owned businesses in the economy.According to the auditors, during 2014 to 2016, the project disbursed US$2,274,400 to forty-six (46) borrowers. The report reveals that Dr. James F. Kollie, former Deputy Minister for Fiscal Affairs (MFDP), signed all the loan approvals while serving in the position.“Documents reviewed showed that out of an initial amount of US$1,991,900 that was disbursed to thirty-six (36) customers, only US$282,500 has been recovered. The recovered amount was re-disbursed to an additional ten (10) customers, thereby raising the portfolio to US$2,274,400. This means that the initial disbursement of US$1,991,900 is still outstanding,” the report states.Out of forty-six (46) borrowers, only Garson Incorporated, located on 11th Street, Sinkor, believed to be owned by Dr. James Kollie, paid its obligation of US$150,000 plus US$10,500 interest, amounting to a total repayment of US$160,500. Garson Incorporated’s account statement reveals that the institution has only an US$11.00 obligation outstanding.The Internal Audit Unit (IAU) of the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning conducted the financial and operational audit of the Private Sector Development Initiatives (PSDI).It said in May 2014, MFDP entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI) to partner and establish an account (GE Fund) through which the borrowers would receive their loans.The report also establishes that there was a Memorandum of Understanding reached between MFDP and LBDI to run the PSDI loan activities together; however, customers’ evaluation-vetting was squarely done by MFDP.However, the evaluation-vetting conducted by MFDP-PSDI Desk provided many loopholes for default.For example, there was no collateral to back the loan; many borrowers used the borrowed funds as start-up for their businesses, while there is no evidence of comprehensive market survey on file. This created a serious impediment for recovery, thereby defeating the project’s objective for the revolving fund.The modus operandi of the MOU, which was signed by MFDP, MOJ and LBDI, outlines as follows: that the Ministry of Finance shall recommend beneficiaries of the GE Fund to LBDI and submit application packages containing the following: business registration, business proposal/plan, and tax clearance, among others.Loans were disbursed to either businesses owned by MFDP staff, or businesses with whom they have close connections, “and some of those businesses have not paid a cent against their obligation,” the report says.The businesses include LELAH INC (US$40,000), Pure Life Incorporated (US$ 65,000), People’s Water Company Liberia LTD (US$65,700), South East Water Company (US$75,000), and Zianab Business Center (US$20,000).From 2014 to 2016, US$4,111,450 was credited at different intervals. Of the US$4,111,450, US$1,665,454.91 was transferred to the PSDI loan account for loan disbursements, while the balance of US$2,445,995.09 was withdrawn on multiple check transactions.“Our attention is drawn to a specific LBDI check number 133866, valued at US$1,648,037. We observed that the check was written as debit to the LPSEGF Account and correspondingly deposited to another account called GOL Operational Account (A/C Number 02-2-0530000182) at the CBL. Details are highlighted in the findings,” the report says.In Dr. James Kollie’s press statement he posted on Facebook, he denied any wrongdoing and said:“My attention is being drawn to an ongoing audit of the Private Sector Development Initiative (PSDI) over which I provided general supervision when I served as Deputy Minister of Finance. I am grateful to the President for affording me the opportunity to respond fully to the claims, assertions and accusations made in the draft audit report.“Although I was the subject of the audit, contrary to best practice, and until only a few days ago, I was never notified or interviewed by the auditors. My first encounter with the auditors was on June 2, a day after the draft report was issued.“Of course, these are challenging political times for our country. As such, it is easier to pass public judgments before we hear all the facts, and or muddle what ought to be important professional engagements with political motivations. I fully understand that this is the country in which we live and these are ongoing consequences of a life in public service.“However, I wish to assure the country and our international partners that I served the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning with dedication and professionalism, and conducted businesses there within the boundaries of the law and acceptable best practices.As such I intend to cooperate fully, as I have always done, to assist in satisfying this ongoing audit as well as reconfirm my continued commitment to financial probity and high standards of accountability in our country.“Without trying to further prejudice the draft audit report, I want to refrain from addressing specific claims or accusations made in the report at this time, and once again, assure Madam President and the entire country that I will fully cooperate with the audit and ensuing investigations for I am confident that I did nothing wrong.“As requested, I am returning to the country immediately.“Difficult as it may be, I urge all to keep an open mind as we deal with this draft audit report which was leaked with obvious sinister motives and prejudicial intentions.”On Thursday, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in a brief radio statement said “preliminary results of an ongoing audit process of the Private Sector Development Initiative at the Ministry of Finance & Development Planning, commissioned by the Minister of Finance, revealed some shocking outcomes and results that officials at the Ministry of Finance & Development Planning were making loans to themselves in violation of the law.”The President said the audit, which covers the period from 2014 to current, is being executed by the Internal Audit Agency.She said while the process is still ongoing, “We can say with a high degree of confidence that such a scheme set up at the PDSI is clearly a conflict of interest and will be dealt with by the full weight of the law.“Therefore, I have ordered the principal administrator of the program during the audit period, Commissioner of Maritime Affairs Hon. James Kollie to return to Liberia from his official trip to assist in the audit and answer all of the issues associated with it.”Meanwhile, the Minister of Finance is ordered to have a full audit report before the President within two weeks (June 23) for further action.The president said: “We…will leave no stone unturned in the interest of the nation.”Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
The Senate on Thursday passed a defense authorization bill for the first time in three years, an achievement that should pave the way for Congress to reach agreement on a compromise measure well before the new fiscal year.The Senate’s failure to pass the annual policy bill in each of the two previous years prevented the House and Senate from convening a formal conference committee to hash out a final version of the legislation. Instead, the chairmen and ranking members of the two Armed Services panels held informal talks to reach a compromise.“This is how the Senate should operate — regular order, on time, giving our military the certainty they need to plan and execute their missions,” said Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.), reported CQ.The chamber passed its fiscal 2016 authorization bill 71-25, overcoming Democratic opposition to the measure’s use of DOD’s war account to increase the Pentagon’s budget without busting the statutory spending caps. Passage also came with the looming threat of a presidential veto. The White House has objected to the addition of $38 billion to the overseas contingency operations (OCO) account as an end run around the spending caps, as well as the measure’s failure to grant the administration’s request to hold a BRAC round in 2017.Senior Armed Services Democrats, including ranking member Jack Reed (R.I), opposed the bill due to its reliance on the OCO account. McCain acknowledged that using the war account was not an ideal solution, but at the same time he stressed the need to bolster the defense budget.“I’m not sure we have a greater obligation than that to do everything possible to [protect] the lives of our men and women serving in uniform,” McCain said. “And to get hung up on the method of funding … which many will use as a rationale for opposing this bill, seems to me an upside-down set of priorities. Badly upside-down,” he said. Dan Cohen AUTHOR
A piece of bastnasite ore, which contains rare earth elements, is shown Photo: REUTERSIf there’s one commodity that can puncture the wheels of Donald Trump’s trade war juggernaut, it’s the rare earths over which China has a brutal monopoly. Interestingly, Trump has exposed his Achilles heel even as he rolled out additional tariffs on Chinese goods worth $200 billion.The United States did not include rare earth elements in the latest list of goods imported from China that will bear additional levies, according to Reuters.The agency reported that rare earth metals and their compounds were included in a tariff list prepared by the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) in July. However, they were omitted from the final list published on Monday.It’s not clear if China would use its rare earths monopoly as a bargaining chip with the US as the trade war worsens. Historically, China’s rare earth policy has been a matter of concern for industrialised nations like Japan and the US, as well as for the European Union countries.It remains to be seen if the Chinese would retaliate and use rare earths as a strategic lever, Dylan Kelly, a resources analyst at brokerage CLSA in Sydney, told Reuters. “… obviously that’s where a lot of investors have focused their attention,” he said. China’s President Xi Jinping (L) and US President Donald Trump attend a working session on the first day of the G20 summit in Hamburg, northern Germany, on July 7, 2017.PATRIK STOLLARZ/AFP/Getty ImagesChina controls more than 90 percent of the world’s rare earth market, making advanced industrialized nations heavily dependent on it for the supply of these essential minerals. Technically viable alternatives to rare earth materials are currently not known. The US has rare earths reserves of more than a million tonnes but mining in the country has virtually stopped over the years over environmental and regulatory issues.Rare earths are indispensable for high-tech industries and are heavily in demand in defence systems, electric cars, wind generators, hard-disk drives, mobile communication, missile guidance and the like. The 17 rare earth elements are lanthanum, cerium, praseodymium, neodymium, promethium, samarium, europium, gadolinium, terbium, dysprosium, holmium, erbium, thulium, ytterbium, lutetium, scandium and yttrium.The US has been mindful of its vulnerability on the rare earths front. The government last month banned the purchase of rare earth magnets from China for military and defence purposes. The move stemmed from the forethought that any Chinese retaliation on trade front could compromise the US defence interests.
A four-day musical event Raag Rang is being organised in the Capital that kick starts on 28 August at Central Park, Rajiv Chowk. Brought by the Department of Art and Culture, Delhi Government in association with Sahitya Kala Parishad, the festival will be a fine mix of classical, cultural and rock shows. Veteran singers and performers? like Malini Awasthi, Ahmed Hussain, Mohd. Hussain and the band Astitva will be enthralling the audience with their live renditions. Also Read – ‘Playing Jojo was emotionally exhausting’The opening day of the festival (28 August) will feature Anupriya Deotale, Ahmed Hussain and Mohd. Hussain. Ahmed and Mohammed Hussain, the two brothers, are classic ghazal singers from Jaipur. They started their singing career in 1958 as classical and thumri artistes. Their first album Guldasta was released in 1980 and since then they have released about 50 albums. Their recent release was Khwab Basera.The second day of the event (29 August)will see performances by well known sufi singer Indira Naik and the multi genre Hindi band Astitva. The band five member band was formed in 2007. They blend jazz, rock and Hindustani classic with their soulful lyrics written in Hindi and Urdu. Also Read – Leslie doing new comedy special with NetflixMalini Awasthi and Devand Jha will be taking the stage on the third day (30 August) of the event. Awasthi is the face of folk music in India and is credited in bringing back these traditional forms of music to the national stage. She is acclaimed for her gaayiki and her powerful varsatile performances. Singing the various forms of folk music from Benaras and Awadh like the Dadra, Sohar, Banna, Jhoola, Kajri, Holi, Chaiti, Vivaah, Dhobiya, Nirgun, etc. she showcased these different forms of folk music in her own way. She is one of the leading thumri singers of the Benaras Gharana. The closing day (31 August) will feature Teejan Bai and Sadhna Bhatia. Teejan Bai is an exponent of Pandavani, a traditional performing art form, from Chhattisgarh, in which she enacts tales from the Mahabharata, with musical accompaniments. She travelled all over the world as a cultural ambassador, to countries like – England, France, Switzerland and Germany.When: 28- 31 AugustWhere: Central Park, Rajiv ChowkTiming: 6.30 pm onwards