Agriculture minister rejects Senate corruption charges

The Department of Agriculture “is saddened that the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries is releasing a report containing misrepresentations, fabrications and previously refuted allegations.”

The Department of Agriculture, in a statement, questions the validity of the Senate information presented by their sources and is “prepared to clarify and/or refute each point of the committees’ report, and to provide documentary evidence that presents a clearer picture to the Senate, our Development Partners and the general public.”

However, the ministry statement adds that while it welcomes a comprehensive and transparent audit of its activities and projects from 2019 to date, all major donor-funded projects are regularly audited by the General Audit Commission ( GAC).

MOA’s reaction comes after the Senate mandated the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) and GAC to investigate Agriculture Minister Jeanine M. Cooper for alleged criminal acts and fraud .

The Senate, acting on the request of an investigative report presented by its Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Committee of the Whole, recommended that Minister Cooper be investigated by both entities.

Sixteen (16) senators voted to affect the decision of the plenary and one abstained while 9 people were absent from the Chambers and 1 away.

According to the report, Minister Cooper lied that she was not a signatory to any of the department’s accounts, but the investigation shows that the min. Cooper is an “A” signatory of the MOA value chain project account, with account #001USD 2130314040 at Liberia Bank for Development LBDI.

Additionally, the Senate investigation found that three individuals who are not Department of Agriculture employees, but contractors, are also signatories to the department’s account while four contractors, including his brother Zubin Cooper, obtained a two-year contract in his office.

The Senate investigation revealed that a certain Thomas Gbokie was hired as an Agricultural Knowledge Management Advisor with an annual salary of USD 100,000 from February 15, 2021 to February 14, 2023, with a project value of 99,984 USD for smallholder farmers, transport and agriculture. Business Revitalization Project (STAR-P).

Accordingly, the Committee noted that Minister Cooper also employed (Sylvester W. Taylor) as Financial Management Advisor for a project worth US$99,984.00 with an annual salary of US$50,000 under the Smallholder Agriculture, Transport and Agro-Industry Revitalization Project.

The Committee report added that Zubin Cooper (Minister’s brother) was awarded a contract (Smallholder Agricultural Transport and Agribusiness Revitalization Project) as a Communications and Marketing Specialist with an annual salary of USD 100,000, from February 15, 2021 to February 14, 2022, with a project value of USD 99,984.00.

The Committee has at the same time detected that Momolu Tolbert is a non-employee of the Ministry of Agriculture, but a signatory of the account of the Ministry of Agriculture.

The Committee found that Momolu Tolbert was awarded a $298,145.42 contract by the Minister to supply F1 hybrid cocoa seed to the Ministry of Agriculture, but failed to deliver it .

Regarding FABRAR Liberia INC, which was awarded a contract with the Ministry of Agriculture under the STAR-P project, the committee acknowledged in its investigation that Minister Cooper admitted that she is the founder and CEO of the said institution. , but has nothing to prove. do with.

On the contrary, the committee said Minister Cooper had signed on behalf of the company to supply 200 metric tons of rice.

Regarding the position of “project management unit”, the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Committee pointed out that Minister Cooper had refused to advertise for a competitive audit, but instead appointed Mr. Ansu Konneh, who according to the committee “does not have the qualification to lead the vital unit of the ministry”.

According to the Committee, it was discovered that Ansu Konneh signed all the documents on behalf of PMU.

In conclusion, the relevant committee noted that during her investigation, Minister Cooper revealed that 20 vehicles belonging to the department went missing without her knowledge.

Finally, the Committee mentioned that an amount of $5.5 million from the Covid 19 Emergency Fund could not be properly accounted for based on the Minister’s revelation.

In the meantime, the MoA is pleased to request the GAC to immediately release to the LACC and the general public the audit reports commissioned by the Ministry, covering 2019 to 2021, for major development partner funded projects that the MoA MoA implements.

“Furthermore, the MoA requests the GAC to expeditiously finalize and publish recent audits of the Smallholder Transformation and Agribusiness Revitalization Project (STAR-P), including its emergency response component. $5.525 million (CERC). Most importantly, the MoA invites the GAC to conduct a comprehensive audit of the internal administrative, technical, programmatic and operational activities of the ministry from 2019 to present,” the MOA statement added.

Editor’s note: The result of the Senate investigation was first reported by Women TV on Facebook.

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