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Ellen’s Kingdom: The Precinct Where Dishonesty Means Integrity and Amateurism Implies Professionalism

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (left) and Dr. James Kollie (right)

There is a reason the English inscribed in their language the words synonym and autonym. According to Webster dictionary, a synonym is a word or phrase that means exactly or nearly the same as another word or phrase in the same language. Words that are synonyms are said to be synonymous, and the state of being a synonym is called synonymy. The word comes from Ancient Greek syn (“with”) and ónoma (“name”). An example of synonyms are the words begin, start, and commence. On the other hand, an autonym, according to Webster dictionary, is an infraspecific name in which the species epithet is repeated or a name used by a group or category of people to refer to themselves or their language, as opposed to a name given to them by other groups. For example, Deutsche is the autonym of a people known in English as Germans.

In Liberia, we have many problems, but our most severe problems fall between synonyms and autonyms. For instance, dishonesty and amateurism are interpreted and understood as integrity and professionalism. Guilt is better than shame and therefore can be condoned; and we celebrate wealthy individuals who got their wealth on the backs of the suffering poor and through acts of corruption than the ethical people who struggled and endeavored to make ends meet through hard work and honesty. This is Ellen’s Kingdom––the spin zone where dishonesty means integrity and amateurism implies professionalism, a territory where some officials of government are treated like “foster” children or “adopted” orphans.

Assuming all Liberians are uneducated, illiterate, unanalytical and unintelligent, this does not dilute or erase the fact that the recent comprehensive audit of the Private Sector Development Initiative (PSDI) at the Ministry of Finance in Liberia exposes the virus, infection, malady, disorder, and bug in President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s Unity Party-led administration. One does not have to obtain a medical degree or have pristine academic knowledge to understand and know this––that the most common and generally devastating infection in Liberia is celebrated corruption, of which the so-called PSDI project was and remains one of the glaring symptoms. Even the Mursi and the Sentinelese indigenous people, considered the most isolated and primitive tribes of the world know that Liberia, under the current government, is disproportionately corrupt and that the PSDI program passed the test of cheating and greenhorn, but failed the assessment of veracity and competence.

Hon. Boima Kamara, Minister of Finance, RL

This is precisely why the dreadful media bliss of the PSDI’s program administrators, led by Dr. James Kollie, former deputy minister of finance for fiscal affairs and chief implementer of the program, alleging that they did nothing wrong is not only rhetorically amusing, but grossly depressing, intellectually unfortunate, and unconditionally shameful.

Instead of admitting the shamefulness with which the program has been misused and the funds dashed into an unrecoverable paradigm, Dr. Kollie, his associates, and their economic cum political guardians in government and around the president are dangling on twisted campaigns, perhaps, to smear the current minister of finance, Boima Kamara––a fine, honest and dignified young man. In fairness, Dr. Kollie’s folly is not the way to make a sleeping dog to lie still, even though we know that President Sirleaf will take no concrete action in this clear fraud and waste instance, simply because it is something that hits at home––especially since this is a chicken coming home to roast situation. In other words, the fraud and waste smell are against “foster kids,” instead of officials, who know all of mommy’s little secrets as well as mommy’s friends.

Since the allegation of fraud and waste were uncovered and published, why hasn’t the President requested that Dr. Kollie temporarily relinquish his current post in government until the full case is resolved? Also, why is Dr. Kollie and President Sirleaf treating the matter like some palaver between two sons or children that need to be adjudicated as a family matter? Doesn’t President Sirleaf have a Ministry of Justice in her government? If she does, why haven’t those involved in the saga been turned over to the agency?

In fact, we also know that there is a quasi-independent “presidential taskforce” on transparency and corruption–––the one that has been mightily dragging the president’s political foes (Senator Varney Sherman and former House Speaker Alex Tyler) on their knees to court, and in disgrace. So, where does the “taskforce” stand on the Kollie-gate? Is the “taskforce” only designed, funded and setup for people who step on the old lady’s toes, or is it just for Liberians who are not part of the president’s foster kids’ basement? Maybe this is what we can call “witch-hunt,” if Dr. Kollie does not know what it means.

“Madam President, due to the unprofessional manner in which the audit was conducted coupled with the form and manner in which the draft report that had not benefited from my response was made public, I am of the conviction that the current actors have no credibility and independence in reviewing my responses and/or facts that might be presented to them because they seem to have vested interest in damaging my reputation” – Dr. James Kollie, former Deputy Minister for Fiscal Affairs, Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning. Dr. Kollie went further by saying that: “This was not an audit, but a witch-hunt.” Really? Witch-hunt! When you (Dr. Kollie) and your associates cannot account for the funds and when the entire program turned into a whooping racketeering venture of “I chop you chop”?

Minus the financial audit dynamics of it, the entire program was and is a gigantic failure and a ruin of tax payers’ resources. Even the zombies are smart to know that the program was administratively flaw, operationally deprived, and financially wasteful. Audit aside, we have people whose names are stated in the program’s report as beneficiaries of the loan, yet some of these individuals have publicly denied ever knowing about the program, nevertheless receiving a dime from it. Mr. Samuel Jackson is one of those people. We also have people who have clearly and publicly stated that they cannot even locate where their businesses that qualified for the so-called loans are located. Yet, that is not even an issue to Dr. Kollie and his allies. The mere secrecy of the program is, in itself, an act of fraud and corruption.

Moreover, the entire program is grossly engulfed with the brassiest conflict of interest anyone can ever imagine; where loved ones, side-squeeze and sugar-babies were included in the affordable theft with lofty amounts of United States dollars when people with real, legitimate and registered small businesses in the country that hire, or have potential to hire, were left in the wilderness to wait for Moses to descend from the Mount Sinai.

Even if the irregularities stated above are insignificant to the president’s foster kids and their nannies in the administration, then the next question is, why did the program administrators, overseers, implementers and other actors prioritize themselves as small business owners and prime beneficiaries?

With all these unbelievable errors entangled in avarice, what else does Dr. Kollie, his associates and their nannies in the administration want to know to acknowledge guilt and shame so that we can move on as a nation? Do they consider the commission of basic errors and the subsequent correction that followed a witch-hunt? If so, then I see why Liberia is what it is since 2006. No wonder this government failed.

I have no doubt that Dr. Kollie is a well-educated and honourable gentleman. What well-educated and honourable people do is to admit mistakes when they are made; repent and move on. On the contrary, when someone of Dr. Kollie’s relevance elects to use disconnected arguments and equivocal logic as a form of defence mechanisms, it certainly not only puts their integrity in question; it also puts their education in real doubt. Therefore, Dr. Kollie’s persistent self-victimization would give us such reasons.

It is one thing to attend school and be considered educated; it is quite another thing to come out of school, leave all the theories behind and begin to use what you learned in school in practical terms in the real world where decisions and actions affect real lives and people ––i.e., when people steal a country money.

Dr. Kollie and his associates’ argument about how an audit supposed to go is not wrong; the problem is, it is a mere theory, and a condition not applicable under an administration that is very corrupt from head to toe, and from the earth to the skies. Imagine what would have happened if the not-so-connected auditors had not gone public with their findings and instead alerted Dr. Kollie and his associates who are not only “foster kids” to the president, but have very powerful intercessory nannies. My widest guess is, this whole matter would have probably stayed in the dark until Satan probably celebrated the Ramada and Christmas with us. Or, the audit report would have long been discarded or buried just like how previous audit and investigative reports, including the NOCAL reports etc., have been relegated to trash.

Here is why this matter bothers me the most. First, apart from the fact that these people (most of the convicts in the administration) lack patriotism, and are subjugating millions of their fellow Liberians to excruciating hardship through waste, fraud, and abuse; they remained defensive and shameless.

Moreover, they think every Liberian outside their orbit is unwise. Secondly, the whole PSDI program was my proposal to the Liberian government sent through Dr. Edward McClain, then Minister of State for Presidential Affairs and chief of staff to the President. Third, the goal of the program was to create jobs for unemployed Liberians by retooling and buttressing small businesses with capital, technical assistance, and oversight. This is part of labor market information and analysis, an element that should be within the authority of the Ministry of Labor, and not the Ministry of Finance.
Of course, one can understand that we do not have a real labor ministry in Liberia, since what we have appears to be a small collective bargaining unit’s headquarters where disputes that have not reached judicial level in the country are discussed.

The button-line is, the program failed and the audit report is accurate in its categorization, but we cannot blame Dr. Kollie solely for this failure. Apart from that, he seems to be a very nice guy that is caught up in a web of misrule, mismanagement, ravenousness, and widespread corruption which formed the pillars of the Unity Party-led administration of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Therefore, we have no problem with the gentleman. What we have problem with though is the fact that he (Dr. James Kollie is being misled to do an unnecessary media bliss on something that he knows went terribly wrong under his watch) wants to outsmart his way out of failure as if what happened is normal and okay.

It’s not okay James! Our Liberian brothers and sisters are suffering not because Liberia is poor and lacking; they are suffering because we have a failed, useless, incompetent and corrupt government. This has to be changed and to do so, we must desist from expanding Ellen’s Kingdom as a precinct where dishonesty will mean integrity and where amateurism will imply professionalism. Good luck!

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Jones Nhinson Williams

Jones Nhinson Williams is a Liberian philosopher (born in Pleebo, Maryland County but hailed from River Gee County) firmly educated by the Catholic Church. He is an American trained public policy, labor market information, strategic management, and workforce development professional with accomplished global experience in job creation and institutional governance.

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