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Thursday, May 23, 2024

DISCONTENT WITHIN AREPT: MARTIN KOLLIE’S LETTER TO CHAIRMAN CLLR. EDWIN KLA MARTIN HIGHLIGHTS LEADERSHIP ISSUES

Date:

MONROVIA – Activist Martin K. N. Kollie, a member of the 15-member Asset Recovery and Property Retrieval Taskforce (AREPT), has expressed his concerns in a letter to Chairman Cllr. Edwin Kla Martin regarding the leadership and operational methods of AREPT. In his letter dated May 5, 2024, Kollie addressed the Chairman, stating that he observed a message from Cllr. Martin on WhatsApp and felt compelled to clarify his position henceforth.

Following the issuance of Executive Order No. 126, which established the Office of Assets Recovery, on March 7, 2024, President Joseph Nyuma Boakai announced the members of the Assets Recovery & Property Retrieval Core Team. Cllr. Edwin Kla Martin, a Counselor-At-Law and former Chairperson of Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), was named as chair.

Howbeit, activist Kollie’s letter indicates his dissatisfaction with the leadership approach of Cllr. Martin, citing an “amateur and unsystematic model” that has been in place since March 2024. He expressed frustration at the lack of adherence to ethical, procedural, legal, and professional standards, despite his efforts to advocate for them.

Furthermore, Kollie highlighted the importance of consensus within AREPT, emphasizing that all members should have a say in administrative, financial, legal, and operational matters. He criticized the emergence of an “authoritative clique” within AREPT that excludes dissenting voices and ignores valuable contributions.

Kollie also mentioned collaborative efforts with AREPT’s Special Advisor, Mr. Alex Cuffy, to work on technical policy documents, which were allegedly disregarded by Cllr. Martin’s leadership.

The letter from Kollie underscores growing discontent within AREPT regarding leadership and decision-making processes, suggesting a need for reforms to ensure transparency, accountability, and inclusivity within the taskforce.

The full text of Martin Kollie’s letter can be found below:

Martin K. N. Kollie,

Member

Asset Recovery and Property Retrieval Taskforce (AREPT)

May 5,2024

Clr. Edwin Kla Martin

Chairman

Asset Recovery and Property Retrieval Taskforce (AREPT)

Republic of Liberia

Dear Clir. Martin,

I just saw your text message via my WhatsApp, and I am compelled to clearly state my position henceforth.

In his quest to restore credibility, accountability, and transparency in public service, President Joseph Nyumah Boakai issued Executive Order #126 establishing an Asset Recovery Taskforce on March 6, 2024. Two (2) days after EO126 was issued, a 15-member Asset Recovery and Property

Retrieval Core Team was appointed with a clear mandate to locate, recover, and retrieve public resources and properties.

As a Counselor-At-Law and a former Chairperson of LACC, you were named to chair this special presidential ad hoc committee. Mr. Chairman, may I note with seriousness that your selection to chair does not suggest that you have absolute authority or infinite power to operate at will and singlehandedly arrive at policy decisions without consensus.

With courtesy and serenity, I have sat back and watched how your administration has been leading AREPT using an amateur and unsystematic model since March 2024. Every effort to insist on a methodological approach seemed and still seems futile. On several occasions, I have called for THE RIGHT THING to be done through ethical, procedural, Ilegal, and professional means but my calls have landed on deaf ears with almost all of my suggestions ignored.

Mr. Chairman, lest we forget that AREPT is a specialized ad hoc integrity commission and all of us are commissioners. Therefore, we must have a say in everything, including administrative, financial, legal, and operational matters, that concerns AREPT. Unfortunately, this has not been the case. An authoritative clique that abhors consensus, healthy debates, and policy ideas has emerged and been formed within AREPT with a wily motive to exclude those of us who are considered critical.

AREPT’S Special advisor, Mr. Alex Cuffy, and I voluntarily took upon ourselves to work on four (4) technical policy documents: A Legal/Institutional Framework, an Asset Recovery Guide, an AOS

Matrix, and a Comprehensive Work plan. Tactlessly, you but you and your leadership chose to snub our effort.

We are currently developing a Handbook inclusive of SOP, TOR, etc. but how can we even be motivated to continue when your leadership doesn’t embrace policy ideas and structural change? Mr. Chairman, may I say that AREPT has been unable to achieve anything substantial because of the following:

1) Lack of communication and coordination;

2) Lack of Consensus and Commonality;

3) Lack of methodological framework to operate. No SOP, no TOR, no Institutional/Legal

Framework, no Strategy, no Structure. Nothing at al, simply put. AREPT İs being run by you and a few others without any clear-cut vision and agenda;

4) Lack of Mutual Respect, Motivation, and Refusal to prioritize EXPERTISE Over inadequacy;

5) Lack of Leadership and a Clear Vision.

The inability of AREPT to make progress after two months is attributable to the reasons supra.

We cannot continue to proceed like this because when people are discussing AREPT, my name,

Martin K. N. Kollie, is usually at the forefront even though I have never been a part of any of the major decision(s) that you and a few others have taken as mentioned below:

1) The abrupt, arbitrary arrest and subsequent seizure of “Grace Ride”.

2) The hasty and unauthorized expenditure of US$9,800 per month for “billboards”.

3) The crafting of AREPT’S budget. To date, some of us, AREPT’S members, haven’t seen that fiscal instrument as though it’s a society bush. Shouldn’t this be discussed and debated by ALL Commissioners of AREPT?

4) The signing of a US$311,200 lease agreement to rent an office space for AREPT without even discussing this decision with everyone. This is very concerning.

After signing this lease agreement, you sent me a note this evening that a US$311,200 deal was reached. How come and on what basis, Mr. Chairman? Who authorized this? Did you exhaust the PPCC mechanism/framework? The committee did not authorize this expenditure and all other expenditures. There was no consensus again on this decision. How can we claim to be an integrity institution and proceed in such an unethical manner? This is purely unorthodox, unprofessional, and unacceptable. AREPT’S budget was never passed, but funds were being dished out without our authorization and acquiescence.

Recently, my reputation was impugned and maligned by dozens of critics and naysayers of AREPT even though I know nothing about what’s going on. Mr. Chairman, I thought your leadership would have recognized its early errors and corrected them by now, but I was wrong. I thought we were appointed to retrieve assets. Probably, I am wrong to have thought so. Hence,I can no longer sit back and watch especially when my suggestions, ideas, and pieces of advice are being ignored.

Out of a budget of US$1.5 million, the Legislature only approved US$750k for AREPT’S operations.

This is a 50% cut. So how can you spend/use US$311.2k out of 750k just to secure an office space for one (1) year? You are spending 41.5% of AREPT’S overall approved budget just on office rental and “other lines” as you indicated in your text to me? Wow…Huh…? 41.5% just to rent an office for a job that we have not even started?

Cc:

This decision has zero fiscal prudence, and it’s logically unjustified. Like advised/warned against lavishly spending money to install billboards, I am calling for an immediate revocation of ALL financial agreements/transactions. Mr. Chairman, please undo/cancel all financial agreements that you have unilaterally entered into since March 8, 2024. Any attempt to move forward/further with these transactions, I will be compelled to publicly alarm. AREPT Stands the risk of being AUDITED. The failure to do what is right may compel me to call for a reconstitution of this committee. This is critical to the President’s anti-corruption agenda. The President did not appoint us to do “business as usual”. He appointed us to locate, recover, and retrieve financial and non-financial assets.

The future of good governance and accountability in Liberia depends on this exercise. We cannot and must not undermine it. We have to get the Liberian people’s job done. Doing so would mean demonstrating the highest semblance of openness, transparency, accountability, and a clear vision/path toward asset recovery. The refusal of AREPT’s core leadership to do the latter is the basis for its disorganization, disintegration, and disunity.

Mr. Chairman, may I also remind you that none of us, AREPT members, works for you. We were never employed by you. Like you, we, too, were appointed by President Joe Boakal. We have a task to execute for the Liberian people because billions of USD were stolen and siphoned from our people. To admit, your $311.2k lease rental is super annoying. If this does not provoke any of AREPT’S members, it provokes me.

If this isn’t the same public waste that we are trying to fight, then you tell me what it is. The Government has several public buildings with offices. Why this desperation to hurriedly rent an office space and spend money on needless projects/activities even though we are just an ad hoc committee and not an enacted committee? I thought our primary focus should be asset recovery.

To conclude, I would like to call for a full disclosure of ALL financial transactions since Marcy 2024 through a comprehensive report. It is our right to know because our reputation is tied to this committee. No more will we sit back and watch. I think my silence and courtesy have been mistaken for weakness. Two months of grace period is enough. I don’t intend to take this further but if I am pushed, I will. I will stop here and thank you for listening, Mr. Chairman.

Best regards,

Martin K. N. Kollie

Good Governance Activist and Member

AREPT

President Joseph Nyumah Boakai

Minister N. Oswald Tweh, MOJ

Minister Samuel A. Stevquoah, MOSPA

Ms. Maima Robertson, Vice Chair, AREPT

Mr. Alex Cuffy, Special Advisor, AREPT

Socrates Smythe Saywon
Socrates Smythe Saywon is a Liberian journalist. You can contact me at 0777425285 or 0886946925, or reach out via email at saywonsocrates@smartnewsliberia.com or saywonsocrates3@gmail.com.

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