MONROVIA-In what is regarded as his first official reaction to the 2022 report of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act which prompted the US Treasury Department to designate and sanction him and 2 other government officials, the suspended Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Nathaniel Farlo McGill has welcomed the decision of President George Manneh Weah to suspend “will afford me my day in day court”, while maintaining his innocence of no wrong doing in his letter sent to the President.
McGill said he has a strong subscription against corruption and there was no way he would bend his conviction to engage in corruption that was erroneously attached to his name, character and reputation by the US Treasury Department without proper investigation.
In the letter, a copy of which was sent to this paper, McGill, a very visible figure in the government had taken his time to respond to each of the counts against him, where at some points, he provided information to debunk allegations linking him to kickbacks he was accused of receiving after influencing contract awards to companies he has interest.
He also praised the President for taking the swift action to suspend him so as to afford him the opportunity to exonerate himself, an action he considered as a vivid testimony of the President’s zero tolerance against corruption.
“Excellency, let me commend you for your unwavering determination to fight waste, abuse and the mismanagement of public resources which was a solemn pledge you made at Your Excellency’s inauguration, and for the swift and decisive action taken thus far, in ordering my immediate suspension and others named in the United States Treasury Department report for alleged corruption to face investigation.
Relating the content of the allegations levied against him by the US Treasury Department, McGill said the report contained several criminal mischaracterizations of his person, name and character while holding office as Minister of State and as it relates to keeping with the Executive Law of Liberia and given that the allegations range from bribing business owners, receiving bribes from potential investors, and accepting kickbacks for steering contracts to companies, and or manipulating or manipulated public procurement processes in order to award multi-million dollar contracts to companies in which he allegedly has ownership, including by abusing emergency procurement processes to rig contract bids, among others, he humbly welcomed the President’s pronouncement to set up an investigative committee to probe into these grave allegations to afford “me the opportunity to have my “day in court” as in keeping with the principle of due process”.
He added that these allegations are crimes also under the Liberian law and must be investigated consistent with law controlling.
McGill then went on to provide his succinct and clearer responses to every allegation made in the report beginning with the assertion in the indictment that he “Bribed owners, received bribes from potential investors and accepted kickbacks for steering contracts to companies in which he has an interest”.
“To what end, and for what purpose, and in whose interest? One who bribes business owners must have an objective to achieve something in his own interest, but in this case, no interest is defined, and no reason is provided”, he said while debunking the allegation that he bribed business owners.
On receiving bribes from potential investors he rejected the claims, “What are the names of the investors? And who are the investors? I have at no time ever received bribes from any investors”, he said, going further to also deny ever receiving kickbacks from steering contracts. “I do not preside over contract negotiations, nor do I sign contracts, and so where will the kickbacks come from?”
He maintained that those who may have provided wrong information to the members of the Treasury Department investigators who were seeking to gather accurate and genuine allegations of corruption, abuse, waste and mismanagement of public funds in the fight against corruption, unfortunately, provided the wrong and false information. He told the President that for full disclosure his only involvement with contract discussions is the current ongoing impasse between and amongst AML, HPX and the SOLWAY issue.
Responding to the allegation that he “Manipulated public procurement processes in order to award multi-million dollar contracts to companies in which he has ownership, including by abusing emergency procurement processes to rig contract bids”,
He said under this count, while he has not seen any evidence against this count, the multi-million dollar contract that he was aware of, since the ascendancy of this government is the US$116million dollars RIA Road Contract to East International. He reminded the President how the late Minister of Public Works, Mobutu VlahNyenpan made a presentation at a Cabinet meeting in 2019 that the RIA Road project would cost US$116M and that the cabinet should approve the borrowing of said amount.
“It was then the decision of the cabinet that due to Liberia’s huge debt burden, the said amount was too huge for the government to borrow at the time. Therefore, the cabinet decision was that since Madame Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s government had granted East International a concession of US$56, 432Million (plus) agreement ratified by the legislature for the construction of feudal roads in Liberia before your ascendancy, said the agreement should be presented to the legislature for amendment so that instead of borrowing US$116m, the government will now borrow US$56, 432Million (plus) for the RIA road project.
My ownership in East International as alleged is false and misleading because East International was in existence around 2011 and granted road contracts under the Unity Party Government, one of which was the US$59,567,010.9 Million contract. I do not see how the Unity Party government would have granted a US59, 567,010.9 Million contract to a company with ownership of the sitting chairman of the CDC”, he said
Also to delink himself from the East International Company of having a controlling stake in the company, McGill said in the communication that the construction outfit was given contracts amounting to US$79,467,015.9, under the UP government, US$19,900,005.00 of which was given under the signature of Gyude Moore, former Minister of Public Works.. “Instead of accusing the Unity Party people of creating and owning East International, I am being accused as it owner”, he said, to further buttress his innocence.
Providing more clarity to the President, Mr. McGill who has thus far put up a stoic posture amidst the allegations also addressed the allegation of being involved in a wide range of other corrupt schemes including soliciting bribes from government office seekers and misappropriation of government assets for his personal gain.
“While these allegations are broad and require specificity, it is the fact of public records both in the media that criminal individuals have been using my name without my knowledge to get money from people seeking public office”, he said.
On the insinuation that he used government funds allocated to other Liberian government institutions to run his own projects, made off-the-books payments in cash to senior government leaders, and organized warlords to threaten political rivals, he put up a strong defense to denounce the allegation and restated his innocence against what was said about him.
“Apart from asking the public and private institutions to support the cause of poor and underprivileged Liberian high school students, I do not run private projects. For the records, all monies donated to public High School students are deposited in the school accounts for the specific counties to which I am not a signatory and counties that have benefited thus far are Bong, Margibi, Nimba and Grand Bassa. Unfortunately, we are yet to raise all of the monies that have been pledged to these counties for student projects.
“I would highly appreciate the senior government officials to come forth with the evidence. And since these are senior government officials, I would be glad to face them. In the case of politicians being attacked by some individuals I have no idea. I am a friend to all of the political leaders and none has personally complained to me about being attacked”, he said.
In the communication which is the first from the 3 designated high profile officials, McGill took time to inform the President further on the allegations that he received an unjustified stipend from various Liberian government institutions and used his position to prevent his misappropriation from being discovered as well as that he regularly distributes thousands of dollars in undocumented cash to other government officials for government and non-government activities
“Again, these allegations are broad, but for the record, I deny and reject them because I do not receive stipends from other government agencies as doing so would greatly erode my stature and authority as the ‘ Principal Assistant to the President and Minister of State for Presidential Affairs. Because doing so I would be involved in corruption with them.
“I hereby incorporate the averments of my response in count 5 and hereby deny and dismiss the allegations contained herein. However, when a friend or any Liberian citizen in need seeks assistance from me, it is a public information and a fact that individual coming to me for assistance, I always ask other private institutions and individuals to help”, he said
Concluding his defense in the communication, the confidante to the President denounce the allegation that he is responsible for or complicit in, or directly or indirectly engaged in, corruption, including the misappropriation of state assets, the expropriation of private assets for personal gain, corruption related to government contracts or the extraction of natural resources, or bribery.
“These allegations are vague and indistinct. I need the specific details as to what is meant by misappropriation of state assets, the expropriation of private assets for personal gain, corruption related to government contracts or the extraction of natural resources, or bribery. I need full details on these allegations.
“As always, and as Your Excellency’s Principal Assistant” and Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, I want to recommit myself to the fight against corruption and your government’s open declaration to arrest and prosecute whoever is involved. Assuring Your Excellency always to remain faithful to your progressive development agenda for our country and people”, the communication concluded.