Monrovia – Supreme Court Justice Francis Korkpor and his four Associate Justices own posh homes and since 2014 taxpayers have paid US$151,500 in housing allowances for the five officials who are entrusted with interpreting and enforcing the nation’s laws.
A review of budget years-2014-2015, 2015-2016 and 2016-2017, shows that Chief Justice Korkpor received $12,500 for each budget year, and the four associate justices received a total of US$38,000 during the same period, according to the Ministry of Finance Development Planning (MFDP) website.
Korkpor is projected to receive US$12,668 in 2017-2018 budget year and US$13,096.00 in the 2018-2019 budget year.
The four justices are projected to receive $38,570.00 in 2017-2018 and $39,813.00 in 2018-2019.
The housing allowance is in addition to their salaries and thousands of dollars the justices receive in perks including foreign and domestic travel, reimbursement for meals and fuel for cars and generators.
In addition to receiving housing allowance, Korkpor has received $100,450.00 for foreign travel for the last three budget years.
On those trips, he received an additional US$123,441.00 for ‘’foreign travel daily sustenance’’ and US$8,500 for incidental allowance.
The budget shows that taxpayers also pay for the Chief Justice’s electricity at his Congotown home, fuel for his home generator, car and his domestic travels.
The Chief Justice’s compensation and personal expenses in 2015-2016 budget year was US$215,388.00 more than the overall budget of the Supreme Court.
Chief Justice Korkpor’s compensation and personal expenses totaled US$699, 093.00 compared to US$483,705.00 for the Supreme Court during 2015-2016.
FrontPageAfrica began investigating housing allowance and other perks for the Supreme Court Justices after reviewing approved procurement plans for government ministries and agencies on the Public Procurement and Concessions Commission’s (PPCC) website.
The newspaper filed a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the Supreme Court on February 28, 2017, requesting budgets and approved procurement plans from 2014-2016. The court did not provide the information within the 30-days required under the FOI law.
FrontPage made several attempts to get the information, but failed to get a favorable response from the court.
The newspaper sent Chief Justice Korkpor a text on March 20, 2017, requesting an interview to discuss the issue of perks and benefits for him and his four justices, but he never responded.
Our reporter met him on Monday and he agreed to a 2 p.m. meeting on Wednesday.
When our reporter showed up for the Wednesday appointment, she was told that Korkpor had another engagement. When the reporter called to reschedule, Korkpor texted that he was in a meeting.
Our reporter sent two text messages asking for a reschedule, but got no response. Mr. Korkpor’s special assistant asked our reporter to give the Chief Justice another day and they agreed to a 9:AM meeting.
Chief Justice Korkpor did not show up.
Henson Kiazolu, comptroller at MFDP, said the housing allowance and other benefits are part of the compensation package for the justices, lawmakers and people who are in tenured positions that run for 4 to 6 years, he said.
The justices ‘’are not like ordinary people, even their pension is huge,’’ Kiazolu said.
‘’The houses they live in is from their pocket, so if government quarantine you from a regular life, that government should be ready to take responsibility that will meet their comfort and relaxation.’’
The Chief Justice and Associate Justices could leave their homes and ask the government to pay rent for them at one of the housing complexes owned by the Lebanese, Kiazolu said.
The government can’t afford to pay $50,000 a year to rent those complexes, so they decided to ‘’negotiate with the Chief Justice and settle for ‘$12,000-plus a year,’’ he said.
The MFDP, Kiazolu said, is required by law to implement the budgetary requests that come from the justices.
“The people finish eating the money, and they might probably put it in their new budget,’’ Kiazolu said.
When asked if the justices provided lease or rental agreements to obtain housing allowances, Dorbor Jallah, chief executive officer of the PPCC, said ‘lease agreement is not listed as goods and services’’, so the commission is not authorized to require that the justices provide such documents.
‘’We have no authority on such(their leases). Rental agreement is under compensation of employees,’’ Jallah said.
Mary Broh, director of the General Services Agency, the entity that makes all government purchases, said she has no lease agreements on file for the Supreme Court Justices.
Ordinarily, if government is paying rent for public employees, copies of those lease agreements should be filed with GSA, she said.
The Code of Conduct governing all public officials prohibits double-dipping. Section 9.10 of the code addresses this issue under ‘’Receipt of Double Emolument.’’
The section state:
FrontPage Africa also filed an FOI request to the Liberia Revenue Authority requesting updated tax records for the justices, but the request was denied because personal tax information is not public under Revenue Code:
“The Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA), hereby officially respond to an FOI request you filed with it on February 16, 2017, through the offices of the Deputy Commissioner General for Technical Affairs, seeking tax information of Judges of the Supreme Court Bench,
“Our response is in line with Chapter 3, Section 3.10 of the Freedom of Information Law.
As provided for under the law (Sections 3.7 and 3.8), after receiving your request on February 16, we immediately confirmed receipt on February 19 and assured a response in consonance with the FOI Law and the Law Governing the LRA and Taxpayers’ Rights.”
For the three budget years under review, the four associate justices received a total of $3,064,800:
$1,254, 320.00 in 2014-2015; $917,120.00 in 2015-2016; and $893, 360.00 in 2016-2017. The amount includes salaries, meal reimbursement, and lease/rental.
The four justices are projected to receive $900,280.00 in the 2017-2018 budget year. Compensation perks and other benefits for the four justices in 2016-2017 are $276, 986.00 more than the current Supreme Court budget totaling $616,374.00.
For foreign travel, the associate justices received $483,637.00 in 2014-2015; $263,685.00 in 2015-2016; and $318,568.00 in 2016-2017.
The budget covers airfare, daily allowance, domestic travel, telecommunications, fuel and lubricants.
FrontpageAfrica made several attempts to reach the four associate justices. Justice Phillip Banks made seven appointments with our reporter but rescheduled several times, and never made himself available. Banks lives in Congo Town minutes away from the Chief Justice’s fence.
Justice Sie-A-Nyene Yuoh, who lives on ELWA Road at the home of her husband, Rep. Edwin Snowe, told FrontPageAfrica that she knows nothing about housing allowance.
‘’All I do is go to the bank and get my money,’’ she said. ‘’If they add housing, I don’t know, but my money is placed in my account.’’
Justices Kabineh Muhammad Ja’neh and Jamesetta Howard Wolokolie could not be reached, they live in Duport Road, and Duazon, Margibi County, respectively.
Darryl Ambrose Nmah, public relations officer for the Supreme Court, said the justices receive housing allowances because the government deems it necessary.