Gboko Stewart, email@example.com
Monrovia – What appears to be a fallout over Dominic Bropleh accusing FHI360 of outing his HIV status seems to be festering as the project coordinator of LEGAL, Joe Wellington Thomas, has accused the Technical Advisor of FHI, Mrs. Cytirus Kerbay, FHI360’s Chief of Party in Liberia, Madam Nana Fosu Clement and LEGAL’s executive director, Jennifer Henshaw, of conniving to have him fired for speaking to journalRAGE.
LEGAL, a human rights organization, is also an implementing partner for FHI360 under the EPIC project. Its project portfolio is US$150,000, according to Thomas.
In an email and cellphone interview with journalRAGE, he said the trio allegedly concocted the plan following the publication of journalRAGE’s story that has reportedly given some international organizations working on key populations issues in Liberia the jitters.
“I don’t feel safe nor secure around her or the office, she and other[s] at FHI360 like Cytirus TA [Technical Advisor] at FHI360 and the EpIC Director Nana are ganging up to have I, Joe W. Thomas, and Dominic sacked from the project all because Dominic reported his issues to Journal Rage after [a] long period of telling them and they did nothing about his case,” he stated in the email .
Dominic Bropleh (name changed to protect his identity), 32, is a peer navigator at LEGAL, a human rights organization and an implementing partner of FHI360 under the USAID’s PEPFAR initiative.
A fortnight ago, Bropleh accused FHI360 of outing his HIV status when his picture appeared on a flyer describing him as living with the virus for well over a decade.
A flyer from FHI spotted by a source in Monrovia
The flyers have since been pulled down from some clinics and hospitals. But sources sharing pictorial evidence with journalRAGE maintain that it abounds in many places and yet to be removed.
According to Bropleh, he signed a consent form with the organization to use his photo to spread awareness on HIV. However, he said the organization promised that messaging for the awareness would be shared with him for approval before it proceeded with publication and distribution.
But it never happened.
He said he brought the matter to FHI’s Technical Advisor, Madam Cytirus Kerbay thrice–twice in a cell phone call and in person on World AIDS Day–-to have the organization rectified its egregious error as it placed his life in danger, but he was ignored.
FHI360, when contacted for a response at the time, told journalRAGE they have launched an immediate investigation as its procedures strive to ensure that those being photographed “understand how their photos and stories will be used and where they will be disseminated.”
USAID, for whom FHI360 implements the PEPFAR initiative issued a statement announcing an immediate investigation into the matter.
Bropleh furthered that he took the matter to other human rights organizations, including Stop AIDS in Liberia (SAIL), LIPRIDE and LIBNet+, and to the project coordinator at LEGAL to intervene with the global organization, but it amounted to naught.
LIPRIDE, responding to journalRAGE’s email, acknowledged they were approached by Bropleh on the issue. The organization stated it followed up with FHI360 on the matter. SAIL and LIBNet+, implemnting partners of FHI, did not respond for comments.
LEGAL’s project coordinator, Joe Wellington Thomas, acknowledged his subordinate brought the issue to his attention and he, in turn, took the matter to the FHI360’s monthly project coordinators’ meeting, letting its Technical Advisor on about what was unfolding.
“Yes we engaged FHI on it, and in their Regular Coordination meetings but emphasis was placed on the fact that all volunteers signed the consent forms and knew that the photos we were taking was going to be published but reviewing of the messages On those pictures was not done by volunteers that took the picture or the EDs of the various Organizations.”
PC and Bropleh ‘Removed’ from Chat rooms
But following Thomas’ confirmation of Bropleh’s allegations to journalRAGE, he said it has caused an upheaval in LEGAL’s social media chat rooms, riling the organization’s executive director.
A testy exchange between the project coordinator and the executive director in the organization’s WhatsApp group chat
The LEGAL project coordinator said Henshaw has had him removed from the organization’s chat rooms on Facebook and WhatsApp since his return from Namibia in her bid to sideline, silence and subsequently dismiss him.
“Now Jennifer, Executive Director of LEGAL, has started blocking me off all our work social media platforms we used to share Information about the work in the field,” he wrote.
He said the executive director has instructed staff on the EPIC project to discontinue reporting to him on work related activities in her bid to have him weeded out for daring to affirm the story of Bropleh to journalRAGE.
Legal project coordinator in what seems to be a back and forth on WhatsApp
This, he mentioned, has put him in a quandary as he is owed salary arrears by FHI360 via LEGAL for the last three months.
A screenshot shared by Dominic showing he’s been removed from LEGAL’s facebook chat room.
Henshaw, when contacted, ducked questions from journalRAGE and instead resorted to an ad hominem attack.
journalRAGE’s initial reach out to Henshaw
”If you are looking for [a] story to write [,] go to LIPRIDE and SAIL, because they are the ones that brought you to this community to come and write rubbish,” wrote Henshaw in response to journalRAGE’s inquiry via WhatsApp.
Joe Wellington Thomas is not the only person that has been removed allegedly from the organization’s chatroom.
A screenshot of an email sent to Henshaw to ascertain the facts.
Henshaw’s response to journalRAGE’s email that was copied and sent to her WhatsApp
Dominic Bropleh, sharing a screenshot with journalRAGE, showed that Henshaw has also axed him from the chatroom in what appears to be a bid to remove him from the project.
When contacted, FHI360 said they are very concerned about the allegations emanating from the two men.
“At this time we can share further information as we need to allow the investigators to get to the facts.”
History of seizing staff salaries
He furthered that the organization has no functioning system or boards, and decisions are made by the executive director on the fly.
According to him, executive director has a sordid history of snatching staff salaries after being credited to their account.
Making a startling revelation, he highlighted that the ED frequently connives with LEGAL’s finance manager, Abayomi Cooke, to reroute staff salaries on the EPIC project when their accounts are credited by FHI360.
Bank statement in possession of journalRAGE that showed the crediting
Thomas said all staff at the organization maintains an account with International Bank Liberia Limited (IBLL) opened by LEGAL.
According to him, Cooke, in connivance with Henshaw debited a month’s (April) salary last year when his account at International Bank was credited with three months of arrears owed by FHI360.
He said similar actions were also carried out against the monitoring and evaluation officer and the field officer.
However, when contacted via telephone, the M&E and field officer denied Thomas’ claims, saying they “have no knowledge of it.” LEGAL’s finance officer, Abayomi Cooke, could not be reached via mobile and email for comments.
But documents in journalRAGE’s possession showed that Thomas’ April 2022, salary, upon being credited to his account, was immediately debited and transferred to LEGAL’s account.
IB Bank, when contacted, did not reply. But an insider said accounts for staff of LEGAL were opened by the organization. According to the insider, a letter was sent from LEGAL ordering the posting officer of the bank’s SD Cooper Road branch to debit Joe Wellington Thomas’ April 2022 salary to LEGAL’s main account.
LEGAL’s executive director did not respond when contacted again with pictorial evidence.