Liberia: Legislature Gave Central Bank ‘Absolute Authority’ to Print Additional Banknotes
Monrovia – Available documents might exonerate former Central Bank Governor Milton Weeks from allegations that he printed extra L$10 billion without the acquiescence of the Legislature, but rather operated under the orders of ex-President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Those documents might likely also exonerate the former President, who, too, have seen accusing fingers that she acted illegally to authorize Governor Weeks.
Report by Lennart Dodoo, [email protected]
In a July 19, 2017 communication, the Senate, amongst other things, authorized the Central Bank of Liberia to completely replace the legacy liberty banknotes with the newly printed banknotes introduced in 2016 in order to harmonize the Liberian currency.
There were much controversies both at the Legislature and in the public when the new banknotes were introduced in 2016. At the Legislature, the lawmakers argued that their authorization for the printing of L$5 billion for the replacement of mutilated banknotes could not have been interpreted as the introduction of a currency with entirely new designs and features. Some lawmakers who served on the Banking and Currency Committee of the 53rd Legislature contended that Central Bank overstepped its bounds by introducing entirely new banknotes.
The supply of the new design of the legal tender on the local market left many common citizens confused, especially market women who most often refused the new banknotes, not knowing that both banknotes are legal tender.
The Liberian Senate, in its decision to ease the tension, wrote the following communication to the Central Bank:
July 19, 2017
Hon. Milton Weeks
Central Bank of Liberia
Dear Mr. Executive Governor:
We present our compliments and by the Plenaries of Senate and the House of Representatives (IN SESSION) respectively, apprise you that in separate discussions on the declining state of the Liberian Economy, the Legislature has made the following decision to wit:
The Government of Liberia should continue to use the United States Dollars and the Liberian dollars until at such time until the country’s export base has improved significantly;
The Central Bank of Liberia is hereby requested to replace the legacy notes (Liberty) with the newly printed banknotes so that there will be single type of Liberian currency, thus facilitation proper control of the money supply; and
That the Central Bank of Liberia is authorized to introduce coins in lower denominations into the economy to allow fractional transaction which could help to minimize inflation.
In the view of the above, and with the power assigned with the Legislature under Article 35(d) of the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia, this shall constitute your legal and sufficient authority.
Meanwhile, the Legislature would request that you furnish with the appropriate details of the volume and denominations of the replacing banknotes prior to the printing and minting of coins.
Please accept this renewed assurance of our highest consideration and esteem.
Mildred N. Sayon
Naborlor F. Singbe, Sr.
In adherence to the Legislature’s authorization the Central Bank convened a Board meeting in which Resolution BR-06-/2017 for the printing and replacement of Liberian Dollar legacy banknotes was adopted.
The Resolution cited Article 32(2) of the Central Bank of Liberia Act of 1999 grants the Central Bank the authority to print and issue Liberian (L$) banknotes but with the consent of the Legislature;
The resolution referenced the Legislature’s July 19 letter requesting its full consent for the printing and subsequent issuance of new L$ banknotes, the simultaneous replacement of all L$ legacy notes and the introduction of L$ coins in lower denominations.
The Board’s resolution authorized the Executive Governor to print more of the new banknotes and mint coins in obedience of the Legislature’s mandate.
Governor Weeks also informed Madam President of the Legislature’s mandate. Madam Sirleaf in a response to Weeks said she was in accordance with the Legislature’s request but cautioned Weeks to furnish her office with the volume and denominations that would be printed. Madam Sirleaf’s letter is dated August 7, 2017.
FrontPageAfrica has not been able to verify if the Central Bank abreast the Legislature on the volume and enumerations of banknotes printed after the authorization.
Madam Sirleaf in a recent interview with the BBC debunked allegation that she unilaterally authorized the Central Bank to print additional banknotes without the consent of the Legislature.
“I am certain whatever my administration did was in accordance with the law and the Constitution and there has been no money that has been missing,” she said.
Madam Sirleaf added: “The Central Bank is an autonomous institution; the National legislature by its constitutional role gives approval for the printing of banknotes – the record on that is clear. Why they didn’t take time to look at the records before coming up. What a clearly lies”.
The ex-President further expressed shock over the disclosure from the Information Minister that the banknotes were printed in China, Sweden and Lebanon.
“Let me tell you, what I know, contracts were signed and there’s a company called CRANE International that printed Liberian banknotes only in Sweden. The records on that are clear. Again Mr. Nagbe is impugning innocent people’s reputation and credibility,” said Sirleaf to the BBC FOCUS ON AFRICA.
Irrespective of Legislature’s ‘absolute authorization’ to the Central Bank, Montserrado County District #8 Representative, Acarous M. Gray debunked Madam Sirleaf’s statements and said that the 53rd Legislature did not sanction the printing of the additional 10 billion Liberian dollars, something he said the former President needs to be questioned for.
“I want to say to you that President Sirleaf is not off the hook from facing the Legislature. We will serve a communication to that effect. I can assure and guarantee you that I will lead the process. We will also lead a process wherein all line ministries and agencies of government including NOCAL where President Sirleaf took full responsibility of the mess there to be audited,” he said.
Who Printed What?
FrontPageAfrica has obtained a copy of the contract between the Central Bank of Liberia and Crane, AB – a Swedish company – which was responsible for the printing of the banknotes.
The contract signed on June 12, 2017 stipulates that the company will print and supply Liberian dollar banknotes in six denominations to the CBL in accordance with the agreed designs and specifications.
Predicated upon the contract, the CBL paid US$62.58 per thousand pieces of printed banknotes. A total of 161,740,000 pieces of banknotes spread across six denominations in volumes enumerated cost US$10,121,689. The Central Bank was obligated to make a down payment of 40 percent of the total cost summing up to US$4,048,675.60 followed by pro rata payments made against deliveries until the final delivery is made.
FrontPageAfrica has been unable to attain any other document indicating that monies were printed in other countries either than Sweden as insinuated by the Minister of Information on VOA Africa and the Liberia Broadcasting System.