Liberia: Ruling Party Lawmaker Slams Gov’t ‘80% Distorted Information’; Demands to See Inside CBL’s Vaults
Monrovia – Representative Solomon George is challenging authorities of the Central Bank of Liberia that in order for him to believe their “no money missing” story, Executive Governor Nathaniel Patray should take lawmakers to see for themselves what’s the balance in the vaults of the Bank.
Report by Henry Karmo [email protected]
On Tuesday, October 2, Mr. Patray, flanked by two of his deputies — Charles Sirleaf and Dr. Mounir Siaplay — declared that L$15.5 billion brought in the country between 2016 and 2018 is currently in the bank’s vaults. Patray’s move seemed to be aimed at addressing concerns raised by the US Federal Reserve.
Sources at CBL had told FrontPageAfrica recently that the Feds had expressed concerns about multiple reports in the local and international press regarding the alleged disappearance of billions in local currency.
The Feds were said to be particularly concerned about the mention of Mr. Sirleaf, who along with more than 20 bank officials and the former Executive Governor, Milton Weeks, have been barred from traveling out of the country by the Monrovia City Court.
Now, the statement made Tuesday by Mr. Patray about records showing that they can account for every cent of the L$15.5 billion has further raised more doubts in wake of conflicting statements that had been spewed out to the public by key officials of the government, including President George Manneh Weah.
One of the eminent persons who have raised doubts about the Bank’s claims is Rep. George, an influential member of the ruling Coalition of Democratic Change (CDC).
To add more fuel to his doubts, Rep. George and most of his fellow lawmakers have of recently contested that they didn’t issue any mandate to the Bank to print the additional controversial L$15.5 billion new banknotes. They instead said the Legislature had authorized the Bank to only print L$5 billion.
The lawmakers are contending that the former Bank Governor, Mr. Milton Weeks, had acted outside the law regarding printing of extra billions of Liberian dollars.
In addition to this rigmarole, they are also saying who again authorized the Bank to use the more than US$10 million to print the new banknotes by Crane Currency in Sweden.
Article 34 ‘D (II)’ of the Liberian Constitution states: “No monies shall be drawn from the treasury except in consequence of appropriations made by legislative enactment and upon warrant of the President; and no coin shall be minted or national currency issued except by the expressed authority of the Legislature. An annual statement and account of the receipt and expenditure of all public monies shall be submitted by the office of the President to the Legislature and published once a year.”
As a result of all this confusions, claims and counterclaims, Montserrado County Electoral District 7 Rep. George, one of those who should be backing the regime is not taking matter lightly but has expressed his qualms and that the only way he is probably going to believe what the CBL has said is for him to be taken to see for himself the moneys in the bank’s vaults.
George: “The bank has come out with another explanation to confuse the Liberian people. Anything outside of the authorized L$5 billion is robbery, broad day robbery.
“This governor is saying they audited the papers and yes the money was taken to the vaults. We are requesting as the people’s representatives can you take us to where the money is being kept? We heard the money was brought in containers and bags, so take us to see the billions in the vaults.”
According to him, as the people’s direct representatives, it will be prudent if they are taken on a sightseeing tour at the CBL vaults to prove that the moneys are there as Governor Patray claimed.
The CDC lawmaker also accused government officials, including Finance and Development Planning Minister Samuel Tweah and Justice Minister Frank Musah Dean of what he termed as “providing eighty percent distorted information to the public surrounding the missing money saga.”
Appearing on a local radio morning program, the Montserrado County District 7 lawmaker further stated that by this time some former officials of the Central Bank should have been placed behind bars for their handling of the alleged missing L$16 billion.
“The Bank has come out with explanation to confuse the Liberian people. Anything outside of the L$5 billion is robbery. With all that is being explained former Governor Weeks and his co-officers should go to jail for authorizing themselves to print excess money.”
According to Executive Governor Patray, they concluded internal assessment of monies printed and brought in Liberia between 2016 and 2018; adding: “The records of the CBL show that the total amount of money printed and placed in reserve vaults of the bank was L$15.5 billion from 2016-2018.”
The amount, according to him, was verified from the bank’s internal documents and documents received from the Crane Currency of Sweden. Crane Currency is the Sweden-based company that allegedly printed the new money.
Speaking further, Mr. Patray emphasized: “CBL clarified to the general public and partner in progress that there is no L$16 billion missing. The CBL has no records showing that the monies printed under its authority have not yet been delivered into its reserved vaults. Record from the Crane Currency of and Sweden, which was contracted to print the money, shows that Crane delivered 15.5 billion through Freeport and Roberts International Airport (RIA) between 2016 and 2018 and that all these monies were logged by the CBL and delivered into the reserved vaults of the CBL.”
However, Rep. George is not taking the accounts of the Bank’s authorities sacrosanct. As he expressed his disagreements with the conflicting pieces of information, he requested CBL authorities to take members of the legislature, “the people’s representatives,” to the vaults on a sightseeing tour.
Rep. George, who doesn’t hold back his tongue when addressing critical national issues, also stated that former Governor Weeks lied under oath when he told lawmakers that he got authorization to print the other billions of local currency.
“He lied under oath that we (legislature) gave him authorization to print 10 billion. Contrary to our resolution to print 5 billion that was authorized, he printed excess of 10 billion and did not report it.
“Do you know how the President feels? He doesn’t want people to think he is witch hunting. But we should not allow sympathy to exceed our interests. This country has corrupt people,” he added.
He also frowned on Finance Minister Tweah for what he called “doing the work of the Information Minister;” adding: “His information was more distorted.”
“I am telling you the person who was corrected is not wrong; the Finance Minister was wrong. The Finance Minister was out of order and I am waiting for [Information Minister] Eugene Nagbe to say to me that the Finance Minister had apologized because he [Tweh] helped to make the information distortive. We need to get things in order around here.”
This change in narratives had happened at least four times just in the space of less than two weeks. On September 21, 2018, Finance Minister Tweah called on a local radio station to completely divert from earlier statements put out to the public by the official spokesperson of the government, Information Minister Nagbe and the Minister of Justice, Cllr. Frank Musah Dean.
Mid-September, specifically on Monday, September 17, the government acknowledged that containers and bags of money arrived in the country and that an investigation had been launched surrounding the arrival of these monies.