Liberia: GAC’s Mandate Must Pave the Way for Non-Selective Action in Missing Money Saga
PRESIDENT GEORGE MANNEH WEAH deserves credit for taking a stern decision Thursday, giving the General Auditing Commission (GAC) a two-week mandate to investigate how the U.S.$25 million earmarked for the mopping exercise was expended.
A STATEMENT FROM the presidency Thursday read: “Growing out of the Presidential Investigative Team’s report, which calls for a ‘forensic investigation’ of the entire mop-up exercise carried out by the Central Bank of Liberia, and the report done by Kroll – an institution of international repute which was commissioned by the U.S. Government – that calls for ‘further understanding’ of how the exercise was conducted, the Ministry of Justice, by directive of President George Manneh Weah, has requested the General Auditing Commission to conduct an investigative audit into how the U.S.$25 million earmarked for the mopping exercise was expended.”
OVER THE PAST YEAR, we have been critical of President George Manneh Weah and the Coalition for Democratic Change led government’s lukewarm approach to fighting graft. His action Thursday should be hailed as a step in the right direction and perhaps, we hope, the start of a serious effort to adopting a non-selective posture in dealing with those cited in both reports for wrong doing.
THE FALOUT FROM recent reports by both the Presidential Investigative Team and the Kroll report sanctioned by the government of the United States led to the arrest and imprisonment of several current and former officials of the Central Bank of Liberia.
THOSE ARRESTED AND IN CUSTODY INCLUDE: Mr. Milton Weeks, former Executive Governor of the CBL, Mr. Charles Sirleaf, Deputy Governor for Operations and son of ex-President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Dorbor Hagba, Director for Banking, Richard Walker, Director for Operations and Joseph Dennis, Deputy Director for Internal Audit, all are being held for economic sabotage, fraud, criminal conspiracy. However, many in the opposition have been pressing for more action from the president and encouraging him to go a step further in taking action against his influential finance and development planning minister, Mr. Tweah.
IN JULY 2018, President Weah announced that USD 25.0 million would be “infused” into the Liberian economy to “mop-up” excess LRD banknotes in an attempt to address the depreciation of the Liberian Dollar. The President further mandated the Economic Management Team chaired by Minister Tweah, and the CBL to implement the USD Mop-Up Exercise.
OVER THE PAST FEW DAYS, there have been numerous calls from many, including the opposition and some international and diplomatic circles for the president to go a step further in taking action against both Minister Samuel D. Tweah and CBL governor Nathaniel Patray.
IN A STATEMEN SIGNED by the leaders of the opposition All Liberia Party (ALP), Alternative National Congress (ANC), Liberty Party and the former ruling Unity Party (UP), the parties noted that both the Kroll and PITT reports are unambiguous about the roles played by the current CBL administration, which, according to the two reports, did not fully cooperate with both Kroll Associates, Inc. and the Government-commissioned PIT. “In other words, the reports indict both past and present CBL administrations. In fact, Kroll Associates, Inc. makes it clear that requests made to the CBL for documentation “remain outstanding” and that information provided by CBL during the review exercise were inaccurate and “incomplete”.
THE PARTIES added that it would be provocative, and even suicidal, for President Weah and his administration to ignore the fact that US$25m (about LD$4,000,000,000bn) ordered from our national reserve to facilitate a so-called “mop-up” exercise last year was handled in a bizarre manner that warrants further investigations as recommended by both Kroll Associates, Inc. and the Public Investigation Team (PIT). “We remind the president that senior members of his Economic Management Team, as revealed in the reports, must have exploited last year’s monetary situation to commit the crime of money laundering. This is a very grave matter that the administration should not downplay.”
WITHOUT A DOUBT, President Weah’s first year has been plagued with numerous challenges, understandably so for a young government still learning the ropes and finding its way.
THIS IS WHY we hope that this action by the President will go a long way in reassuring the world, stakeholders and international partners, that President Weah and his government are about to turn a new leaf and will leave no stone unturned, and no one above reproach in bringing all responsible in the missing money and mop-up exercise to book.
THIS WE believe is a step in the right direction on a road less traveled in recent Liberia’s history. But we caution the president and government to ensure that recommendations and findings from the GAC, after its two-weeks mandate has expired, would be implemented to the core. ONCE AGAIN, we hail the President for taking this bold move and pray that the GAC will conduct this investigation in a fair and transparent manner and may the chips fall where they may.