LIBERIA: Where Are The LD4 Billion Banknotes?

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SADLY, PRIOR to the printing of additional LD banknotes, the banking system had experienced dire liquidity problems, including mutilated banknotes and insufficient banknotes in the banking system to meet depositors’ demand for cash.

IT IS APPROACHING FOUR months now since the  Central Bank of Liberia  announced the secure arrival of additional LD4 Billion Liberian Dollar banknotes into the country. However, from the look of things, consumers are still struggling to lay their hands on the new notes which are rarely seen, except  during distribution time on the campaign trail.

WHEN THE CBL announced the arrival of the notes in July, it was said at the time that the bills were aimed at easing the liquidity troubles facing the Liberian economy.

IN FACT, THE CBL, in a statement said: “The additional LD4 billion in banknotes were safely secured in the vaults of the CBL Headquarters on July 7, 2020.”

WORKING IN COLLABORATION with Kroll Associates, an internationally recognized risk mitigation firm, hired to put in place a competitive, accountable, and transparent procurement process and to securely track the shipment of the new banknotes from the printer to the Central Bank’s vaults in Monrovia, the CBL promised to work toward undertaking a full technical validation process of the new banknotes to ensure they comply with the contractual specifications.

NEVERTHELESS, the scarcity of the banknotes on the market is raising concerns amongst Liberians who are struggling to find them.

TODAY, LIBERIAN consumers, merchants and marketers are stuck with dilapidated banknotes not fit to handle.

THE VALUE OF THE LIBERIAN DOLLAR continues to deteriorate and there appears to be no end in sight and no answers as to why Liberians are stuck with old banknotes when new ones were printed recently.

IF LAWMAKERS CONTINUE to give a free pass to the CBL to keep printing new notes without any clear evidence of the newly-printed notes in circulation, the George Weah-led government is piling more misery on itself, especially in the aftermath of the missing LD16 billion saga and unexplained redacted portions of the USAID-backed Kroll findings of that investigation.

ADDRESSING THE CONTROVERSY surrounding the lack of the L$4 billion in circulation,  Madam Nyemadi Pearson, President George Weah’s nominee for the position of Deputy CBL Governor for Operations, told the Senate Committee on Banking and Currency, during her confirmation hearing, that the CBL is working to ensure  that the recently printed L$ 4 billion (Four Billion Liberian Dollars) is in circulation on the market.

THE NOMINEE however said the amount printed is not sufficient for the market. According to Madam Pearson, there are L$ 21 billion in circulation with huge sum of mutilated notes on the market. This, she said makes the Four Billion Liberian Dollars grossly insufficient to address the issue of mutilated banknotes on the market.

MADAM PEARSON further indicated that the CBL is doing everything possible to ensure that the mutilated banknotes that come to the CBL does not go back in circulation. According to her, going back will undermine the efforts of the Bank to get the mutilated notes off the market.

THE NOMINEE went on to call for the printing of additional notes in five, ten and fifty notes to replace the existing mutilated ones  “Senators, the amount printed is small, so you will not feel the impact of the new money” she noted.

SADLY, PRIOR to the printing of additional LD banknotes, the banking system had experienced dire liquidity problems, including mutilated banknotes and insufficient banknotes in the banking system to meet depositors’ demand for cash.

SADLY, AFTER the arrival of the LD4 billion, those problems continue to linger.

ALL THIS AFTER IT WAS announced that Kroll, a global provider of risk solutions and principally a global investigative firm, was engaged, as part of a United States Agency for International Development (“USAID”) technical assistance program to the CBL, to ensure that the procurement process surrounding the printing of the additional Liberian Dollar banknotes was open and transparent, and that the shipment of the new banknotes from the printer to the CBL’s vaults was secure.

ADDITIONALLY, the International Monetary Fund (“IMF”) was also consulted prior to printing the banknotes to ensure compliance with its Liberia program.

SADLY, NEARLY FOUR months after the arrival of the new notes, and a declaration from CBL Executive Governor J. Aloysius Tarlue, Jr. that “The arrival of the additional Liberian Dollar banknotes is good news indeed. It will help ordinary Liberians to pay for school fees, hospital bills and pay for other important bills,” Liberians are still living a bad dream, a nightmare actually, stuck with old, dilapidated notes while politicians from the ruling party are parading on the campaign trail dividing the new notes.

THIS CERTAINLY does not bode well for the credibility of the United States Aid for International Development, Kroll and the Central Bank of Liberia.

ALL THIS COMING months after Kroll itself uncovered systemic inadequacies in procurement processes and record keeping at the CBL when investigating concerns surrounding the printing of LD16 Billion new banknotes in September 2018.

IF KROLL and the USAID have been brought in to fix a problem that is still lingering amid many unanswered questions, then it appears something sinister is in play here.

THE FACT of the matter is that Kroll, based on their experience with the CBL came on board to address the loopholes and prevent the re-occurrence of any such lapses.

MEMBERS OF both houses of the National legislature too bear some responsibility and must ask the tough questions regarding the scarcity of newly-printed Liberian dollar banknotes.

IF LAWMAKERS CONTINUE to give a free pass to the CBL to keep printing new notes without any clear evidence of the newly-printed notes in circulation, the George Weah-led government is piling more misery on itself, especially in the aftermath of the missing LD16 billion saga and unexplained redacted portions of the USAID-backed Kroll findings of that investigation.

THERE ARE SIMPLY too many unanswered questions, too many loopholes and too many loose ends compounding an already complicated dilemma for Liberia.

USAID, KROLL, THE CBL and the Weah administration must address this matter before it leads to more problems – to an already confusing juggernaut of yet another mystery regarding LD banknotes.

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