What Does Uncle Sam Want? US Must Back Off Liberians’ ‘Pragmatic Response’ to Kroll Report
LIBERIA OWES A LOT to the United States of America. Since as far back as 1819, when the US Congress appropriated $100,000 toward the establishment of what is now Africa’s oldest republic; which it went on to officially recognize in 1862, 15 years after its establishment as a sovereign nation in 1847, both countries continue to share close diplomatic, economic, and military ties.
THE BENEFITS ON BOTH ENDS have been reciprocal. At the height of World War II, Liberia joined the Allies and Monrovia, the nation’s capital was host to important Allied logistics bases with Firestone becoming the large munitions supplier for the Allies.
ON THE FLIP SIDE, Liberia has benefited immensely from US support.
Despite strained ties between 1971 and 1980 when President William R. Tolbert decided to establish diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union and other Eastern Bloc nations, both countries forged close ties in the 1980s when the government of Samuel Kanyon Doe was viewed as important to the US Cold War policies in Africa.
THE END RESULT? The Ronald Reagan-led administration pumped between $500 million and $1.3 billion during the 1980s from the U.S. through direct and indirect channels and Liberia became home to a relay station for the Voice of America, with the setting up of a large navigation tower, and the country becoming the CIA’s main African base for the majority of this period.
WITHOUT A DOUBT, the US remains Liberia’s most important international partner and stakeholder. Billions of dollars have been thrown Liberia’s way through the United States Aid for International Development’s development assistance program.
SINCE THE END of the civil war, USAID’s post-conflict rebuilding strategy has been focusing on reintegration with an eye on a longer-term development focus.
THE USAID HAS also heavily invested in strengthening civil society’s role in delivering services and advocating good governance.
THIS IS WHY WE are baffled over the latest wave of statements coming from the country Liberians regard as its adopted stepfather.
THE US EMBASSY in Monrovia has, since the public release of an Independent Review Report prepared by Kroll Associates Inc. regarding allegations of the disappearance of new Liberian Dollar banknotes, on February 28, been bending over backwards to point out what it calls “some inaccurate references attributed to the Kroll report”.
WE AND MOST LIBERIANS get it. The Kroll report is a scope study and not an indictment on anyone. The findings do not suggest that anyone stole any of the LD$16 Billion or the US$25 million intended for mop-up exercise in the wake of the ever-rising exchange rate.
WHAT WE DON’T’ get is, why is the US embassy repeatedly trying to babysit Liberians reaction to the report.
IN TWO STATEMENTS SO FAR, the US appear to be going beyond the extremities by suggesting Liberians are overacting or that many are misunderstanding what’s in play here.
THE LATEST STATEMENT READS: “Where there are gaps in the Report’s understanding of events, or inconsistent data, this is stated as such without rendering judgement as to why. The U.S. Embassy, for its part, stated in a message accompanying the release of the Kroll report: “No information in the (Kroll) Report should be interpreted on its own as an indication of improper conduct by any specific individual or individuals without further investigation by appropriate Liberian officials.” We encourage everyone to read the entire report and take due care in any interpretation or reference to the Kroll report to ensure accuracy and fairness.”
From where Liberia has come, the history and recurring impunity on corruption justifies the reaction many are having in the wake of both the Kroll and the Presidential Task Force findings. The US Embassy must continue to support and encourage good governance especially when Liberians are exercising their rights to air their views and offer inputs under the very norms the US encourages – “pragmatic responses from the Government of Liberia and its people.”
TO LIBERIANS CREDIT, many appear to be reading, dissecting, analyzing and scrutinizing the findings so far with a great degree of interest which is particularly encouraging for a country and perhaps continent often criticized for not reading.
IN RELEASING the report last week, the US Embassy itself encouraged Liberians to read the report in its entirety and in its own words, “encourage pragmatic responses from the Government of Liberia and its people.”
WHAT IS IMPORTANT TO NOTE here is that Liberians are fed up with corruption in any shape, size or form and rightly so.
THIS IS a nation which stood and watched as thirteen officials of former President William R. Tolbert’s government were executed for corruption, nepotism and greed, this is a nation which for the past twelve years have been consumed by reports of corruption and each and every Liberian want this cancer to be rid of our nation.
THIS IS WHY the findings in the scope study has caught everyone’s attention.
THE REPORT WHILE concluding that Kroll’s analysis of delivery documentation provided by the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) confirmed that new banknotes totaling LRD 15.506 billion were received into the CBL’s reserve vaults and that Kroll found no information to support allegations that a container of banknotes went missing, does point out several discrepancies.
FOR EXAMPLE, the report raises concerns regarding the overall accuracy and completeness of the CBL’s internal records and identifies systemic and procedural weaknesses at the CBL, and identifies shortcomings in Liberia’s fiscal and monetary management processes that are longstanding and continue to the present day.
SO, WE AND MOST Liberians get it. What we don’t’ get is the irony from the US. Kroll, the company it paid, to conduct the scoping study, reported: “Kroll has sought to obtain information from the CBL regarding the end recipient of the new banknotes (e.g…, commercial banks, Liberian Ministries etc.). However, the CBL has not been able to provide this information at either a summary or detailed transactional level.”
Liberians are appreciative of America’s support; but the US embassy is crossing the line here as Liberians exercise their rights to free speech and allow the government to speedily investigate and bring those responsible for the discrepancies cited in the US-funded Kroll and the Liberia Presidential Task Force reports to book.
THE REPORT ALSO said the Kroll was not provided with adequate supporting documentation to demonstrate that the CBL adhered to its internal tendering policies in the procurement of the external banknote manufacturer Crane AB.
IN ESSENCE, Kroll’s own report identified discrepancies at every stage of the process for controlling the movement of banknotes into and out of the CBL during the Independent Review, including: The Legislature approval for printing new banknotes; the procurement and contracting of Crane AB; the shipping of new banknotes to Liberia; the delivery of movement of funds within and out of the CBL’s vaults.
IN FACT, much of what Kroll uncovered in its findings are bolstered in the findings of the Presidential Investigation Team which went a step further in not only breaking down how the Ministry of finance conducted the controversial US25 million mop up exercise.
THE TEAM OBSERVED that the principle of KNOW YOUR CUSTOMER (KYC) was not observed throughout the mop-up exercise thereby creating room for illicit exchange or money laundering. “A review of the report submitted to the investigation by the six (6) Teams responsible for the disbursement/exchange of the United States dollars with the Liberian dollars whom that some Foreign Exchange Bureau and businesses were not duly registered, while other businesses received cash without proper identification. For example, report submitted by the Leader of Team 2, Mr. Kontar Richards, shows that there was no evidence of transactions with business entities, such as business registration document and address of these entities. There are several summary sheets in hand writing which do not have any indication that these vendors money and/or signed for it. Refer to Exhibit 43 for Kontar Field Report and Written Statement.”
THE TEAM ALSO reported: “Some businesses/institutions in the three categories mentioned above received lesser amounts then what was reported by CBL. For example, the Union Local Forex Bureau located on Carey Street received a total of US$5,500.00 on two separate occasions (US$3,000 on July 17, 2017 and US$2,300.00 on August 16, 22017) then what was reported by CBL in its report as the total amount received US$161,900.00 (US$103,720.00 on July 17, 2018 and US$58,400.00 on August 16, 2018). Refer to Exhibit 44 for Union Local Forex Bureau Administrator Response.”
EVEN IN THE GREAT United States, officials in very high offices have been known to have resigned when documents and investigation found them to have run afoul of the laws.
IN NOVEMBER 2012, Chicago congressman Jesse Jackson Jr, the son of renowned civil rights campaigner, Jesse Jackson, resigned his House of Representatives seat in the wake of a federal investigation into his campaign finances as well as a separate ethics probe.
JUST LAST YEAR, Scott Pruitt (Rep), and Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, resigned citing increasing numbers of investigations into his administration. The EPA’s own Chief Ethics Official had been pushing for independent studies into Pruitt’s actions and 13 other separate investigations were under way, including alleged corruption for personal gain, salary increases without White House approval, use of government staff on personal projects and unnecessary spending on offices and security. He resigned July 5, 2018.
THE LIST OF officials in America who stepped down their posts in the wake of investigations is endless.
THIS IS WHY WE APPLAUD the decision of President George Manneh Weah to take action against those found to have broken the laws in the wake of the Kroll report.
SO FAR, former governor Milton Weeks, deputy governor Charles Sirleaf and Dorbor Hagba are all in custody awaiting arraignment. Mr. Richard Walker, head of banking is also among those being sought for arrest, according to authorities. Nevertheless, we want to urge the President to go a step further in taking a similar action against his influential Finance Minister Samuel Tweah over the controversial mop-up exercise.
FROM WHERE Liberia has come, the history and recurring impunity on corruption justifies the reaction many are having in the wake of both the Kroll and the Presidential Task Force findings. The US Embassy must continue to support and encourage good governance especially when Liberians are exercising their rights to air their views and offer inputs under the very norms the US encourages – “pragmatic responses from the Government of Liberia and its people.”
IN THE SAME VEIN, the US cannot adopt a baby-sitting policy on how Liberians carry out these “pragmatic responses”.
DEMOCRACY AND GOOD GOVERNANCE are the hallmark of any modern society. The US of all places should know and understand this much.
THESE REPORTS should not end here but lead to further investigations. In the main time, those found liable should remove themselves from the process while the investigation takes place and President Weah should avoid any temptation toward selective actions resulting from these findings.
LIBERIANS ARE appreciative of America’s support; but the US embassy is crossing the line here as Liberians exercise their rights to free speech and allow the government to speedily investigate and bring those responsible for the discrepancies cited in the US-funded Kroll and the Liberia Presidential Task Force reports to book.