Letter from the Editor: Liberia, Heartlessness Must Not Enter 2019
As yet another year comes to a climax in Liberia, we are once more reminded about the essence of democracy and the value of power placed in the right – or wrong hands. The right turn can lead a country to achieving the impossible greatness – and the wrong turn can lead a country to a painful and ugly road less traveled.
Too often Liberia, Africa’s oldest republic has allowed itself to fall in the trenches of oblivion, due to the failures of those elected by the people to serve or appointed by leaders/rulers in authority, to simply do what is right by those languishing at the bottom of the economic ladder.
As promised, we have begun unleashing to you, dozens of documents, including vouchers, internal memos and financial documents detailing extravagant spending, waste and abuse of government resources by the current ruling establishment in Liberia.
One of those vouchers released today shows a clear contradiction between what President George Manneh Weah and his aides told Liberians back in April and the unfolding realities of what is now taking place.
In April, the President’s office displayed photographs of zinc replacement in the township of Gibralta, where Mr. Weah was born and raised. It was from there that the former World Footballer of the Year learned his craft and where he was plucked to launch a masterful display of the beautiful game to Liberia first, and then to the world.
Back in April, Liberians were made to believe that President Weah, the newly-minted President had used his personal money to carry out the project. The government at the time, made no mention of how much was spent, who the contractors were or how the project was being materialized. All Liberians were told was that it was President Weah’s own money being used to give back to the slum community where he was raised.
Today, vouchers and internal memo signed by Tanneh Brunson, Deputy Minister for Budget and Development Planning, Ministry of Finance and Development Planning and several other high-ranking officials and even copied by Minister Samuel D. Tweah point to the contrary.
Documents in possession of FrontPageAfrica show that the Ministry Finance & Development Planning approved more than US$1 million for the re-roofing of 205 houses in
Documents show that two vouchers were raised amounting to US$1,075,000 though the project was estimated at US$800,000 from the onset.
Wasteful Spending in Future Vouchers Release
More vouchers and memos to be released in the coming days will show more – wasteful spending to renovate the Executive Lounge at the Roberts International Airport at a cost, not budgeted set at US$2.5 million dollars. Just next door, a brand-new airport is about to be opened. Was it really necessary to spend that much money renovating an executive lounge? The former government had already spent money to make some changes to the facility.
While President Weah professed in his inaugural address that Liberians would not be spectators to the economy, his business friends and Lebanese partners are heavily benefiting from road and construction contracts – and the RIA airport executive lounge.
To put in a layman’s view, Sam Sidani, the owner of Hotel Buchanan in Grand Bassa County, one of two firms benefiting from a number of construction contracts including Gibralta, had no prior experience in construction and the Public Procurement Concession Commission(PPCC) was not involved and neither was the Public Finance Management Law enforced.
Sidani is just one of many Lebanese nationals benefiting from road constructions contracts while Liberian-owned companies are being left in the cold.
Today, Liberians are again being led to believe that a gigantic statute of President Weah unveiled in Slipway Monday was financed by President Weah’s former football team, Young Survivors. We hope a voucher does not surface later on, showing otherwise, just as the twist in the Gibralta project.
An earlier Memo and voucher released showed similar trend as the MoF dug up an old US$182,000 debt from the Charles Taylor era to a company which has been inactive since 2003.
Further investigation has found that there are in fact several more older debts that are being resurrected for payment with alleged possible kickbacks.
All this as the ministry has come under fire in recent weeks amid revelations that Minister Tweah had been exchanging emails with a Sierra Leonean national, even going as far as sharing the country’s banking coordinates with Mr. James Larmin Korboi.
Korboi then went on to attempt to withdraw US$32,835,654.14 from Liberia’s account before an alarm from the international banking system was raised, hinting the government of the crime in progress.
Finance Ministry officials even went as far as signing a Memorandum of Understanding with Mr. Korboi who had promised to bring a multi-million-dollar investment and road construction to Liberia.
This is the same minister who told Liberians that some US$25 million intended to remedy the harsh economic situation fueled by steep increase in the exchange rate between the Liberian dollar and the US dollar, was distributed amongst money changers in slum communities.
This is the same minister who has been the architect of a variation of tales surrounding the disappearance of billions in local currency – LD16 billion to be exact.
This happens to be the same minister who said last week, as a smiling President Weah listened, that the ruling party would be in power forever.
President for Life
Said the minister: “You were born to make history; you made history in football and you will make history in politics. You wasting your time. Some people are born and you can fight it, what God has chosen, men can never fight. There is a reason. There is a reason why God took him from Gibralta to President today. So, whether your write fake news on FrontPageAfrica, you go on some kinda show lying and on the man who and on the man who earned money- US$80 million – the man who’s son is a millionaire, the man who made a lot of money to say he does not have money to build his own house because he is President is a black, evil and wicked like and you will be repelled for lying. So, they will see more successes coming – under this President. So, the got to prepare. This is not a six-year project, this is not a twelve-year project, this is not a 24-year project. We will change this country and the CDC will stay in power forever, let that message to go them.”
History has been unkind to the likes of Yahya Jammeh, who ruled The Gambia for 22 years, billions shy of the billion years he once said, he would stay in power for. Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, once regarded as Africa’s strongman would be lucky to take one step these days. He has been resigned to his fate as an aging former African president who once ruled with an iron fist.
Liberia’s own history has been rich with rulers and dictators – William V.S. Tubman ruled for 27 years, Tolbert for nearly a decade and Samuel Doe also for nearly a decade – all caught in a time capsule of the realities many rulers often find themselves when the clock of reality hits the twilight of their reign.
What we find evil, wicked and a black lie, is the sudden amnesia now consuming those with short memories who have suddenly forgotten that in June 2014, while answer questions relating to an investigation by Football’s world governing body Fifa over allegations of corruption in bidding to hold the 2022 World Cup, Mr. Weah acknowledged receiving US50,000 from Qatari billionaire Mohamed bin Hammam, who was accused of helping to influence the votes by distributing millions of dollars to some soccer officials. Qatar won a vote to hold the 2022 World Cup.
Worth of the President
Mr. Weah told investigators that Mr. Bin Hammam was a father figure who he had asked to help pay his tuition at university.
What is evil, wicked and a black lie is the sudden amnesia now consuming Mr. Tweah and others that only a few months ago, Mr. Weah told Judge Eugene M. Benton, Superior Court of Newton County, State of Georgia, that he only made one thousand and ninety U.S. dollars as Senator in Liberia and that he has two other minor kids born in 2000 and 2012 and therefore could only afford to pay $US160.
During those pleadings, there were no mention of the US$80 million, Minister Tweah now claims Mr. Weah has in his account.
In fact, during the same period, English football star, David Beckham was the second highest paid footballer in the world, trailing only Brazil’s Ronaldo with an earning of just over £3m over this campaign for his efforts – both on and off the football field.
According to France Football magazine, Beckham, at the time, was paid a salary of about £1.5m by United before bonuses, and the pocket of the player who will be 24 on Sunday is swollen further by £1.2m commercial earnings with endorsements of Brylcreem and Adidas among other products. Beckham’s salary is six times the average for a Premiership player last season. But even at the time, paled in comparison to Ronaldo, who earned weekly wage of £50,000-plus and more than £3m a year in advertising activities.
Beckham edged the current world footballer of that year, Zinedine Zidane into third place, the Juventus and France playmaker earning just under £3m. Fourth was Christian Vieri, the Italy striker, with £2.8m.
David Ginola, who played with Weah at AS Monaco, where he first signed a professional contract, was the sixth best paid French footballer with £1.34m.
Weah was not even ranked among the high earners at the time and was nowhere near the $US80 million now being quoted by Mr. Tweah. To add insult to injury, the finance minister is even adding the earnings of President Weah’s son, Timothy to the mix of the president’s earnings.
More troubling is the fact that the only public assets declared by Mr. Weah to date, falls far short of the US$80 million Mr. Tweah declared last week.
During his 2005 presidential run, Mr. Weah put his overall income per annum at US$335,000.00 on properties in Liberia and the United States. According to the declaration, Mr. Weah reported earnings of US$60,000 from his supermarket in Florida, USA; US$250,000 from real estate in the USA and US$25,000 from his real estate in Liberia.
Mr. Weah, in 2005 declared that his combined assets both in Liberia and the USA were more US$2.8 million. His residence in Florida, USA was said to worth US$1.5 million, while his Supermarket in Miami, Florida was said to worth US$1.2 million.
Documents obtained by FrontPageAfrica would later indicate that the Florida supermarket – Flavors West Indian Supermarket and Restaurant – which is registered in his wife, Clar’s name had been inactive.
His two residences in Liberia were said to be valued US$250,000, with the one in which he currently resides in the ELWA Rehab Road community in Paynesville being put at US$100,000.
Since assuming the presidency in January, Mr. Weah has demolished previously dilapidated properties he owned which were not renovated since his retirement from football – or his time in the Senate.
One of those is his residence on 9th Street in Sinkor, which he declared in 2005 as valued at US$150,000. Mr. Weah, at the time failed to state his bank balance as required by the National Elections Commission.
Off the Robertsfield highway, the President has constructed a monstrous 46-unit property on a piece of land that was only in January, a football field, where youngsters played the beautiful game.
In 2014, Mr. Weah won the Senatorial elections and became Senator of Montserrado for three years until his election as President in December 2017. His monthly earnings in the Senate was calculated at around US$15,000. His total worth as Senator for the three years is estimated to be US$540,000.
Begging to Differ with Minister Tweah
This is why we beg to differ with Minister Tweah, when he expects us to believe everything coming out of his mouth.
Liberia is a country of laws, a country of founded on the principles of good governance where the crafters of the constitution saw it fit to put in place measures that would ensure checks and balances and hold the feet of those elected and appointed to the fire.
President Weah can end all these speculations about his worth and assets by instructing the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission or the General Auditing Commission to make his declarations public so the world can see his $80 million worth.
Sadly, Liberia is today being governed by a bunch of misfits in the national legislature – with the exception of a handful- unwilling and unready to keep the executive branch – or even themselves in check.
What we have seen with the release of these vouchers so far, is a reckless and careless looting of national coffers by a heartless bunch who have forgotten our country’s history, a bunch, so far removed from the reality of today’s rapidly changing world that they have become resigned to accept mediocrity and the abnormal culture we now find ourselves.
Liberia’s history is rich in contradictions and poor in the necessities of what is best for the poor, needy languishing in poverty.
As we approach a new year and a 172nd Independence anniversary, let’s hope that Mr. Weah will clean up his surroundings of the Emmanuel Shaws, the Charles Brights, the Nathaniel McGills and the Samuel Tweahs of our rapidly shrinking country.
The President must succeed but he cannot and will not if he fails to muster the courage and political will to do what’s best for Liberia by putting country before self and ensuring that the heartlessness that marred his first year in office will not enter 2019.
A Hint to the Very Wise!!!
Wishing You All a Very Merry X-Mas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year