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Liberia: Central Bank Governor Patray Finally Out as Replacement Search Intensifies

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VOID AT CENTRAL BANK: Several prospects are said to be on a shortlist for replacement for the next governor of the Central Bank of Liberia, including Jolue Tarlue, the current chair of the Liberia Electricity Regularity Commission(left) and Macdonald Guannu(right) who currently works as the Director of Research and Strategic Planning of the ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development. Mr. George Fonderson(middle), Chairman of Baker Tilly Liberia, and one of the country’s highly-regarded finance professionals, reportedly told the government that he is currently committed to various international projects and engagements, making it virtually impossible for him to accept the role.

Monrovia – After months of uncertainty, Mr. Nathaniel R. Patray has taken his bow from the Central Bank of Liberia. President George Manneh Weah late Thursday accepted the resignation of the embattled governor, more than five months after he announce a shakeup of the nerve center of the Liberian economy.

An Executive Mansion statement Friday said the President thanked Mr. Patray for his services to the government and people of Liberia. He said Mr. Patray’s acceptance to serve as a Governor during the challenging times was remarkable. He wished the former CBL Governor well.
The Liberian Leader assured Mr. Patray that he can be called upon to serve his Country in other capacities when the need arises.

Officer-in-Charge Named

Meanwhile, the Liberian Leader has named Dr. Musa Dukuly as Officer-In-Charge of the Central Bank of Liberia pending the appointment and subsequent confirmation of a new Governor.

The pending overhaul of the CBL comes as Liberia’s financial sector has taken an confidence hit beset by scandals and a rapidly growing economic crisis.

In July 2018, Weah ordered a $25-million injection into the economy to mop-up excess Liberian dollars. An investigation by the state auditor found that only $17 million was used for this purpose. A separate probe into the alleged disappearance of about $100 million in cash that was printed abroad found that while no money was missing, there were lapses in the accuracy and completeness of the central bank’s internal records.

“All of these reports point to a major lapse of controls at the Central Bank of Liberia,” said the President in May. It “calls into question the ability of its present leadership to effectively revamp its internal mechanism to provide greater accountability and professionalism.”

Liberia’s economy has failed to reignite in the five years since the worst-ever outbreak of Ebola brought growth to a standstill. The Liberian dollar depreciated by more than a quarter in 2018, causing inflation to accelerate to 28% by December and the International Monetary Fund to revise its economic growth forecast to this year to 0.4%, from 4.7%.

Mr. Patray was due to retire three months after the President’s pronouncement in May.

The administration is said to still be on the lookout for a replacement. Several names have been put out in recent weeks but none is said to have won the approval of international stakeholders.

Among those reportedly being considered are current Education Minister Professor Ansu Sonii and Mr. John Davis, President of the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment; former Finance Minister and World Bank technocrat, Dr. Antoinette Sayeh and Boima Kamara, also a former Finance Minister and former Executive at the CBL, among others.

A senior administration official confirmed to FrontPageAfrica recently that the search hit a snag with Mr. George Fonderson, one of the top prospects turning down a legitimate offer to replace the governor.

Offer Turned Down; More Prospects Emerge

According to multiple sources within the administration, Mr. George Fonderson, Chairman of Baker Tilly Liberia, and one of the country’s highly-regarded finance professionals, reportedly told the government that he is currently committed to various international projects and engagements, making it virtually impossible for him to accept the role.

One source said Fonderson fits the bill of the kind of person President Weah is thinking of bringing in to head the bank, and someone international stakeholders including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund would be comfortable working with. “That is the kind of bar that we want to set, a person of Mr. Fonderson’s character,” said the source speaking on condition of anonymity, Tuesday.

FrontPageAfrica recently reported that several officials, including ministers in the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change-led government had been ruled out of the running to replace the current Governor, with President Weah keen to see an independent-minded person in the post in hopes of moving the nerve center of the Liberian economy onto a totally independent path, and away from the excessive borrowing which marred the early days of the administration.

The source said the President’s insistence on the path of independence is a key reason why the appointment and vetting process has been delayed.
“The CBL will have to be led by a totally new person who comes with high credibility and competence. All current Ministers or officials appear to be out of the running,” a source familiar with the ongoing vetting process confirmed to FrontPageAfrica at the weekend.

One name that has popped up in recent days is Jolue Tarlue, the current chair of the Liberia Electricity Regularity Commission.

Tarlue has worked in the US as a banking compliance officer for various banks including JP Morgan, BNY Mellon, Deutsch Bank, Merrill Lynch, HSBC.

One source told FPA that he has integrity and is serious minded. He attended the American Consolidate School System and obtained his undergrad degree in History and Political Science and MPA from Kean University, New Jersey.

Tarlue, according to one observer is not a banker per se, but more compliance oriented which normally a lawyer would handle but is keen about the law and regulations.

MacDonald Goanue who currently works as the Director of Research and Strategic Planning of the ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development is also said to still be on the radar. Prior to assuming the position on May 6, 2013, Mr. GOANUE served as Deputy Director of Research, Policy and Planning at the Central Bank of Liberia. He also worked at the Ministry of Finance, Republic of Liberia and the World Bank in Washington, DC. He was also a lecturer in Economics at the University of Liberia between 2006-2013.

He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics (Cum Laude) from the University of Liberia and a Master of Science Degree in Economics from the University of ILLINOIS, URBANA Champaign, in the United States of America, with emphasis in Monetary Economics, International Economics and Economic Policy (Computable General Equilibrium).

Borrowing Issue Key Dilemma for Next Governor

Also, still on the radar, according to a senior administration official is former Finance Minister Boimah Kamara. Kamara holds a Master in Economics from the University of Ghana, a BSC in Economics from the University of Liberia where he graduated Summa Cum Laude according to his Linked-In page.

Dr. Antoinette Sayeh, another former Finance Minister is also said to be courted by the administration. The renowned economist previously served as the Director of the African Department at the International Monetary Fund from July 14, 2008 to August 31, 2016 and Minister of Finance in the cabinet of the Johnson-Sirleaf era. Ironically, she was the second woman in Liberia’s history to hold that position, the first being Sirleaf. A graduate of Swathmore College and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, where she received her MA and Ph.D in International Economic Relations, Dr. Sayeh has worked for the World Bank as country director for Benin, Niger and Togo and worked on public finance management and civil service reform in Pakistan. Her stint as Finance Minister is still regarded as one of Liberia’s finest, as she helped engineer the debt relief and put Liberia on the road to recovery after a brutal civil war.

A key priority for whoever assumes the post, FPA has learned is to curb the massive borrowing from the CBL. The Weah administration, sources say is committed to that, in several discussions with the IMF.
Faced with a decline in grants and external assistance, Liberia’s wage bill, which accounts for two-thirds of government spending, is “no longer a tenable situation,” a Washington-based lender told FPA recently.

The Central Bank of Liberia previously called “National Bank of Liberia” was founded on 18 October 1999 by an act of national legislature and began operations in 2000. It is a member of the Alliance for Financial Inclusion.

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