Liberia: ‘No Exchange of Money’ – Deputy Speaker Debunks ‘Misinterpretation’ of Leaked Chats from Chatroom


Capitol Hill, Monrovia – Deputy House Speaker J. Fonati Koffa says the decision of the House of Representatives to pass the 2022 draft recast National Budget was done in good faith; contrary to public perceptions that there was an exchange of hand.

Conversations leaked from members of the House of Representatives’ WhatsApp chatroom which went viral on social media revealed disturbing messages of some lawmakers expressing disenchantments over the decision of plenary to pass the draft budget without any scrutiny; contrary to the usual legislative practice.

The leaked messages show heated exchanges among the lawmakers, with some threatening court action and others requesting their benefits for passing the recast budget.

Abridge thread of leaked messages:

Rep. Rustonlyn Suacoco Dennis: “… Before budget passed it must be accompanied by 3 key documents. Was it? Nope. Did we have time to peruse it, Nope? Again, if it is not satisfactory, we will use the court. I heard you weren’t in the know but that seems contrary now.”

Deputy Speaker Koffa: “I don’t have to be in the know when the majority have acted. The budget was read on the floor. Those who felt they understood and agreed voted to pass it. That happens to be majority. This is how our democracy works. And you cannot subscribe motive to me for defending the process. Majority rule is the principle.”

Unknown: “So, boss what was the legal lapses? Again it was a little over US$41 million and not US$800 million.

Deputy Speaker Koffa: “It was read and appropriately passed by the majority. I don’t like it either but it’s the system we have.”

Rep. Acarous Gray: “This is not the first time for a recast to be read and passed the same day for concurrence.”

Rep. Solomon George: “What is our benefit after passing the recast budget? Me, I say me I want my benefit oh”

Hon. Swakoko:  “I na see woman you take off trouser”

Speaking to reporters outside of the Chamber, Deputy Speaker Koffa said it was unfortunate that their conversation which was not meant to be shared outside of the chatroom was leaked out. However, he said, contrary to the misinterpretation, there was no favor granted them for passing the recast budget and that the House’s decision was taken in good faith.

“I am not as disturbed as some of my colleagues because it is a social chatroom, it is social media, once three or four are in it you can imagine things in chatroom will get out, I think we should all be cautious of the statement that we make. But gentlemen you know, they say all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” Deputy Speaker Koffa said.

He furthered: “I am bothered by the way in which it is interpreted. I am bothered by the attack on my character – personally based on perceptions of what was read, but that’s the job we signed up for. We are leaders and you people have every right to come and engage in these opinionated shows. You people have every right to interpret and misinterpret what we said but I can tell you that our intentions and everything we did was noble. There was no quid pro quo for the passage of the recast budget.”

He affirmed that he stood by his words in defending the decision of the House as it was in no violation of the House’s rules.

He said: “I stand by all comments made in any chartroom, any comments on my behalf, anything attributed to me which was actually made by me I stand by those comments. I stand by those issues and principles that our democracy is by majority rule. I stand by the issue and principle that no rule was violated in the House of Representatives that the recast budget was passed.”

He continued: “I stand by the principle that there are issue in the recast budget that are germane to the Liberian people:  money for LEC, money for the upgrading of RIA, money for rice subsidy – all these that have impact on the lives of Liberians. Although I was not in the session, but procedurally, I think it was correct.”

On Thursday, Plenary passed the recast budget in the tune of US$806,587,341 as submitted by President George Weah, but the decision to pass was challenged with a motion for reconsideration proffered by Maryland County District #1 Representative P. Mike Jurry.

However, the Deputy Speaker said Jurry’s motion was not done in line with the House’s rule – and as such it was not accepted.

But several lawmakers said Jurry’s motion was a calculated ploy to stop Representative Yekeh Kolubah from proffering a genuine motion to ensure the budget is properly scrutinized by the relevant committees before passing.