Liberia: Senate Grills Commerce Minister on Who Misinformed the President on Rice Availability Despite Acute Shortage

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Miin

MONROVIA – The Senate on Tuesday hosted the Minister of Commerce Mawine G. Diggs to answer questions about the shortage of the country’s staple food, rice and why President George Weah was misled about the quantity of rice in the country when he returned from the UN General Assembly.

Upon his return, the President told Journalists that there was sufficient rice in the country that could run up to next year. He blamed the report about the rice shortage on street gossip. His comment was in response to a question about how concerned he was about the situation.

Days after the President’s comments, it became a reality that the rice in the country wasn’t of commercial quantity and that the President was being misinformed by his officials.

The Senate is concerned about this statement and wants to know who “mislead” the President. During her appearance, she was asked by Senator Edwin Snowe about who advised the President on the rice situation. In her response, she asked the body not to allow her to answer the question because she didn’t know the answer.

In a motion filed by Senator Prince Moye of Bong County, amended by Senator Edwin Melvin Snowe, the Plenary of the Liberian Senate resolved that Commerce and Industry Minister, Mawine G. Diggs remain under oath, so as to submit to the Committees on Public Accounts & Audits and Ways, Means, Finance & Budget all relevant documents relative to the rice subsidy and the expenditure of the US$15.5 million.

Following a lengthy hearing with Minster Diggs on Tuesday, Plenary also mandated the Minister of Commerce to ask President George M. Weah as to who advised him that there was sufficient rice in country following his return from the UN General Assembly and subsequently inform the Pro-Tempore with respect to the feedback.

This decision was reached as a result of her appearance on Tuesday during the 43rd Day Sitting of the 5th Session of the 54th Legislature, predicated upon a communication received from Senator Jonathan L. Kaipay, for the ministers to appear before the Senate as a “Committee of a Whole” relative to the troubling development surrounding the shortage of the Nation’s staple food (rice).

Meanwhile, the Plenary of the Senate rejected the excuses from the Ministers of Finance and Development Planning, Samuel D. Tweah and Agriculture, Jeanine M. Cooper.

Plenary believes that the two Ministers, instead of sending excuses, should have instructed their principal deputies to appear on their behalf.

The two Ministers have been mandated to appear before the Liberian Senate on next Tuesday, November 1, 2022, at 12 noon to show reason(s) why they should not be held in contempt.

 The decision was triggered by a vote taken by Plenary after their letters of excuse were read stating that they both are out of the Country, and asked that Plenary reschedule their appearances. 

The Plenary of the Liberian Senate sitting as a Committee of the Whole on Tuesday conducted the Public Hearing on the Ministers of Finance and Development Planning as well as Commerce to get clarity on how the Eleven Million United States Dollars (11,000,000.00) United States Dollars subsidy for rice importers was utilized.

The Legislature recently allotted eleven Million United States Dollars in the current 2022 fiscal budget as subsidy to the Ministry of Commerce for rice importers.

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