Liberia: “Legislature, President Sirleaf Authorized the Printing of Money” – Charles Sirleaf

Mr. Charles Sirleaf, who is taking the oath before testifying before the Senate, still insists that the printing of the remaining money was authorized by the Legislature, which the lawmakers have denied 

Capitol Hill, Monrovia – The Deputy Executive Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), Charles Sirleaf has told the Plenary of the House of Representatives that there is no money missing as is being reported and the 53rd Legislature and former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf authorized the printing of additional L$10 billion.

Report by Gerald C. Koinyeneh 00231880881540 \ 00231777769531

Mr. Sirleaf, the son of Ex-President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is one of the principal witnesses of the ongoing legislative inquest that is intended to determine who authorized the printing of additional L$10.5 billion by the CBL in 2017 and how the money was infused into the economy.

It can be recalled that in her testimony before the plenary on Monday, November 12, Madam Meliseh Emeh, a former Board member of the CBL told the lawmakers that in order to get more clarity on the alleged missing billions in banknotes, they should ask Mr. Sirleaf because as Deputy Executive Governor of the CBL at the time of the printing of the new currency, he was mostly at the center of the operations of the bank.

But taking the witness’ stand on Monday, November 19, Mr. Sirleaf said the authorization to print the money was given by both the 53rd Legislature and his mother, former President Sirleaf in 2017.

He also maintained that no money printed was missing as being reported, noting all of the money was delivered in the vaults of the CBL.

“The Legislature and the President (then President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf) acknowledged receipt of the Ex-Governor’s letter and gave approval pending pre-condition; stating before you can print money, however provide us the detail of the denominations prior to printing of currency. That was very clear… There is no missing money. The process of moving money by the Central Bank is security oriented and the process was very clear and transparent,” Mr. Sirleaf clarified.

Mr. Sirleaf was accompanied by the two top officials of the CBL’s Internal Audit department, Adolphus Forkpah, Director along with his deputy, Joseph G. Dennis.

In their testimony, they indicated that the Internal Audit department does not interfere with the operation of the CBL, however, they confirmed witnessing and verifying the importation and delivery of L$15.5 billion to the CBL between 2016 and 2018.

Their testimonies were backed by copies of several communications from the Internal Audit Departments bearing the signatures of Mr. Forkpah and Dennis to Ex-Governor Weeks.

In the communications, the Internal Audit confirmed witnessing the delivery of specified amount of monies (on specific dates) delivered to the CBL by Crane Currency.

The documents had earlier been presented to Ex-Governor Weeks who was ordered by the Speaker to read the exact figures mentioned in the letters by the Internal Audit during the second day hearing in open plenary on November 12.

Weeks, in his first appearance before plenary had stated that he has no access to documents from the CBL to ascertain the dates of delivery of the monies and called on the House of Representatives to request all of the documents surrounding the printing, delivery and infusion of the currency from the CBL.

“Unconventional Means” to Replace the Legacy Notes

Weeks, in his testimony indicated that the CBL it was difficult to replace the old banknotes at once because majority of the notes in Liberia are outside of the banking system, and as such the CBL had to employ unconventional means to get the old money out of the market.

He told the plenary that the CBL is determined to gradually replace the legacy notes with the new notes to ensure no shocks to the system. He added that the strategy, though was severely criticized, it has worked and most of the legacy notes are now out of the market.

Weeks: “It was difficult to take the notes out at once because the majority of the notes in Liberia are outside of the banking system. In recent time, all of the banks combined are holding in their vaults less than 20 percent of the total cash in circulation. Thus, unconventional means had to be used to get the old notes out of the system. For example, special program was instituted with the Liberian Marketing Association (LMA) to send CBL’s Cashiers to LMA market to directly replace old notes held by market women.”

He disclosed that the CBL also sent teams to rural counties to directly replace notes from the populace; adding that this was an ongoing exercise that started prior to the installation of the current government.

He further that the CBL firstly instructed the commercial banks to stop paying out the old five dollars notes, this was followed by ten and twenty dollars notes respectively, and eventually by June 2018, the CBL issued an instruction to the commercial banks to stop paying out all legacy notes.

“The commercial banks were instructed to continue to accept the legacy notes for deposit, but not pay them out. It was anticipated that all of the legacy notes would have been withdrawn from the system before the end of 2018,” he averred.

He then reiterated that the CBL and its Board of Governors took the decision to replace the money in good faith.

He assertions were back by Mr. Sirleaf when he stated that all of the CBL decision was acting in the interest of the country.

Meanwhile, the plenary voted unanimously to reappear on Thursday, November 22 for more questioning.