Liberia: Weah, CBL Faux Pas

The ‘emergency’ and the millions

Although Liberia's national revenue envelope nets nearly 60 million monthly, the same being the case for November and December 2003, the erstwhile government of former President George Weah would impress on authorities at the Central Bank of Liberia that GOL was in financial need and accessed over US$83 million to deal with a ‘looming emergency’ due to the elections. 

In November 2003, the CBL loaned over 50 million to a government whose revenue generation should have stood at 60 million. In December, again the Bank loaned an additional 30 million even though the government should have raised 60 million from its revenue collection. The government, according to CBL authorities, requested the money to deal with ‘looming national emergencies’ that could have risen from the elections. With almost US$120 million, which should have been at the disposal of the administration, it was requesting over US$80 million to pay civil servants salaries to enable those civil servants to stock up on food during the period of the elections. 

Eyes are now being raised on Capitol Hill on why the CBL would contravene the Public Procurement Management Law, which stipulates that no loan can be extended to the GOL by the  CBL without legislative approval. Unity Party Richard Koon is leading the charge to find answers to this loan, which to most financial analysts appears like money grabbing by the former president, his officials, and Board members of the CBL. many who are Weah surrogates. 

As it stands, authorities at the CBL appear to stand behind section 60.1 of the Bank Act,t which states that in the event of a conflict between any law and the act, the latter supersedes. They are also relying heavily on section 46.1 of the same act, which provides for the Bank to loan monies to GOL under very extraneous circumstances as in national disasters. In the minds of the authorities of the CBL, the reasons presented by GOL, to provide salaries for civil servants to stock food, meant terms for national disaster.   

Cynics believe the CBL and GOL used both sections 46.1 and 60.1 of the Bank Act as loopholes to likely swindle the country’s money. A local commercial bank employee following the issue told this paper something was amiss: what makes the officials at the CBL better custodians of the country’s money if they could dish out such a huge amount on a request from GOL that did not look genuine? 

The CBL authorities will have to convince many around the country and on Capitol Hill why they thought a government with 60 million revenue envelope per month and roughly 120 million in two months would face a crisis and needed over 80 million to mitigate that national crisis. With President Joseph Nyuma Boakai so prone to frugality, observers are watching what the new administration's reaction would be. This is no news to the financial managers of this administration, as this was mentioned by Finance and Development Planning Minister Boima Kamara during his confirmation hearing. The only strangeness of the matter is why the administration is pussyfooting to deal legally with the matter. 

Rep Koon of Montserrado, who leads the charge, is urging the plenary to invite the CBL authorities to appear at the Capitol for deliberation of this matter. The real contention here would not be what the CBL authorities are looking at; the sections of the act that grant powers to loan but rather the prudence to loan to an administration that should have been liquid.