Did CBL Governor Resign over ETON Loan?

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Former CBL Executive Governor, Milton A. Weeks

By David A. Yates and William Q. Harmon

Central Bank Governor, Milton Weeks resignation early Tuesday has left more questions than answers as to why he actually resigned. Public speculations on reasons for his rather abrupt resignation point to the controversy surrounding the much talked about Eton Loan and the rather exacting demands placed by Eton for a Sovereign Guarantee from the Liberian Government.

Weeks’ resignation comes a little over two years, after taking the helm at the CBL from former Governor Dr. J. Mills Jones, who had come under fire for dishing out unsecured loans and for the huge number of Liberian dollar banknotes which the CBL had printed shortly before his departure from office.

Former Governor Weeks, who still had three years into his 5-year tenure, according to reports, was constrained to resign after resisting pressure from the pinnacle of authority for his refusal to allow the use of Liberia’s Consolidated Accounts as a collateral for the US$536.4 Loan deal with ETON.

This, according to sources, led him into early troubles with this administration, leading to his premature departure. Sources have told the Daily Observer that pressure came from the Executive Mansion and was based on Governor Weeks’ alleged delay/refusal to sign documents authorizing the use of government’s consolidated account as sovereign guarantee for the US$536 million loan from ETON Private Finance.

Daily Observer’s source within the CBL further said, Weeks was also blamed for the ever-rising foreign exchange rate between the US dollar and the Liberian dollar. According to observers, some individuals close to the President, it is believed, had suggested to the President that the Governor was not doing much to mitigate the worsening economic situation in the country.

However, under the 1999 Act of Legislature that created the CBL, Governor Weeks could have been removed only upon impeachment by the House of Representatives, which is clearly not evident in this case. At this point, it remains unclear whether Governor Weeks’ resignation was requested by President Weah as is being widely speculated or whether he voluntarily relinquished his post rather than cave in to official demands to pledge the Government of Liberia’s Consolidated Accounts as collateral for the proposed loan from Eton Finance.

The public is, however, awash with speculations that Weeks’ resignation was the outcome of a quid pro quo arrangement that would see Weeks voluntarily relinquishing his post and in return receiving full compensation including benefits to cover his unexpired tenure of 3 years, all in the name of getting him off the job.

Section 13 (2) of the Act creating the Central Bank states: “The Executive governor, Deputy governor or any other governor may resign his office on giving notice to the President in writing”. In Section 13 (3), it states: “A member of the Board of Governors can be removed from office upon a Bill of Impeachment by the House of Representatives upon the findings of a majority of the Board of Governors and the recommendation of the President, for any of the following reasons” (a) Gross breach of duty (b) Misconduct in office (c) Conviction of a felony (d) Being declared bankrupt and (e) Violations of paragraph (a) and/or (b) of sub-section 1 of Section 13.

Although it still remains unclear whether Weeks’ apparently voluntary resignation entitles him to full compensation for the rest of his unexpired tenure, the office of the President has, however, confirmed Weeks’ resignation on its official website. An Executive Mansion release noted, “President Weah has received and accepted the resignation of CBL Governor Weeks.”

The President, in the release, commended Weeks for his service to the nation and wished him well in his future endeavors. A successor to Governor Weeks will be announced shortly, according to Executive Mansion sources.

But Weeks’ resignation also comes at a time when the country is experiencing an economic downturn, evidenced by rising inflation, continued depreciation of the Liberian dollar against the United States dollar and high prices of basic commodities, all of which he was being apparently held to blame for his perceived inability to successfully tackle.

But according to observers, Weeks has done the honorable thing by resigning rather than committing the country to an uncertain future of debt servitude by allowing the use of the GOL Consolidated Fund Account as collateral for the Eton and EBOMAF loans totaling a little over one billion United States dollars.

And so the question is, “Did the ETON Loan Deal Bite Governor Weeks?” Though the ETON financial agreement has been ratified by the both houses of the Legislature and signed into law by President Weah, the sticky issue that remains before work begins is the issuance of a sovereign guarantee by the Liberian government — a responsibility that had been entrusted into the care of the CBL which Governor Weeks, according to reports, was hesitant to execute.

Weeks’ non-compliant posture, according to sources, infuriated President Weah and led him (President Weah) to ask for his resignation, as he was being perceived as a stumbling block to the execution of the government’s prized road project.

Appearing before the Senate at a hearing on the loan last month, Weeks confirmed that where there is default in the payment of the loan, the Central Bank would take responsibility through the consolidated account, a development that has wide and far reaching implications for the country’s future.

The US$536.4 agreement, which is to finance the construction of the country’s coastal corridor—connection of County Capitals road project, was reached with ETON FINANCE PTE LTD, a Singaporean-based Hong Kong financial entity as parties. The loan, as anticipated, will be disbursed in two tranches—with the first of 50 percent to be disbursed within fifty banking days after the ratification and the second disbursement to be done in sixty days after the first disbursement; or such amount of time agreed to in writing by ETON and the government.

This should be after the confirming date of the sovereign guarantee issued by the CBL in the form and substance satisfactory to financing agent (ETON). These are, however,  yet to be done. The controversial financier, ETON, is reportedly registered and exists under the laws of Singapore at Balestier Hill Shopping Centre, 2 Balestier Road #04-665 S320002, Singapore; but independent investigative reports say it is a ghost company.

Meanwhile, in a related development, LRA Commissioner General Elfrieda Stewart-Tamba has officially ended her tour of duty as head of that institution. Madame Tamba had recently received acclaim for her exceptional performance at the LRA but, apparently, such did not prove sufficient enough to convince President Weah to nominate her to a second term of office. It is speculated that her reappointment to the post was marred by her blatant and principled refusal to accommodate CDC Secretary-General Mulbah Morlu’s demands to hire a number of individuals in top positions at the LRA.

In an Executive Mansion release, President Weah lauded her for successfully ending her tenure  at the LRA.

19 COMMENTS

  1. I applaud Mr. Weeks for taking the high road in this loan saga, were that the case. Many other spineless Liberians as we are cursed with nowadays, would have buried whatever modicum of principle is left in their useless frames to absorb any indignity and simply for the gravy associated with this office. Kudos, Milton! Better you left with your integrity intact than hankering after fame and fortune. The latter shall surely open other avenues or opportunities for you by God’s grace.

  2. Correction: In the last paragraph above, …”The latter shall surely open other avenues or opportunities for you by God’s grace.” ought to be …the former.

  3. Weah wants to appoint one of his lapdogs who will sign off on the bogus Eton loan. Keep an eye on the LBDI President (John B.S Davis), who approved the US$200k loan for the minister of state (McGill) as the new cbl governor. Pay to play is the Weah way!

  4. congratulations Mr. Weeks. Mr. Weeks, you need to make clear to the public as to what led to this abrupt decision in the middle of the road when all hell is now breaking loose economically. when that is done, the speculations and doubts will be clear on the minds of the Liberian people. Without speaking out now, your successor will automatically sign the deal whether it will be in our interest or not. We need to be carefully careful in these critical times when taking decisions that have the propensity to endanger the future of our country.
    Once again, thanks for your decisions but we actually await better understanding as to ‘why’ to save the state.

  5. What development Mr. Jarka Doe? Mr. Weeks resignation is a clear indication that with his integrity and his understanding of how the financial systems work, felt that he was not going to succumb to such a bogus loan. At least since the legislators could not stand up for the country, Mr. Weeks had to take high moral ground to ensure that he was not a part to such a bogus loan with a very bad arrangement. Watch out when history begins to repeat itself.

  6. This is the time now that Liberians should stand tall to anything that will bring disgrace to the nation. I applaud Mr Weeks for that stand, I am disappointed in our lawmakers who seem to not know their functions.

  7. I appreciate Dr. Milton Alvin Weeks, for taking such a wise decision. CBL will raise again.

  8. It’s OKAY for the CBL GOVERNOR to resign but what next to FOLLOW? Comprehensive audits to ensure TRANSPARENCY during the period he served.

  9. Great that he has resigned. He has no idea of the position he was occupying. Let the President appoints qualified person to move our nation forward. I do not think this is in connection of any loan but his inability to perform and we need more loans for development.

    • You sound like an idiot. A man who has worked in the banking sector all his life. International as well as Liberia. It is ludicrous for you to say that he had “no idea of the position he was occupying”. I don’t care what you want to say.one thing I can say is that, that family has put out some very smart children. They are no dokos. For your information, it is let the president appoint. Not let the president “appoints”. I think you should be appointed the next governor, since you know the job, and you’re so smart. You don’t touch the toenail on Milton’s big toe.

  10. Let George Weah appoint James Howard who is commenting on the qualification for CBL Governor. James Howard is probably more qualified than Milton Weeks. We need more of James Howard and his likes.

  11. This is not about the CDC government it is about our county James, please don’t think that Liberia only belong to the government alone but the Liberian people’s.
    If we must carried on developing in the southeast and some parts of the county. we need to take time how we go about to do these things.
    If we are not careful we will credit the money and leave this country in to mess.

  12. Congratulations Mr. Weeks after eating your own you now step down.
    If the president and his immature leadership like they can give the country in sovereign guarantee for the US$536 million loan from ETON Private Finance. Group of stupid people.
    At least you ate your own.

  13. Milton Weeks resigned and so what? He is not the only Liberian who knows about banking. Weeks came out of Ellen regime where you can do as you wish, but not this new administration. All these speculations, let him be a man and break the news. All these people from the opposition who thinks that Weeks resigned to keep his integrity, wait and hear what is coming up soon.

  14. Weeks is from a well educated family and he has worked extensively in liberia and the international circle are no secret. What is not seen yet is a splendid performance as central bank governor. It is not a step backward by this government to question the performance of one important institution in the form of the central bank when massive inflation is not being regulated in Liberia. Moreover it not a crime by the government to borrow money to build liberia. If Weeks does not perform well to yield tangibles in the economy , he goes likewise any individual who performance below average in the government. Liberians, dont be afraid to borrow money to build roads for your country but be afraid how that money is wisely spend when borrowed. Liberia will be solid again and our normal days shall return under this patriotic president George M.Weah.

  15. “High road”, yeah right, yet Governor Weeks didn’t resign last year when the Sirleaf government gave deaf years to his alarm that USD $536 million – equivalent of annual budget – was illegally transferred to accounts abroad. And isn’t it ironical that the same pundits who derided the Taylor regime as illegitimate, though elected, are using its legislative act as justification to impose a CBL governor on the new administration.

    Apart from a Supreme Court justice, which is constitutionally a tenured position, no administration should grant tenure beyond its own duration. Some variables go into appointing principal aides, and the tenure gimmick in a public office is an overreach.

  16. I am very much worry as to whether or not the resignation of the Central Bank`s Governor, the replacement of the LRA and the eventual withdrawal of the old banknotes will not make any impact. Reason being that these are not economic indicators or factors. But withdrawing the USD as a secular currency, and paying all governmental officials in the LB dollars, and reducing their salaries of those earning more than $5000,00 USD by 50% (fifty percent), and collecting all government`s revenues/taxes in LB dollars make sense!

    As I once said on this very forum and now repeating:

    1.The government officials should have declared their assets immediately upon taking office as means of gaining donors` trust for the flow of aid in term of budgetary support directly or indirectly.

    2. The government should have audited passed Ellen Johnson Sirleaf et al., regime and come up with what she met in the Liberians` coffer on a national press conference as a guarantee or trust for domestic and international lenders/banks. For example, Sirleaf claimed that she left 150 millions dollar in State`s coffer or reserved, the new government said no money. Who saying the truth and should be trusted?

    3. The government by this time should have concluded all investigations of the over 60 concession agreements/contracts by mean of publishing their liability on Liberia`s national development agenda, and the investigation and prosecution of passed corrupt government`s officials as a benchmark with its own rules of engagement.

    4. The government should have analysed and concluded its pro-poor agenda by means of advantage and liability presented to domestic and international partners. However, sacking people for political or whatsoever reason(s) might create more injuries on the already vulnerable economy!

    Why? Simply because the exchange rate is not actually control by the Central Bank and the LRA, but rather by the traders, like the Lebanese and Indians amongst other.

    I am not an economist, but a jurist by definition, and besides, my common sense tell me that when law are not respected as mentioned above, than the level of production of goods and services are to declined. For example, we can considered most if not all of the appointments made thus far, to ascertained as to whether or not they met the due process of law. I mean competent, education etc. Was the due process of the law of the land respected or followed?

    Ellen Johnson Sirleaf gained donors confident not only because she is a beautiful bright woman, but immediately upon taking office, Sirleaf declared her assets and liability, she arrested Chairman Charles Gyude Bryant on the basis of institutional corruption and jailed him thereof.

    This was to tell the donors, international community, and Liberians in general that she could be trusted with their money, and as we all know the money came in. Weah should have spoken this very language. You can not allowed sympathy to exceed your interests. With that being said, it is imperative to note, that it is not yet too late for us to do the right and noble thing, by putting Liberia first regardless of the circumstances.

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