Justice Minister Frank Musa Dean has ordered the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission to conduct an audit into the findings of the recent General Auditing Commission (GAC) report on the US$25 million mop-up exercise conducted by the country’s Technical Economic Management Team (TEMT).
In a communication to Charles Gibson, III, Officer in Charge of the LACC, Minister Dean said: “We present sincere compliment and herewith, submit to you for a scale investigations, matters and issues emanating from the GAC audit report the US$25 million mop-up exercise conducted by the country’s TEMT.
“Considering the sensitivity of the matters and issues associated with the said audit report, the Ministry of Justice requests that you conduct this investigation in the shortest possible time”.
Meanwhile, Min. Dean has informed the Executive Director for the CBL Executive Governor Nathaniel Patray about the pending investigations and request the CBL’s cooperation.
However, observers have questioned the move in light of the fact that Finance Minister Samuel Tweah publicly pronounced that he made the decision to skirt the commercial banks in favor of money exchangers because as he put it, the use of commercial banks for the infusion would not have yielded the desired results.
Observers also note that the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) is part of the TEMT, which is headed by Finance Minister Samuel D. Tweah, Jr. and Nathaniel Patray. Justice Minister Musa Dean is also a member of the TEMT under whose watch the infusion exercise was conducted. Strangely, according to a long practicing lawyer (name withheld), attempts are being made to shift responsibility to the Governor of the CBL when members of the TEMT in fact bear collective responsibility for the outcomes of the exercise.
Further, according to the lawyer, under the legal doctrine of “respondeat superior” an employer is liable for the negligent acts or omissions of his/her employee which are committed within the scope of his/her employment.
To impose liability, there should be some evidence that a master-servant relationship existed between the parties. The test to determine if respondeat superior applies is whether the person sought to be charged as a master had the right or power to control and direct the physical conduct of the other in the performance of the act. If there is no right to control, there is no liability. [Wilson v. United States, 989 F.2d 953, 958 (8th Cir. Mo. 1993)].
In view of this case law, according to the lawyer, Tweah should appropriately be held liable as head of the TEMT who had publicly announced that rather than going through the commercial banks, he made the decision to use local money exchangers in a process which it turns out was marred by outright fraud.
On the question of fraudulent activities at the CBL, the lawyer observed that the both reports noted that such activities were conducted over a period predating the appointment of Patray as CBL Governor and continued through his tenure. He added that under Patray’s watch, investigators were denied access to the CBL’s vaults to do confirmatory checks which, according to the lawyer suggests that Patray had something to hide either in protection of his own interests or those of others.
The GAC audit was ordered by President George Weah in March 2019 to in the wake of the KROLL and PIT reports suggesting criminal culpability on the part of CBL officials handling the printing of billions of Liberian dollar banknotes.
The GAC report, according to financial analysts, was not an audit because the terms of the exercise were, contrary to practice, agreed upon between the Auditor-General and TEMT member Justice Minister Musa Dean. The watered-down exercise however revealed that US$2,378,187.00 had not been properly accounted for during the US$25 million mop-up exercise conducted by the TEMT.
However, a TEMT member, Justice Minister Musa Dean is now placing blame for the outcomes of the failed US$25m infusion and mop-up exercise on another TENMT member, CBL Governor Patray while the head of the TEMT and leader of the exercise is being left off the hook as Justice Minister Dean insists the burden of proof to establish the veracity of those bogus transactions and the existence of entities referenced in the official report of the infusion and mop-up exercise.
The minister said consistent with the findings of the GAC’s report, L$2.6 billion, representing the value of United States seventeen million (US$17 million), was actually brought to the CBL, indicating that “it can safely be concluded that no money is missing in the US$25 million mop up exercise.”
It can be recalled that concerns about financial impropriety have dogged the Weah administration of late, with donor countries and other stakeholders including the United Nations and the World Bank, calling on the government to properly account for or restitute monies illegally withdrawn from their accounts which were earmarked for support to various projects.
Just how this imbroglio will be laid to rest remains unclear. What is however clear is that given current developments, increased public pressure for accountability may not diminish anytime soon.