The Liberian Senate has denied any evidence of embezzlement by any or a group of Senators as reported in the media last week.
In a statement issued by the Secretariat of the Senate over the weekend, the money involved was the payment of salaries and benefits to members of the Legislature for an extraordinary sitting at the request of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf “upon which a proclamation issued to the public is constitutional.”
The Senate plenary explained that it constituted an ad hoc committee to review and investigate information it had earlier received relating to a 100 percent payment on account of the Special Sitting in the name of the Liberian Senate, and the committee’s report was forwarded to the Committee on Ways, Means, Finance and Budget for its response.
Interestingly, the Ways, Means, Finance and Budget Committee is chaired by Grand Cape Mount County ranking Senator Edward Boakai Dagoseh, who was one of three Senators named in recent media reports as tampering with money allotted for the special sitting.
The statement noted that, “based on the response provided to Plenary by the Committee on Ways, Means, Finance and Budget and confirmed by the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning through the Integrated Finance Management Information System (IFMIS), it says that only 50 percent (is) to be paid upon improvement in our revenue performance.”
The statement further revealed that the method of payment to Senators and the manner of distribution, which “created concerns among Senators, has since been addressed and the Plenary of the Liberian Senate has endorsed the report and the matter is considered closed.”
Since their return to the Capitol Building on November 8 for the special sitting through the Presidential proclamation, the Senators have failed to conduct activities in open Plenary, and instead always reverted to executive sessions, behind closed doors.
After over four hours of reported nerve wrecking and heated deliberations, the Senators emerged from behind the Senate’s mahogany chamber doors displaying some signs that bills submitted by President Sireaf may now receive some possible actions.
The amount of money in question is not clear, but several reports put the amount at over US$400,000.
Meanwhile, the pecuniary in-house misunderstanding among the lawmakers may have delayed the confirmation of several nominees who have already gone through hearings, like Madam Angela Cassell Bush, Minister of State Without Portfolio-designate; and Mr Sylvester M. Grigsby, Minister of State for Presidential Affairs-designate.
Several nominees were placed on last Thursday’s agenda for consideration and it is expected that next Thursday’s agenda will be loaded to accommodate several items neglected due to the financial benefits crisis.