Min. Tweah Tells Senate, says transaction was done ‘exclusively outside the banking sector’
President George Weah’s Economic Management Team, headed by Finance and Development Planning Minister Samuel Tweah, yesterday, November 13, appeared before the Senate for in marathon public hearing on the state of the economy, which lasted for over four-hours.
However, due to the absence of the Executive Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), Nathaniel R. Patray, or any of his deputies during the hearing, and the fact that most of the concerns were centered on the monetary aspect of the economy, the Senate decided that the interaction continues on Tuesday, November 20, at which time a high powered team from the CBL will be present.
Although Finance Minister Tweah was answering questions from a 38-page financial document, he assured Senate plenary that the intervention of President Weah, through the infusion of a US$25 million stimulus package, has helped to thwart what was gradually becoming a looming financial crisis, following the alarming depreciation of the local currency.
Minister Tweah said, however, that the transaction, unlike others during the past government, was done exclusively outside the banking sector, and assured that the CBL, which was responsible for the process, has documents with the names, telephone numbers, and emails of all those who benefited.
He said through the tax waiver, the government has been losing over US$200 million, which he said the current government is going to look at critically.
Tweah disclosed that of the US$25 million, US$17.1 million was used to mop up LD$2.3 billion from the market and stated further that the US$25 million was not intended to remain sustainable but a quick action intervention, which has helped to keep the exchange rate stable for some time.
He said that currently, there is L$17.1 billion in circulation outside the banking sector.
On the question of whether there is currently a team of foreign investigators and/or forensic auditors in the country, Minister Tweah said that the issue was outside the scope of his team’s mandate, and so he referred the Senate to the Ministry of Justice. But financial experts have questioned the legality of Minister Tweah’s actions to affect the monetary policy which is entirely the prerogative of the Central Bank.
He could not also recollect whether the printing of new currency was discussed by the transition team of which he was a part, or whether the amount of money in the CBL’s vaults was disclosed to the transition team, but assured that the CBL will be well placed to answer such a query.
LRA Commissioner General Thomas Doe Nah informed the hearing that the entity is doing well as projected and is above target and that as of October 1, the revenue collection stands at US$161.9 million as compared to the same period last year, which was US$115 million.
Mr.Nah said the LRA is on track to realize its budgetary revenue projection of US$31 million from the Road Fund, as it has so far collected the amount of US$7.4 million that is placed in an escrow account from its recent consolidated account.
Meanwhile, as earlier reported by this newspaper, the Senate has received a communication from the House of Representatives nominating managers who are expected to accompany the article of impeachment and present same to Senate Plenary on tomorrow’s Thursday.
Immediately thereafter on Friday, Senate sources disclosed to this newspaper that members of the august body will meet to set a date to commence the impeachment trial.