The Association of Liberian Journalists in the Americas (ALJA) says President George Weah and his Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) government are not committed to the nation’s fight against corruption.
Although ALJA says President Weah and the CDC administration upon taking over the leadership of Liberia less than two years ago, vowed to make shady deals in the public sector things of the past, they have proven non-committal to the struggle.
ALJA said the Weah administration has failed miserably in keeping the promise. In a press release issued on June 4, 2019, ALJA said instead of prosecuting individuals, who engage in brazen thievery and acts that undermine the public coffers, President Weah and the CDC government pamper and shield them from facing justice.
ALJA cited one of such failures as President Weah and the CDC administration’s ambivalence in taking punitive action against Finance and Development Planning Minister Samuel Tweah, Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) Governor Nathaniel Patray and members of the Technical Economic Management Team(TEMT) for the leadership roles they played in the mismanagement of the government’s fiasco US$25 million mop-up exercise. The mop-up exercise was reportedly intended to rejuvenate the Liberian economy through the purchase of excess Liberian dollars from the market.
The Association says it is mind-boggling for Mr. Weah and Liberia’s Attorney General, Musa Dean, to make public pronouncements that are fixated on shielding and stalling the prosecution of the accused public officials.
ALJA said despite the President and Cllr. Dean’s receipt of audit reports compiled by the Presidential Investigative Team (PIT), Kroll Associates (US based accounting firm) and the General Auditing Commission (GAC) that indict Minister Tweah, Governor Patray, and members of the TEMT for reported fraud after exhaustive probes into the printing of the more than L$16 billion by the CBL without authorization from the Legislature during the Johnson-Sirleaf administration; and the bank and the TEMT’s implementation of the Weah administration’s much herald US$25 million mop-up exercise, the President and Dean remain hesitant in bringing them to justice.
ALJA said instead of enforcing the audit reports, which indict the CBL and the TEMT chaired by Minister Tweah, and co-chaired by Governor Patray, Weah and Dean have rather chosen to refer the case of the misapplied US$25 million mop-up fund to the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) for another investigation.
The US-based Liberian journalists described the President and the Attorney General’s action as a cunning ploy fixated on the vindication of Minister Tweah, Governor Patray and members of the TEMT that participated in the mop-up exercise.
ALJA wondered what’s the essence of the LACC’s probe when the government acting on the Kroll and PIT’s audit reports in March of this year, initiated the aggressive trial of some past executives of the CBL, including former Governor Milton Weeks and former Deputy Governor, Charles Sirleaf, for their reported roles played in the printing of the 16 billion bank notes.
The Association says unless Minister Tweah, Governor Patray and members of the TEMT, who are linked to the failed mop-up exercise are dismissed, arrested and prosecuted, the ongoing trial of the former CBL executives would be considered a ‘witch hunt,’ because the crimes they allegedly committed are similar to those committed by Tweah, Patray and the rest of the TEMT members.
ALJA said in the wake of the reported fraud at the CBL and the inexcusable role Governor Patray played in the implementation of the mop-up exercise as co-chairman of the TEMT, it is unwise for the President to announce that Patray will be replaced from the CBL within three months for “age-related mandatory retirement.”
ALJA notes instead of retiring the accused Governor, Mr. Weah should demonstrate leadership by dismissing and surrendering him, Minister Tweah and members of the TEMT linked to the theft of the mop-up exercise fund to the Justice Ministry for speedy trial.
Meanwhile, ALJA says it welcomes President Weah and the CDC administration’s recent pledge to begin the aggressive review of all GAC’s audits over the past 10 years; and the commencement of legal actions against anyone implicated in those audit reports.
The Association said the government’s promise to prosecute anyone found culpable in the audit reports in keeping with the laws of Liberia; and at the same time, hire the services of international auditing and investigative firms to go after all monies and resources that were illegally taken from Liberia over the last 10 years, sound plausible.
ALJA maintains it considers the pronouncement a ‘mere public stunt’ intended to generate political support for the government unless President Weah begins to take concrete actions that demonstrates the CDC led government’s commitment to accountability in the public sector and adherence to the rule of law in the country.
ALJA said while it supports the audit and trial of accused former officials of the Johnson-Sirleaf administration, it is however, opposed to selective justice as being practiced by the President and the CDC government. The Association said it is double standard for the Weah administration to prosecute former officials of the Sirleaf government for alleged fraud, while ostensibly refusing to checkmate and prosecute officials of the administration that are engaged in acts that are inimical to the Liberian economy, and the peace and stability of the country.
In a related development, ALJA says the content of President Weah’s recent pre-recorded state of the nation address did not reflect the realities of life in today’s Liberia, “it was laden with falsehood; and it provided no prescription for reversing the worsening economic condition in the country.”
ALJA said it is deceptive for the President to describe the state of the nation as “strong” when most Liberians can barely afford the cost of regular meal. The Association said Mr. Weah’s pronouncement insinuates that he lives in a utopia; and he is out of touch with happenings in the country.
ALJA wondered how would the President operationalize the phrase “strong nation,” when hospitals, schools among other institutions of government are barely functioning due to the prevailing economic hardship.