‘What Clear Lies!’ says Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf

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Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Former President dismisses allegations of her administration’s involvement in the alleged ‘missing’ 16 billion Liberian dollar banknotes.

The former President’s statement came days after Minister of Justice Frank Musa Dean, in a statement, said the current administration was not informed about the arrival of the containers and bags of money into the country.

Former president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, in a BBC Focus on Africa Program last Friday, said that the drama surrounding the alleged missing L$16 billion are clear lies. “What clear lies!” she said, noting that, “There is no missing money.”

She added: “They should take time and check the facts. They should take time and go through the process before coming to the public. The records are there. I am certain whatever my administration did was in accordance with the law and the Constitution and there is no money missing.”

She further told the BBC presenter that, “This container that they’re talking about, the Minister of Finance has been clear on that.  He said there’s no container or money missing.”

President Sirleaf also questioned the motive of the government for holding on to the investigative report compiled by the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) surrounding the reportedly missing L$16 billion.

Madam Sirleaf added that the Central Bank has already done an investigation, which clearly gives an answer to the reportedly missing money, but it is surprising that the report has not been released.

“Why haven’t they released the report of the investigation? Why are they sitting on it? Does the President realize what he has done to the country? The reputation of the country is also at stake. Talking about L$16 billion; do they know what the GDP of this country is?” Madam Sirleaf asked.

She also distanced herself from the report that she ordered the printing of the extra L$10 billion in banknotes, although her government was ordered to print only L$5 billion by the legislature in 2016.

“I have to laugh because they don’t understand how things operate. The Central Bank is an autonomous institution and the legislature by its constitutional role gives approval for the printing of banknotes; the record on that is clear. They should have taken the time to check the facts before coming up to the public.

“I’m angry, I’m shocked. When it comes to the government, I say this is our country, we have a new President, and we all must support him for the good of our country. I’ll like to call on the government – given that the country’s reputation and innocent people’s reputation has been impugned – they must go back to the media and say that the investigation is concluded and the evidence and facts are known, they must go back to the media and correct it,” she added.

Meanwhile, Madam Sirleaf has frowned at the manner in which Information Minister Eugene Nagbe has disseminated information concerning the reported missing L$16 billion.

“For what I know, contracts were signed with a company called CRANE International to print the Liberian dollar banknotes only in Sweden. The records on that are clear. What Mr. Nagbe is doing is impugning innocent people’s reputation and credibility. I don’t know where he got his information from but he must answer to where he got his information from,” Madam Sirleaf said.

In a related development, President Weah, in a statement issued over the weekend, noted: “I ask all citizens to be patient and those involved in the investigation to be cooperative. I am confident that in the end, we will come to a logical conclusion into the circumstances surrounding this money and if anyone is caught in any financial malfeasance they will be held accountable to the full extent. I can assure you, my fellow Liberians, proper accountability of the money in question is vital to my government’s ability to improve your lives.

“As we accelerate our investigation to which I have invited international partners to join in in advising us to ensure transparency, let us remain calm and have faith in the process.

“I believe that the mandate I received from you is a mandate to end corruption in public service and I remain fully committed to this task. I promise to deliver on this mandate and I will not let you down.”

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11 COMMENTS

  1. Jorweah, the international soccer star, must soon put on the presidential jersey and begin thinking and speaking like a national leader, not a team captain. What the hell is he doing at the UN at a time like this? Shouldn’t he be in Monrovia right now providing credible answers to the questions being posed by the Liberian people? Doesn’t he realize that in this case of “the missing billions” even his pro-poor common people regard him and Ellen Sirleaf as Big Boy No.1 and Big Boy No.2, and hold them primarily responsible and accountable for the mess? Come on now…

  2. What’s troubling is that the Legislature actually granted authority to the CBL to ‘replace completely all legacy notes…” That’s the authorization right there. It was never limited to just the L$5B. The Legislature went further in its instructions that the CBL replenish the legacy notes completely with new notes. Ellen has correctly stated the Legislature exercised its Constitutional authority in so doing. She also correctly stated the CBL is an autonomous Agency that functions independent in its decision making, and took the secondary step of authorizing the printing of the L$10B in order to replace the remaining legacy notes after the initial L$5B. The CBL report should clarify that. Sirleaf’s government is not responsible for the printing. If the actual facts are to be considered, it’s the Legislature that should be held accountable. Its instructions were to print as much as was sufficient to replace completely the legacy notes.

    Here is the language in the Legislature’s instruction:

    “to replace the legacy notes completely with the newly printed banknotes so that there will be a single type of Liberian currency, thus facilitating proper control of the money supply.”

    Do members of the Legislature understand this instruction? If their intention was different than what the authorization states, they failed to provide that. I

    • I also think the former government and the CBL should have further inquire to the Legislature what they meant by “replacing the legacy notes.” How much of these legacy notes were circulating on the Liberian market or in the vault at the CBL? Was it LD$ 5 Billion or LD$ 15 Billion? The CBL was authorized through the Legislature to print LD$ 5 Billion. I believe both got it wrong from the start and both should be blamed. But hard questions still needs to be asked and inquiries made about the printing of the money, it’s sudden disappearance in Liberia, who authorized who, Did the money entered into the Liberian market, and if so, how much, and was the recent $25 Million released by the JorWeah led CDC government meant to prop up the missing billions?

  3. Larry Emerson please shout it louder so the people in the back can hear you !

    The damn legislature has no sense ofwhat they can be doing!

  4. Christopher. The CBL is the only legally authorized Agency that was responsible for executing the Legislature’s mandate under the statute, not the Ellen’s government. And the CBL functions as an autonomous Agency with a Board that is subject to Legislative oversight. So, Ellen had no need to seek clarification. But the larger issue, to your point, is that one will have to assume that the CBL did not understand the words or instruction, “to replace the legacy notes completely…” I have to disagree with any such assumption and I understand the legal as well as the business usage of the term. The Legislature has a responsibility to be unambiguous in its pronouncements and mandates. And I have no doubt that their intent was to replace all legacy notes in the economy. If they believed that the L$5B amount was to replace all legacy notes, they have a responsibility to prove how they arrived at that number. It appears they simply did not do their due diligence in determining the actual amount of legacy notes in the economy. I’m not sure if the Legislature even invited the Finance Ministry and the CBL into providing a comprehensive analysis of money printed that were still outstanding from the Taylor’s administration, in order to ascertain what was still available under the Ellen’s administration taking into consideration any that had already been authorized and printed since then, before determining the new authorization. Again, it was not the former government’s responsibility to print notes and had no need to seek clarification on the statement. It was the CBL and would have had the need to do such only if the instruction was not clear. But the instruction is self explicatory and needs no further argument. I think that’s why the Finance Minister was trying to reconcile in his public statement about the investigation centering around what was printed from 2016 to 2018. Unfortunately, he has received numerous criticism, including on unrelated issues that have nothing to do with his official knowledge about what may have occurred.

    It’s important that people support the Legislature in its functions, but they must be held accountable where they failed, and I will not hesitate to do both. Folks have to go above and beyond granting support to legislators based on some affiliation, whether tribal, regional or otherwise, but instead on qualification and their ability to seek the interest of their constituents’ interest first and foremost. There should be more voices demanding accountability from the Legislature than currently being levied towards Ellen Sirleaf.

  5. lARRY, i DO AGREE WITH MOST OF WHAT YOU HAVE BUT DISAGREE ON THE FACT THAT THE cbl SHOULDER PART OF THE BLAME. wHY? WAS IT FINANCIALLY PRUDENT TO HAVE PRINTED 15B LD WHEN YOU HAVE IN CIRCULATION APPROXIMATELY 5B LD? iSN’T THE cbl RESPONSIBILITY TO DETERMINE THE TOTAL MONEY IN VAULT AND IN CIRCULATION? IS IT NOT ON THIS BASIS THAT THE CBL WILL REQUEST THE LEGISLATURE TO GRANT IT AUTHORIZATION TO PRINT NEW OR TO REPLACE THE OLD BANKNOTES?

    THERE IS A LOT OF FISH TO FRY HERE. I DON’T THINK THIS MESS IS BASED SOLELY ON INCOMPETENCE BUT EXTREME GREED!!

  6. The more the printing of this money is discussed, the more questions need answer. If L$15 billion was printed and received by the Central Bank, what happened to all that money? How much money was put into circulation in the country. For the period discussed, there was limited number of new notes of Liberian currency in circulation.

    Additionally, we hope the Report will also give a breakdown on the distribution of the US $25M which should have been infused into the economy to prevent further hike in the rate.

    Just want to advise that we have tarnished our reputation with all the cash flight. The people have lost confidence in the reputation of the previous and current administration. Further lies will not help.

    My question to the previous President Madam Sirleaf is why was the Legislature requested to give permission in the first place to the printing of LD 5billion if the Central Bank already had the authority? And, if an additional amount of LD 10bllion was approved by the Board of Directors; was the Legislature notified of the additional money printed and when it arrived in the country?

    Many of us have common sense and some of us book sense. Don’t act like we are illiterate. Just for once, “speak the truth”. The Liberian people will not accept these twisted and tinted explanations.

  7. J M.
    Actually we’re not in disagreement. It is true, the CBL was tasked and has the statutory authority to determine the timing and amount that needed to be infused into the economy. Note, the intent was to replace legacy notes. So the investigation now centers on two things: 1) Did the CBL print in excess of the legacy notes? The authorization was to replace completely the legacy notes. If by their analysis the legacy notes were L$15billion and that’s what they printed, then they implemented the Legislative mandate.
    2) The investigation will and should answer the question you raised. I don’t have evidence that there were 5 billion L$ already in circulation. From the stories I’ve read, the Legislature intent was to replace completely the legacy notes. So, if there were 15 billion then the CBL was mandated as such. Your question is more a concern of the flooding of the economy with Liberian notes. That’s a separate issue that certainly warrants oversight by Congress. But the issue here is whether the CBL violated Congressional authorization to replace the legacy notes. They did not. They received full authorization.

    To Esther’s question, “My question to the previous President Madam Sirleaf is why was the Legislature requested to give permission in the first place to the printing of LD 5billion if the Central Bank already had the authority? And, if an additional amount of LD 10bllion was approved by the Board of Directors; was the Legislature notified of the additional money printed and when it arrived in the country?”

    Esther, your first question incorrectly states what occurred. The Legislature has the Constitutional authority to authorize the printing of money. The Legislature is responsible for authorizing the CBL. The Legislature has the legal responsibility to conduct due diligence, summon appropriate public officials and ascertain the facts in making the decision to authorize the printing of money. It appears they did, as their instructions were specific. The second question about notification is not required. The CBL did not print anything new that was not already authorized. There’s no legal provision to have the Legislature run the daily operations of the CBL. The CBL is an autonomous Agency with an independent Board, with Congressional oversight only. There ought to be, if one does not already exist, a regular scheduled appearance by the CBL Chair before Congress as part of the oversight responsibility the Legislature has over the CBL, where members can inquire on the policy making methods of the CBL Board.

    Your questions about notification to the Legislature assumes the CBL is not independent and has to provide daily update to the Legislature. They don’t. There’s no law mandating such. Note, that the fact the Legislature exercises oversight of the CBL does not mean they know or understand monetary policies. Their oversight has to be part of a formal process and procedures that’s already defined and enshrined in the CBL’s Charter.

    We may not like how things work, but if there’s a law that governs the process and the law was followed, there’s no violation.

  8. We have been hearing rumors of extra money for months
    Would it run like this?
    You are printing a new run of currency. There is a loop hole in the legislation that allows you order an excess amount in your local currency, but the dual currency system in Liberia means you are basically printing USD. The excess money arrives into the country, is seized and worked into the economy without passing through the central bank devaluing the local currency and depending on what was done with the USD, draining the local foreign cash market.

    Like this you could basically print your own money using the Liberian economy to wash it.
    Possible?

  9. Holden, the problem is that the process in Liberia of who authorizes, and who prints the currency are not the most optimal that could have been implemented. So, it makes it easy to have the kind of problem the country is going through with difficulty in determining proper trail of documentation and signatories and the appropriate responsible parties, without a lengthy investigation.

    What you described would be a fraud of massive proportion and a major criminal act. But there has to be evidence and not speculation to prosecute anyone on that basis. Furthermore, no one else can print a valid USD, so there’s no possibility for such unless counterfeits were printed by criminals, which would be a separate issue and have nothing to do with the missing 15 billion dollars. Only the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and the U.S. Mint of the U.S Treasury have that authority. The Federal Reserve only controls the supply and demand by using monetary policies, including setting reserve ratios for banks and interest charge banks for borrowing. When Banks need extra currency, they borrow from the Federal Reserve and likewise they return excess cash to the Federal Reserve. The Federal Reserve can also increase the reserve ratios to reduce the amount held by banks and reduce the banks ability to lend, thus reducing the money supply. They can also influence the increase in money supply by reducing the reserve ratio and interest charge at what’s called the Fed Window (interest charged Banks for borrowing from the Federal Bank).

    In Liberia, you have the Legislature gives authorization, and the CBL, which is the equivalent of the Federal Reserve, given the responsibility for printing the currency. I don’t think there is a legally mandated vendor selected by Law to be the designated printer contracted by the CBL. That means, the Finance Ministry, the equivalent of the U.S. Treasury, is not even part of the process.

    By now, there are enough stories depicting alleged facts and evidence to first establish conclude that the Legislature granted authorization for the replacement of legacy notes. The question for me is, how much legacy notes existed in the economy when the CBL decided to print the amount they printed? Secondly, has it being proven that the amount authorized by the Legislature and printed by the CBL caused the excess flooding of the local currency in the market, or are people lumping two separate issues together simply because of the impact to the economy? They should not be lumped together. The issue with the 15 Billion Liberian Currency should be investigated as an isolated event and traced from the authorization to the printing and delivery and subsequently whether it is missing or was infused into the market. From this conclusion, one would determine if in fact it also contributed to the flooding of currencies into the economy and if there were any fraudulent act by public officials that may have included U.S currency in the CBL’s vaults for the exclusive benefits of those public officials.

    Going forward, I think the Legislature should amend the Constitution to restructure the whole process, where the Ministry of Finance and the CBL are the two primary Agencies of government with the responsibility of authorizing, and facilitating the printing and dispensing of currencies into the economy. And certainly, the Legislature has oversight over governmental agencies, dealing with the purse of the nation.

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