This newspaper’s attention is drawn to a front page story carried in its March 20, 2019 edition headlined “Speaker Chambers Blames Past Gov’t for Country’s Failing Economy”. According to reporter David Menjor, who wrote the story, House Speaker Bhofal Chambers has charged the past administration for being responsible for the current difficult economic situation the country faces.
In a recent radio interview with the Liberia Broadcasting System (LBS), Speaker Chambers said the failure of the past government to properly legislate concession agreements is responsible for the now faltering economy.
He noted further, “We all are aware of reports which clearly noted that out of the sixty-eight concession agreements signed between the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s regime and foreign companies or investors, only two were in line with the best international practices of concession deals between the government and the investors”.
For all what is being attributed to the past government, there can be no denying that Speaker Chambers then Representative Chambers also served in the past government in the Legislature where the sixty-six bogus concession agreements were passed into law. Similarly too was President Weah who served as Senator of Montserrado County. Collectively, they also share blame for the passage of those bogus agreements. To the best of available evidence, there is only one legislator who, on the record implored his colleagues, without success, to refrain from passing the Elenilto Agreement without first having done sufficient due diligence.
And when that failed, the legislator also wrote President Sirleaf also imploring her, without success, to veto the Elenilto bill should it come before her without having passed the requisite due diligence.
Aside from this now former legislator (name withheld), there is none other on record for having expressed opposition to the passage of bogus concession agreements. Speaker Chambers must now show his clean hands, if he has any, now that he has come to equity.
The point being made here is that neither Speaker Chambers nor President Weah can honestly absolve themselves of blame for the malfeasance and or non-feasance committed by members of the Legislature in the discharge of their duties.
Speaker Chambers is therefore reminded that casting blame on the past government for current failures is not an excuse. This is especially when one considers the fact that this government under the leadership of President Weah has flatly refused to audit the past government. President Weah had at one point in time told Liberians that his foremost priority as President was to ensure the protection of President Sirleaf’s interests whatever those interests were.
For example despite strenuous denials of culpability in the alleged missing billions of printed Liberian dollar banknotes, authorities at the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) and the Ministry of Finance did not provide investigators the cooperation expected. CBL officials according to both the PIT and Kroll reports actively prevented investigators from accessing the CBL’s vaults to conduct verification checks on local and foreign currency banknotes held in its vaults.
Now if Speaker Chambers maintains that the past government should be blamed, then why is this government at the same time acting in ways that suggest this government has something to hide, a “Kukujumuku” kind of situation?
Whatever the case, it must not be forgotten that neither Speaker Chambers nor President Weah is a stranger to national governance, both individuals having previously served as legislators. They must have been aware of the challenges any successor to President Sirleaf would have had to face because they (meaning the Coalition for Democratic Change) proclaimed themselves to be ready and fit for the task to lead and develop the nation.
And the grand plan through which this would be achieved is the Pro Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development. After a little over a year, it is beginning to appear that the plan may not be actualized for the benefit of the people.
Reports from the IMF/World Bank instead paint a rather gloomy picture of the country’s economic situation which appear to worsening by the day with the continued slide of the Liberian dollar. The exchange rate now stands at 163 Liberian dollars to one US dollar and threatens to slide even further.
Corruption and huge but unplanned increases to the national wage bill have been singled out as major problems threatening macroeconomic stability and yet officials of this government appear to be little troubled by these developments. Speaker Chambers has accused the past government of a host of ills which may indeed be true.
But how can Speaker Chambers explain that the national budget law was tampered with right under his watch with the siphoning of thousands of dollars in questionable allocations to private interests including those of his Pleebo Health Center and other private clinics — one belonging to the wife of Representative Jeremiah Koung and another to the wife of Liberia’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Dee Maxwell Kemayah?
This newspaper would remind Speaker Chambers that this government has a charge to lead which it must do. But it cannot do so while blaming others for things it can do or has failed to do. For example, this government has failed to tackle corruption and take on corrupt officials past and or present. Yet at the same time, it is blaming the past government for corruption.
How can Speaker Chambers, for example, account for the fact that the NPA has unilaterally entered an agreement with a foreign company without the approval of the Legislature and there is not a whimper of protest from the head of the Legislature.
How can Speaker Chambers also account for the passage of a Mineral Development Agreement awarding concession rights over virtually the entire southeast to a foreign company, in which the President Pro Tempore of the Senate has shares? Can the Sirleaf government be blamed for this?
Perhaps Speaker Chambers needs to reminded of the saying that “You can fool some of the people all of the time but you cannot fool all the people all of the time”.