Finance Minister Tweah Must Tell the People the Truth About the ‘Missing Money’

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The “hala hala” over this missing money business appears to be going nowhere, try as hard as they may to smolder free spirited public discussion on the matter. Since this newspaper began following the matter closely, it has received, in addition to commendations from the public including condemnations of the vilest sort from some quarters as well. For the record, this newspaper has also since received offers of financial inducements from some officials to bury or kill the story and refrain from further comments on the issue. The Finance Minister must therefore tell the Liberian People the Truth.

But just why would government officials be offering financial inducements to kill the story or have this newspaper refrain from reporting or commenting on unfolding developments if they have nothing to hide? As it appears, every effort is being spent to cast blame entirely on the Central Bank of Liberia while other government officials, adopting a holier than thou attitude, continue to issue conflicting accounts of monies brought into the country.

As noted in previous editorials, Information Minister Eugene Nagbe knew just what he was talking about when he affirmed that money was indeed printed in Lebanon and China. The Central Bank maintains that money they received into their accounts was printed in Sweden by a company called Crane and that every penny can be accounted for. Interestingly money did come into the country after the changeover in government from President Sirleaf to President George Weah as was attested to by Minister Nagbe on public radio.

According to sources, Finance officials appear bent on changing the narrative from money missing to no money missing and this was what President Sirleaf may have been referring to when she emphatically stated that every penny printed under her watch can be accounted for. The investigating team set up to probe this affair appears to be lost in the woods just as its head, Alexander Cuffy of the Financial Intelligence Unit, who has come under fire for removing the name of his sister from the list of persons of interest.

From all indications, this investigation may not get anywhere just as the public has predicted. In the opinion of this newspaper, the National Port Authority did, at one point, have custody of the printed money. Any serious investigating body would seek to establish the entire chain of custody of the printed bills. Documents in the possession of the National Port Authority(NPA) would include the Bill of Lading and copy of the manifest.

Other details should include the port of lading meaning the name of the city, town or port where the goods were loaded on the carrier; the name of the shipping agency and the vessel; the identification number of the container; the manifest; the port of destination, meaning the place/port where the container was offloaded from the ship; the receiving agent(s) which should be the NPA/Customs and the Consignee, meaning the person/institution who ordered the goods, the Cost of Insurance and Freight as well.

Going by Minister Nagbe’s account, the bill of lading should also show that the goods were loaded on the vessel in Beirut or any other Lebanese Port for that matter and the date on which it was loaded onto the vessel that brought the goods to Monrovia. Investigators should also be able to establish the date of arrival of the goods, as well as names of individuals who signed receipt of the goods into the warehouse at the Freeport of Monrovia after unloading. This should include NPA and Customs officials.

The date on which the goods were cleared from the Port and by whom should be established. Since vehicles in Liberia are not generally fitted with GPS tracking equipment, investigators would have to rely on accounts of those, including customs officers, brokers and Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) officials who escorted or accompanied the goods out of the Port to its final destination. The time of arrival of the goods at final destination, time of unloading and carting into the warehouse or bank vault as well as officials/functionaries who received the goods and the condition in which the goods were received, should all be recorded.

The CBL has already stated that newly printed money received into its vaults came from Sweden only and no other place. On the other hand, Information Minister has publicly disclosed that to his certain knowledge money was also printed in Lebanon and China. Accordingly, the task now is to show when the money from China and Lebanon arrived in the country and into whose custody the money was entrusted. In short, getting to the bottom of this affair would require a thorough review of the chain of custody.

But if the head of the investigating team, Alexander Cuffy, would out rightly declare that the managing director of the NPA, Cecilia Cuffy Brown is delisted as a person of interest in this investigation, it raises a key question how can the chain of custody be fully established when the head of an institution which played a key role in the movement of that money is excluded from the investigation. What if, for example, officials of the NPA did collude in the unauthorized removal and the surreptitious conveyance of the goods to a destination other than the vaults of the CBL?

At this point, it remains unclear whether or not money printed in Lebanon and China was deposited in the vaults of the Central Bank. Although the CBL has said that it can only account for money printed in Sweden, it has however not said or told the public whether the money printed in Lebanon and China was also received by CBL and deposited in its vaults. Lest we forget, Finance Minister Samuel Tweah did tell the nation that the money was infused into the economy although to date he has not provided evidence of how that money was infused into the economy.

But the public does have evidence showing variations in the security features of the Liberian 100 dollar bill. A businessman, (name withheld) did recently display for the Observer, copies of the Liberian 100 dollar as well as the 50-dollar bills showing distinct but varying security features. These are concerns that must be addressed for the evidence does appear to suggest bad money was indeed infused into the economy.

This is because such variations on the banknotes simply suggest that different templates were used to produce the bills. Had the money been printed by a single source, Crane, as declared in the CBL’s recent press statement, there would not be such variations. Quite clearly, these are issues which Finance Ministry officials need to address rather than the empty but half-hearted explanations coming from that Ministry that leave the public even more confused than ever.

9 COMMENTS

  1. A crime isn’t solved by innuendoes hunches, suspicions, speculations, etc., but by following leads to find facts. Like I said before, those who got tips from “former government officials” about a vanishing $16 billion container should ask their sources to show them a smoking gun, proof. Not to mention that inducement offered by an official to end fanning of a chaotic situation doesn’t necessarily mean guilt. This container saga is affecting Liberia’s image with investors and partners abroad, including undermining public confidence in a new government, so one can understand farsighted officials wanting it to go away, by any means. It won’t be the first time a government – even in western countries – looking for a shortcut out of a dilemma of security distress significance.

    Unlike some of us with background from elsewhere, many well-meaning Liberians just started experiencing a sort of multiparty democracy in 2005, hence few are behaving like kids in a candy store. The truth, though, chaos always ends democracy, so the earlier we belt elitist condescension and prejudice around our waists, the better for tranquility. This isn’t to suggest that the investigation should end, but if journalists have no useful information, like their colleagues at “Washington Post” during Watergate, why keep on casting aspersions on every step taken by the authorities. So I ask, why is PUL not sending a representative on the investigative board?

    God knows I care not for people ready to stoke commotion just to achieve personal agendas or political goals. Some of our friends were carried away by sham patriotic fervor to stoke a war that cost the country a quarter million deaths just for political power, perks, and privileges. Meanwhile, the lives of poor people only got worse, and, ironically, some of the same Che Guvaras are at the vanguard today for a war crimes court. The wicked hypocrisy is repugnant and few of us have dedicated ourselves to disrupt a repetition

  2. One keeping abreast and objectively reviewing the daily articles on the missing money will most certainly observe a trend that’s consistent across the various responses received from various arms of the government. That consistent trend is that there is an appearance of conflict of interest, to not be transparent, and no confidence in the expertise of those tasked with investigating or probing deep into the missing notes.

    That’s why, the local papers must remain diligent in unearthing the truth of what took place from the appropriate authority of the government after an independent organization with global credibility can ascertain the facts and provide an unqualified opinion on the solvency of the money.

    This does not preclude the government in its own investigation of whether there were legal authority to print money, and whether all the steps taken were in compliance with the law.

    As such, I believe the FBI and U.S Treasury forensic experts and investigators should be welcomed and allowed to work with authority given to them to operate independently with no restraint on whom they can reach out to. Any investigation conducted by an internal agency where any member has a material conflict of interest or the appearance of it will compromise the integrity of the investigation. And this would create a reputational risk for the nation when dealing with major corporate entities in any one or all developed countries.

    One get the sense of the government’s cavalier approach in how it is investigating and informing the public, as if the citizenry have no right to demand accountability, or that anyone who raise questions must be a paid protestor with a malicious intent towards the government. Such ideals are the very sign of the beginning of a totalitarian mindset that creeps into public offices and subsequently undermine democratic principles that leads to crises so evidence in many emerging nations.

    Because the papers provide a forum to express one’s thought to the larger population, it’s encumbent that they not become complacent in not holding all public officials accountable for their actions. And that can be through fact based stories, opinions of Editorial staffs relying on information obtained from protected private interviews with experts and investigative analysis of actions by the government own media releases. That’s the model followed by the Washington Post, Guardian, New York Times, Wall Street Journal and the likes in advanced democratic societies. I should know. I had to respond to a Wall Street article about my firm that threatened my then employer’s reputation. The story was corrected, however, only after m firm, a publicly traded company provided a more clarified report that provided an understanding of the various public disclosures. The Liberian government has that opportunity to do the same and it must not scapegoat the media and the opposing political parties.

  3. Well, any attempt by readers at holding Liberian journalists to account for unfair, misleading, or defamatory reporting is considered an affront and punished by vicious character assassination. So if journalists don’t trust government-appointed investigators, and FBI or Scotland Yard detectives/ auditors can’t come running to the country, the Press Union of Liberia should recommend two journalists to join the board handling the probe. Liberians at home and abroad would like the allegation proved or disproved for closure.

    Meanwhile, this case isn’t going to continue beyond December to distract the ruling CDC-Coalition from what it was elected to do for poor people because some journalists think otherwise. It would seem the brinkmanship some media outlets never tried with President Sirleaf, whom they subserviently christened “Iron Lady”, is what few are testing here. If some amount missing from the money in issue, journalists with knowledge should end the suspense by revealing information. But those betting that the case would become a political football to weaken the government and stoke a security crisis are playing a dismaying game of dare.

  4. Mr. Sylvester Gbayahforh Moses,

    Please appeal to the CDC government to encourage (current and former) employees at the Central Bank and Ministry of Finance to provide the internal documents created, if any, in processing the L$16B. These documents, if made available to the public, would help us all to determine whether there is a need for an investigation or not.

    Alternatively, the government could obtain work papers from the External Audit Firm in order to find out if it (External Audit Firm) included any comment about the inclusion of the bank notes within its findings. Interestingly, the 2016 and 2017 audited financial statements included notes about the 2016 and 2017 expenses incurred in printing and transporting the bank notes.

    The International Financial Reporting System (IFRS) and Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) require the auditee (CBL, in this case ) and external auditor (KPMG, in this case) to include such a business transaction within the year-end financial statements and External Audited Financial Statements.

  5. As an avid reader and commenter on some of your elegantly-written, well-researched, and richly-sourced insightful articles regarding multifaceted aspects of our resilient malfuctioning and dysfuctional economy, I, frankly, feel flattered by this request. However, though invested in helping clear security-related hindrances in the way of President Weah’s pro-poor projections, am far from having an official pipeline to his government. Anyway, most likely, officials at the ministries of justice, finance, and information would read this well-meaning assistance toward helping the investigative panel move forward. And if you don’t mind, I took the liberty of adding the below-mentioned recent comment you posted to an article written by the addressee for the Perspective Journal.

    Dr. Abdoulaye W. Dukule,
    Please ask our Liberia’s international sales lady (the former President of the Republic of Liberia, Ms. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf) to kindly show the current Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia on which pages of the 2016 and 2017 financial statements he (Governor) can identify the recording of the receipt and deposit of any amount of the L$16B printed in 2016 and 2017.

    Alternatively, the former President and, or any her former advisers can identify the
    Financial Notes related to the L$16B within the 2016 and 2017 audited financial statements.
    Thanks, the deposit document might help the investigators.

  6. But the Finance Minister have told the truth about this money; which is that there is no money lost nor stolen. And from what I have detected , researched, and consulted, Private investigators here in the West, the minister is right; and this newspaper which initially published this information must have not been acting independently, but been paid By some external source within the country – most likely Alex Cummings who is so obsessed for power, but lacks the national constituency, political knowledge and popularity to ever reach such dream.

  7. Fighter pilots say when their planes are receiving heavy flaks from below, they’re on target: I’m. As for abuse from spineless anonymous warmongers, who won’t ignore that, folks.

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