The attention of the Daily Observer is drawn to a front-page story carried in its May 22, 2019 edition under the headlines, “Senate Invites CBL, EMT to Address Rising FX Rate, GAC Audit Report”.
According to the story written by Daily Observer Legislative reporter, J. Burgess Carter, the Liberian Senate on Tuesday, May 21, 2019 voted to mandate its committees on Ways, Means and Finance and Banking and Currency to invite the Executive Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) and members of the Technical Economic Management Team to appear before it to address the status of the economy.
Prime amongst concerns which the Senate seeks to address are reasons for the depreciation of the Liberian dollar against the US dollar, the probe into the alleged missing billions, the US$25 million intended for the mop-up exercise and the general status of the economy which, from all indications, is in a state of sharp decline and which, according to Lofa County Senator Tengbeh, is bringing untold hardships on the Liberian people.
It can be recalled that since the story broke of the alleged missing billions last year that prompted mass street protest in Monrovia, there have been conflicting narratives (official accounts) of what actually happened to the “infusion money”. As it turns out, all these narratives have appeared to be nothing more than tissues of lies and half-truths all woven together to present a plausible story that Liberians could possibly accept.
But the problem is Liberians have rejected these half-baked tissues of lies and half-truths and have instead insisted on proper accountability. From all indications it appears this government has done and is doing all it can to protect and shield from public scrutiny, certain officials especially the all-powerful Finance Minister, Samuel Tweah.
As it appears, chief government spokesperson, Information Minister Eugene Nagbe, has taken a backseat and yielded his front row seat to Justice Minister Musa Frank Dean who has made himself a virtual public laughing stock for his outlandish attempts to interpose between the government/TEMT and an anxious public as an arbiter of the facts when in fact he is complicit given his role as a key member of the TEMT, under whose watch the US$25 million mop-up money vanished into thin air along with the alleged missing billions.
Why, for example, did Justice Minister Dean insist that Auditor-General Yusador Gaye adhere to a set of agreed upon procedures acceptable to him before she could be allowed to proceed with what should have been a forensic audit but never was?
Moreover, the fact that the Auditor-General who, according to the Constitution is supposed to be independent, reporting not to the Executive but to the Legislature, would submit herself and the institution to the whims of an executive functionary, be he Minister of Justice or Injustice, strongly suggests that the Auditor-General was intimidated or coerced into doing what she did.
But this was, as it appears, intended to convey a false impression and create an equally false narrative absolving Finance Minister Tweah of criminal responsibility in the US$25 million infusion exercise and, instead, attributing blame solely to CBL Governor Patray whose displayed pusillanimity defies both logic and imagination. By Tweah’s own admission he took the decision to infuse the US$25m through local businesses and money exchangers.
Monetary policy and currency control are all functions of the Central Bank and not those of the Ministry or Minister of Finance. Part II section 4 of the Act establishing the Central Bank of Liberia subtitled “Functions of the Central Bank.
The Central Bank shall have functional independence, power and authority to:
(1) issue legal tender banknotes and coins;
(2) administer the currency laws and regulate the supply of money;
(3) provide credit to bank-financial institutions on a discretionary basis;
(4) act as fiscal agent for the Government;
(5) administer the New Financial Institutions Act of 1999 and regulate banking activities;
(6) regulate bank and non-bank financial institutions, as well as non-bank financial services institutions;
(7) hold and manage the foreign exchange reserves of Liberia, including gold;
(8) advise the Government on financial and economic matters;
(9) conduct foreign exchange operations;
(10) play an active role in collaboration with bank-financial institutions in the creation and maintenance of efficient and safe mechanisms for payments, clearing and settlements to meet the needs of the financial markets, commerce, government agencies and the general public. The Central Bank shall execute this responsibility through permanent consultations with the bank-financial institutions and through implementation of the proper regulations and standards, as needed”.
Further, in Section 5, titled “Powers of the Central Bank of Liberia”:
The powers of the Central Bank shall include, but not be limited to:
(1) supervision of bank-financial institutions, non-bank financial institutions and authorized non-bank financial services dealers and brokers;
(2) management of aggregate credit in the economy by indirect means, by loan securitization, purchase and sale of securities, transactions in derivatives and foreign exchange and through the establishment of required reserves of commercial banks under its jurisdiction;
(3) formulation and implementation of monetary policies;
(4) determination of an appropriate foreign exchange regime, formulation and implementation of foreign exchange policy; and holding and managing foreign exchange; and
(5) handling external banking affairs of the Government.
As can be clearly seen, the Finance Ministry or Minister has absolutely no power to execute monetary policy and whatever he did or attempted to do in that stead was illegal. Moreover, the facts marshaled by the Auditor-General exposes a pattern of criminal behavior on the part of the TEMT headed by Minister Tweah.
But as can be readily discerned, CBL Governor Patray has already been singled as the fall guy for Finance Minister Tweah and the equally complicit Justice Minister Dean has nolle prosequi himself and Tweah, leaving Patray to face the Inquisitor. And Patray should know by now that he is the sacrificial lamb, meekly waiting to be led to the slaughter house.