Lyrics to a popular Liberian folksong that says “don’t blame your misfortunes on the spot on which you fell but rather blame the spot where you stumbled and fell”, can aptly be applied to the current situation in Liberia.
This is especially in view of the latest statement from the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) denying its involvement in the alleged disappearance of US$23 million and L$2 billion, which were intended for deposit in the GoL Consolidated Revenue Account at the Central Bank.
Prior to this, L$16 billion newly printed banknotes went allegedly missing from the CBL, prompting an official investigation into the matter. Results of the investigation, though inconclusive, suggested criminality on the part of functionaries at the CBL and the Ministry of Finance.
Subsequently several individuals, all officials at the CBL, including the son of fomer President Sirleaf were criminally charged. Somehow, all those criminally charged were let off the hook and the matter soon dropped below the radar but has apparently never since gone away.
During the investigations conducted by the Presidential Investigative Team (PIT) and the Kroll Associates, it was discovered that officials at the Central Bank were deliberately not recording official transactions. And this odious practice began under the reign of President Sirleaf.
Questions are rightly asked, therefore, whether her son, then principal deputy at the CBL, was aware of such unwholesome activities. In case he was not aware, then why was it so?
Was he being deliberately kept in the dark about ongoing activities at the CBL? It appears highly unlikely though that a seasoned banker at such high levels of authority would be so remiss in his duties that he would have been unaware of those activities.
This is because such practices, under normal circumstances, would be considered reprehensible and damaging to the national interests as well as to the public image of the government led by his mother.
All things considered, it appears that this was a criminal syndicate involving higher ups in government, possibly including President Sirleaf herself.
Otherwise how can such lapses be explained, especially under a government led by a renowned economist and seasoned banker whose penchant for details are considered unsurpassed.
Coming back to the CBL’s denials, is the CBL Governor telling Liberians and the business community that the CBL does not keep record of money it receives into its custody?
Is he, for example, telling us that banking institutions that deposit their reserve requirements in the CBL are doing so without obtaining receipts from the CBL?
This is not only deceptive; it appears analogous to and indistinguishable from outright thievery by officials in charge of the nation’s finances.
And its roots go back to the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf administration. It is important to underscore that the predecessor government led by Charles Taylor was guilty of such practices or even worse as his White Flower mansion was the virtual repository of the nation’s finances.
But the Sirleaf administration was supposed to mark a departure from the shadow state over which Taylor presided. Under the shadow state, official and legitimate state institutions were bastardized and transformed into instruments of personal control.
For instance he supplanted the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) by his array of various militia groups commanded by individuals who owed him personal loyalty.
In some key respects, the ghosts of the shadow state haunted the Sirleaf administration as evidenced by the deliberate non-recording of official transactions at the CBL, practices which apparently continue up to present.
For the CBL to maintain that it has no statutory control over the operational functioning of GOL’s transitory accounts at commercial banks and that neither does the CBL have control over the movement of cash from its depository is highly disingenuous.
Granted that it does not have statutory control over the operational functioning of GoL’s transitory accounts, it does not by any account suggest that the CBL should not maintain a record of the movement of cash from accounts held there by various institutions including banking institutions.
Little wonder therefore that nothing has come out of the case of the alleged missing billions as well as the US$25 million infusion and mop-up exercise. More to that the Liberia Revenue Authority allegedly commissioned audit of GoL’s accounts which revealed that funds were going into a virtual sinkhole allegedly traceable to top officials.
That discovery by auditors, according to sources, were causative factors that led to the serial killing of the LRA auditors which left the nation in a state of unbelievable shock.
And here comes the CBL Governor shamelessly declaring, in effect, that the CBL does not maintain records on the movement of money from its depository.
The audit report commissioned by the LRA was clear in its findings. It noted the following:
“The Central Bank of Liberia and commercial banks need to provide explanations for these irregularities (amounts reflected on commercial banks’ statements as remittances to GOL’s Consolidated Revenue Account at CBL but not reflected in CBL’s Swift Confirmation Reports and GOL’s CGRA) for purposes of accurately, completely and reliably accounting for taxes collected on behalf of Government of Liberia in accordance with the memorandum of understanding”.
The CBL Governor certainly needs to stop the double-speak and get his act right bearing in mind that he is supposed to be serving the nation in keeping with clearly spelt out policies and procedures and not individuals irrespective of the loftiness or lowliness of their positions in society. It means therefore that he is ultimately accountable to the Liberian people.
This newspaper has always urged and reminded President Weah that it is he who is in charge of the country. He has to take charge as President and refrain from allowing others to take charge of his duties.
Many things, many bad things are happening around him and blame is being placed on him. If he is not aware of this, then he should become aware forthwith. He must fail not at his Peril.