Welcoming President Weah’s Initiative But, Can This  GAC Audit Make a Difference if CBL and TEMT Officials Remain Uncooperative?

6
383

Today’s editorial is informed by a story carried in the Friday, March 8, 2019 edition of the Daily Observer newspaper under the headline, “President Weah Requests GAC to Audit US$25M Mop-up Exercise”.

According to the story, President Weah has ordered the General Auditing Commission to probe the facts and circumstances attending the infusion of the US$25m into the economy.

The President’s action comes against a backdrop of heightened public concerns about the role of Finance Minister Samuel Tweah in the infusion exercise whose handling, according to the PIT report, appeared analogous to and indistinguishable from outright criminal behavior.

The exercise was intended to mop up excess Liberian dollar banknotes from the market in order to stabilize the rapid depreciation of the Liberian dollar against the US dollar.  The Daily Observer notes that it appears that President Weah has realized the urgency to address these pointed concerns emanating from the handling of the infusion exercise.

Now President Weah, in an apparent attempt to lay the ghosts of the infusion exercise to rest, has tasked the GAC to conduct a forensic audit and come up with a report in two weeks. This is indeed a welcome development although some hold the view that a forensic investigation as opposed to a forensic audit is what is needed to address the situation.

Whatever be the case, it must not be forgotten that the issue at bar is that of the 16 billion Liberian dollar banknotes that were brought into the country and which the Central bank of Liberia(CBL) has previously confirmed were safely locked away in its vaults.

This is an issue aside from the US$25 million infusion money. While the Daily Observer welcomes President Weah’s latest action, this newspaper is yet constrained to ask whether given the scope of work and the terms of reference of the GAC commissioned forensic audit the results of the exercise will uncover anything substantive that may further incriminate members of the Technical Economic Management Team(TEMT) headed by Finance Minister Tweah.

According to observers, it appears as though strenuous and conscious efforts are being made to change the narrative, deriving from the PIT report which had firmly placed the Finance Minister as the person leading the exercise. This view is apparently informed by the fact that it was the Finance Minister who had publicly announced that he took the decision to use money exchangers rather than the commercial banks  because in his expressed opinion at the time, such an approach would not have yielded the desired results.

And now a newly emergent official narrative attributes handling of the mop-up exercise solely to the CBL. But statements attributed to Charles Sirleaf, when interviewed by the PIT, urged investigators to direct their questions to the Finance Minister who he told investigators handled the infusion exercise.

This newspaper is indeed troubled by findings in the PIT report declaring that authorities of the CBL prevented members of the team from accessing the vaults of the CBL in order to do confirmation checks on the actual amount of Liberian dollar and other foreign currency banknotes stored in its vaults.

Legal observers opine that what is actually needed is a Special Prosecutor with subpoena powers to actually get to the bottom of this entire affair. The public is left wondering, for example, why CBL authorities barred entry to its vaults by PIT members if indeed CBL officials it had nothing to hide.

It can also be recalled that the FrontPage Africa newspaper in a story carried in its October 8, 2018 edition under the headline, “Missing Appendix Pages Hold Key to Total Amount of Liberian Dollars Printed By CBL”, is quoted as challenging authorities of the CBL  to allow lawmakers into its vaults to see the LD15.5 billion it claimed it had in stock.

Representative Solomon George said at the time, “The bank has come out with another explanation to confuse the Liberian people. Anything outside of the authorized L$5 billion is robbery, broad-day robbery. This governor is saying they audited the papers and yes the money was taken to the vaults. We are requesting as the people’s representatives — can you take us to where the money is being kept? We heard the money was brought in containers and bags, so take us to see the billions in the vault.”

Well, as the records show, Representative George’s request was treated with benign concern by CBL authorities. Five months later the PIT has come up with the same position clearly stating that CBL authorities were non cooperative, baring them entry to the CBL’s vault to do a physical count. And as President Weah has now charged the GAC to conduct a forensic audit, concerns are that the CBL may also refuse to fully cooperate, especially since the GAC lacks subpoena powers.

In view of the above, this newspaper calls on President Weah to give more teeth to the GAC by arming the forensic auditors with subpoena powers to compel the compliance of officials of the CBL who are on record for having thwarted efforts by both teams, Kroll and PIT to produce requested documents and to access the Bank’s vaults.

President Weah must realize that he has much at stake and nothing to gain from going down the wire simply to protect a few sacred cows. It is just not worth it Mr. President. It is now high time to part Company with corrupt individuals whose  actions can only harm and not help you nor the nation, cher President. The question now lingering on the minds of the public is, can this  GAC audit make  a difference if CBL and TEMT officials remain uncooperative?

6 COMMENTS

  1. It is the LACC and the FIU that should be investigating this matter, not the GAC because there is suspicion of a crime. These agencies have investigative powers to demand access to any public entity. George Weah is not serious because he has something to hide. As Liberians we know our people and how they operate. We know that George Weah received some of that money, period. Look, they already murdered Mr. Innis in cold blood to protect someone higher up. It’s a disgrace. The government is being run like a Mafia organization.

  2. When journalists and other wacko cum weirdos seek cover of anonymity, it indicates one shouldn’t take them seriously. Here we are told by Citizen James (or whatever) that GMW is hiding something for following recommendation of Kroll that the USD $25 million “matter merits further understanding”. Tellingly, faced with suspicion of hundreds of millions of US dollars worth of fraud at NOCAL, EJS retorted: “I’m taking full responsibility…!”

    Oh, well, allegedly, most in the past administration went to Ivy League universities, so some of them felt they earned the right of condescending arrogance. Little wonder, then, few were beating chests about organizing “mass actions across Liberia to express dissatisfaction” for hardships in the country they bequeathed the present administration. It is this continuous unconscionable habit of deceiving the marginalized which makes them furious. Our people aren’t fools, folks!

    • Mr. Moses – You should know that two bads don’t make a right. Weah’s corruption is blatant and it’s worst than Ellen’s and he just started. Weah has no common sense much less an intellect to think that in a very poor country like his, you don’t start stealing and building a real estate empire while your citizens are experiencing severe hardship. People can barely buy food to eat and he and his corrupt cronies are building mansions. And because of all the craziness going on in the government, investors are staying away. I know of a couple of deals put on hold because investors are wary of the bad news coming out of the country. Only a blind man would think that Weah is doing a good job. He’s not a leader for sure. Go to Liberia and talk to the people on the streets and tell that that everything is fine and you might get attacked. People are very angry in Liberia. All the rhetoric in the world will not change the suffering.

    • The truth is, Weah has no plan to fix the economic mess. Building roads is good but that alone will not revive the economy. Most government workers have not been paid for three months and the government faces a huge budget deficit. There is also a huge decline in tax revenue. There is rumor that he recently bought an exotic Italian sports car. This guy is not serious! You’re blessed you don’t live in that hell-hoe so goon defending his dysfunctional and corrupt government.

  3. Mr. Sylvester Gbayahforh Moses,

    My good friend and brother, I have posted these statements below that I got from the Perspective web site for your comment. You have been dismissing our concern about the L$18.1 billion saga, implying that many of us do not like the new government. The questions below indicate that the investigating teams did not help the Liberian government to resolve this L$18.1 billion saga.

    You are aware that the official way to infuse banknotes (new and/or old banknotes) or deposit government printed money into the currency circulation is by sending the new banknotes to the commercial banks, hence, the commercial banks should have records.

    Also, you are aware that investigators (forensic investigators or not forensic investigators) are required to provide documentations and schedules to support their findings. The investigating teams stated that CBL did not provide the opportunity for them to get documentations from third parties (commercial banks), hence, the investigators did not verify their conclusions included within the reports.

    More so, the investigators’ findings indicated that CBL infused more new banknotes into the currency circulation than the value of banknotes infused into the currency circulation by CBL, as per CBL’s audited financial statements.

    It is possible that the investigators’ findings of the value of the new banknotes infused into the currency circulation and the value of the old banknotes destroyed might be the correct amounts (i.e., value of the new banknotes and value of the old banknotes).

    However, should Liberians accept Kroll’s findings without evidence?

    The Perspective web site:

    “Kroll did not get information from the auditee and did not explain in its report whether it asked third parties (i.e., commercial banks) for schedule and information about the new banknotes and old banknotes that should have been destroyed.

    But, interestingly, the foreign “forensic investigators” reported that CBL infused more banknotes into currency in circulation, than the value of banknotes CBL reported in its financial statements, which an external audit firm audited for 2016 and 2017.

    Kroll’s “forensic investigators” failed to also explain the difference between what the investigators reported and the value of banknotes CBL reported in 2016. For example, in 2016. CBL reported in its financial statements that it infused L$2 billion banknotes into the currency in circulation, the “forensic investigators” reported that CBL infused L$3 billion banknotes into the currency in circulation.

    So, how is it possible for a forensic investigation to conclude that CBL infused L$3 billion into the currency in circulation, even though it didn’t get any information from the CBL and/or third parties that received the new banknotes.

    Also, how did the “forensic investigators” verify the amount of old banknotes that CBL destroyed? Did the forensic team have the authority to investigate or did the investigators even care to verify the amount infused?”

Leave a Reply