Montserrado County District 7 Representative, Solomon George, addressing the alleged missing billions issue, has called for physical inspection of the CBL’s vault in a bid to establish the veracity of statements from the CBL that no money has gone missing and that the L$15 billion in newly printed banknotes are all deposited in the bank’s vault.
Representative George insists the Legislature authorized the printing of L$5 billion in new currency banknotes, adding that the additional L$10 billion reportedly printed by the CBL was illegal and that”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 vaults.
“The Bank has come out with an explanation to confuse the Liberian people. Anything outside of the L$5 billion is robbery. With all that is being explained, former Governor Weeks and his co-officers should go to jail for authorizing themselves to print excess money.”
Representative George, also known to be a staunch ally of President Weah, has lambasted Finance Minister Tweah and Justice Minister Musa Dean, both of whom he has accused of “providing eighty percent distorted information to the public surrounding the missing money saga.”
As it appears, the trading of barbs on this matter may not come to an end soon as more revelations on the mystery continue to spew forth. So far, aside from the list of organizations named to participate in the investigation, the individual identities of those representing the various groups have not been disclosed to the public. One of such organizations, the Liberia Council of Churches, has announced its withdrawal from the membership of participating investigators.
In all of this, probity and transparency remain key concerns of the public, whose expressions of disbelief in official accounts of the alleged missing billions continue to make the rounds on social media and on various radio talk shows around the country. In one breath, money went missing and, in another, no money is missing. This leaves the public in a quandary, not knowing who or what to believe.
In the opinion of this newspaper, now is the time, more than ever before, for President Weah to step in and take command of this ship of state before it runs aground. The nation’s finances and its economy stand imperiled as a result of this imbroglio. In all fairness and from every indication, President Weah inherited this “mess” from his predecessor, former President Sirleaf.
This newspaper is reliably informed that during President Sirleaf’s tenure, the practice of “fixing” legislators with brown envelopes (bribery) was commonplace. Several concession agreements, which bore no promise of benefits for the people, were signed and passed into law, howbeit, illegally. The ExxonMobil, Elenilto, Western Cluster, SIFCA agreements, etc. were passed under her watch by means of illegal inducement.
Also, the ouster of Speakers Snowe and Tyler were, according to some former legislators (names withheld), accomplished through outright bribery. A legislator, name also withheld, told this paper that brown envelopes, each containing wads of cash in US dollar bills amounting to 40,000, was paid to each legislator who voted in favor of Tyler’s removal from the Speakership.
In another instance, in the case of the Elenilto deal, a former legislator (name also withheld) wrote members of the House of Representatives as well as President Sirleaf pleading with her not to seek passage of the agreement into law until after sufficient due diligence was done. He was conveniently ignored and the agreement was passed granting mineral rights to a mere scrap dealership known as Elenilto.
As regards the printing of new currency banknotes which was proposed by President Sirleaf, several legislators are on record for questioning the rationale of the President to request printing of huge amounts of currency banknotes when, according to one such legislator, Edward Forh, President Sirleaf was virtually on the cusp of her departure from office.
But, then Speaker Emmanuel Nuquay had him (Forh) booted out of the session, having been accused of disturbance. After much hauling and pulling, several legislators did sign in approval of the proposal to print additional currency banknotes. This approval, according to Representative Solomon George, was given for the printing of only 5bn in new currency banknotes.
As regards the second batch of 10bn banknotes, Representative George maintains that no approval was given and that it was therefore illegal for the CBL to have printed the additional banknotes. Rather strangely, the letter of authorization to the CBL to print was under the signatures of the House Chief Clerk and the Secretary of the Senate rather than that of the Speaker of the House of Representatives who is the head of the Legislature.
The question is, could or can the CBL legally print money based on the authority of the Chief Clerk of the House and the Secretary of the Senate? Why did the CBL Board of Governors not seek clarification from the Legislature on this? Was the Board not aware that it is the Speaker of the House who, as Head of the Legislature, is possessed of the legal competence to sign a letter of commitment on behalf of the Legislature?
This newspaper recalls that President Weah told the nation that he met empty coffers at his assumption of office. His position was countered by President Sirleaf, who insisted that she left money in the coffers amounting to about US$160m which is roughly equivalent to the value of newly printed banknotes. Was this the money that President Sirleaf was referring to or what?
Calls by some legislators and from the public for an audit of the past government has been met with stony silence, apparently out of fear that such audits could be extended to the present government. According to sources close to the Weah presidency, the fear lies in the fact that an audit could be replete with unknown consequences not only for President Weah’s predecessor but for himself as well.
As a traditional elder put it, “we all know that baboon needs to be circumcised but, the problem is who will hold the baboon down for its circumcision to take place?” And this is the predicament in which President Weah finds himself – a virtual “Catch 22” situation – be damned if you do and be damned if you don’t.