Blame games over missing billions

The search for the missing container with 16 billion Liberian bank notes, an equivalent of about US104 million appears to be taking a new trend. This time a blame game between members of the 53rd Liberian Legislature on one hand and former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and ex-Central Bank Governor Milton Weeks on the other has ensued.

Last week, Mr. Weeks told a news conference that he obtained authorization from the 53rd Legislature to print the additional 10 billion, months after he got a go ahead to print the initial 5 billion in 2016.

“I wish to state emphatically clear that we did obtained authorization for the printing of the currency. The first authorization was for the 5 billion and the second authorization was in 2017 for the 10 billion we printed; that authorization came from the legislature,” the former CBL governor told journalists.

In a letter date July 19, 2017, addressed to Mr. Weeks and signed by Mildred N. Sayon Chief Clerk and Senate Secretary Nanborlor F. Singbeh Sr., the former CBL governor was directed among others to replace the legacy notes (Liberty) completely with the newly printed bank notes so that there could have been a single type of Liberian currency.

However, the letter did not say how much was to be printed thereby apparently leaving the discretionary amount with the CBL board of governors to decide.In her interview, President Sirleaf has repeatedly insisted that she did not authorized the printing of the additional 10 billion, but rather the authorization came from the Legislature.

In her letter to CBL former Governor Weeks dated August 7, 2017, Mrs. Sirleaf wrote among other things acknowledging receipt of a letter dated July 31, 2017 in which she was advised by Mr. Weeks informing her of the decision of the Legislature authorizing him to totally replace all the legacy banknotes with a newer version banknotes.

“I am in accord with the decision of the Legislature in this regard and am pleased that the Central Bank will covered the cost of the replacement,” former President Sirleaf said.These communications regarding the complete change of the Liberian (Liberty) banknotes came just around the time there were increasing unsubstantiated speculations that former CBL Governor Dr. J. Mills Jones, who resigned and immediately announced to contest the 2017 presidential election had stashed some of the Liberian (Liberty) banknotes to bankroll his campaign.

However, despite these communications some members of the 53rd Legislature continue to deny knowledge of said authorization to print the additional banknotes or the call to completely change the (Liberty) banknotes.
Amongst members of the 53rd Legislature who have denied knowledge of authorization are Sinoe County Senator J. Milton Teajah, current House Speaker Bhofal Chambers and the Senate Committee Chair on Banking and Finance Marshall Dennis.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Justice says it has asked the Liberian Anti- Corruption Commission to play a lead role in the ongoing investigation over the missing money.

By Othello B. Garblah

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