Amid critics and opposition’s demands for action against Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) Executive Governor Nathaniel Patray and other officials over the controversial US$25m mop-up exercise, President George Manneh Weah has dissolved the Board of CBL, announcing that Mr. Patray is scheduled for age-related mandatory retirement in the next three months.
Addressing the nation via State broadcaster ELBC Wednesday, 29 May ahead of the planned June 7 protest for reform in government, President Weah says he will also announce a new Board of Governors at the CBL next week.
In relation to the pending protest, President Weah says Article 17 of the Liberian Constitution deals with the rights of all citizens to peaceful assembly, as well as the right to present petitions to their Government.
“In closing, l once again wish to pledge my absolute commitment to the protection of each and every right and freedom granted to each and every one of you under our Constitution,” he says.
The CBL has for the past several months been entangled in several controversial monetary issues, ranging from the LRD$16bn scandal to the US$25m mop – up exercise in which the General Auditing Commission (GAC) established numerous discrepancies wherein the Bank listed for instance, 52 entities that received 1,092,292.00 in the mop – up exercise but did not answer or reply to GAC telephone calls and text messages during investigation.
Five CBL officials including former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s son Charles E. Sirleaf and former CBL Executive Governor Milton Weeks are facing trial in relation to the alleged LRD$16bn scandal, but President Weah’s government says it wants the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) to further look into US$25m issue to determine criminal liability.
Mr. Patray served as co-chair to Finance Minister Samuel Tweah on the Economic Management Team (EMT) that spearheaded the controversial US$25m mop-up exercise.
To provide the opportunity for the Central Bank to have a new direction, President Weah says he also accepts the resignation of the Bank’s Deputy Governor for Economic Policy.
In order to slow down or halt the depreciation of the Liberian dollar, and thereby bring some much-needed relief to the suffering of Liberians, President Weah recalls that his government was advised by its Economic Management Team, in close collaboration with the CBL to make an infusion of $25 million into the economy, through the Central Bank to mop-up the excess liquidity of Liberian dollars.
At the completion of the “mop-up” exercise, he says criticisms and allegations were made, that the process had not been done in a proper and professional manner, and that there had been irregularities and issues of mis-management.
He says he referred the issues to the Minister of Justice and Attorney -General of Liberia for further investigation, who later referred the matter to the GAC.
Upon completion of its investigation, he says the GAC report found that of the US$25 million authorized to be used for the mop-up, only US$17 million was used, and that this was exchanged for an equivalent LD2.6 billion Liberian dollars.
“The GAC report also provides accounting evidence that the amount of LD2.6 billion Liberian dollars was deposited into the Central Bank,” Weah continues.
According to him, major concerns were raised surrounding several CBL-listed businesses that are denying that they participated in the mop-up exercise, as well as other CBL-listed businesses that were found not to be in existence at the time of the GAC audit.
President Weah notes that the report also found major discrepancies and unexplained variances in the accounting records of the CBL.
“The Minister of Justice and Attorney General has now requested the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate these irregularities,” he adds.
He says the aim of this exercise is to determine criminal liability, warning that all those found criminally liable will face the full weight of the law.
According to President Weah, he will work to transition the bank to a new management, indicating further that the new CBL leadership will be recruited by a vetting committee to be established.
“It will be composed of an independent team of professional Liberians, to be named shortly,” he says.
He encourages any qualified Liberian interested in becoming a part of this new leadership team to submit applications to the vetting committee, whether they are resident in Liberia or abroad.
According to President Weah, the decision as to who becomes a part of the new CBL leadership is regardless of gender or political affiliation.
Hew concludes that he is fully aware of the negative impact of the declining exchange rate on the economic wellbeing of the Liberian people, and he knows that this is causing serious hardship for everyone, but most especially for the ordinary Liberians, who have no financial cushion to protect them from these harsh conditions. By Winston W. Parley