Lawmakers in the House of Representatives appear unwilling to disclose the current financial status of the country after Thursday’s executive session with heads of three key government’s financial institutions here.
The House had Tuesday, February 27, 2018 invited the Executive Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia, Milton Weeks, the Commissioner General of the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) Elfrieda Stewart Tamba, and the Minister of Finance and Development Planning Samuel Tweah to appeal before plenary and state clearly the financial health of the country.
With the exception of Finance Minister Tweah, who was represented by the Deputy Minister for Fiscal Affairs Samora Wolokollie, Governor Weeks and CG Tamba appeared Thursday in person.
But the hearing, which had been expected to be public, was conducted in executive session, lasting for several hours. The Lawmakers took the decision last week amid conflicting statements coming both President George Manneh Weah and ex-president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf about the country’s financial status.
President Weah had reported in his state of the nation address to the 54th Legislature that his government inherited a broke economy, but his predecessor, Madam Sirleaf debunked the claim subsequently in an interview with the BBC when she disclosed that her government left US$150 million as reserves, calling on President Weah to ask his Minister of Finance to follow the papers and get his figures correct.
The conflict claims from President Weah and Madam Sirleaf has generated serious controversy here especially, when the Weah Administration was being indebted to civil servants for two months.
The leadership of the House was conspicuously tightlipped on Thursday, unwilling to tell the nation what was gathered from the financial authorities after the executive session.
However, sources in the corridor the Capitol hinted The New Dawn that President Weah was correct when he reported that he inherited a broke economy, because the US$150 million reserves announced by ex-president Sirleaf is not meant for government operations.
Legislative Reporters Thursday pressed Deputy Finance Minister for Fiscal Affairs Samora Wolokollie, after the executive session and asked him whether the former President was not saying the truth about leaving behind US$150m in reserves.
Samora replies that he could not say definitively ex-president Sirleaf lied. However, he discloses that the total amount of money they received as of 31st January 2018 is about US$17m, noting that reserves do not produce liquidity, and liquidity speaks of what is available at a point and particular time and so he could not say it was a lie or not, but the fact speaks for itself.
He explains that even as he speaks, civil servants are being paid for both the months of January and February, and by the end of March, salary payment will be regularized.
By Bridgett Milton-Editing By Jonathan Browne