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Pres. Weah’s show of rare leadership in L$16bn approach

Just under ten months, the political administration has come under the pernicious volleys of cynicism and negative propaganda. This is something naturally expected, not only because any political regime is inherently politically susceptible to civil dissent, but also because the December 26 presidential election has left on the political landscape deep scars of irking hurts and venoms.

Thus, the controversial L$16 billion was expected to be the ideal compost and raison d’être by particularly political cynics grimly determined to capitalize the situation to ignite and inflame uproarious civil dissents, appeal to public hate and sensitivities in a bid to dwarf the administration’s popularity.

Admittedly, there are sincere and somewhat patriotic citizens who got furious over the mere news of the evaporation of L$16 billion. Amid rising tides of financial and economic challenges in the country, any citizen would automatically be concerned, and even get angry, just hearing about any news—factual or rumored—of the disappearance of such a colossal amount of money.

But in all the controversy, there are certain critical things most people are least concerned about. Firstly, there is something mischievous lurking beneath the $16b-triggered public uproar which unsuspecting citizens, including supporters of the ruling party, are not deciphering: the generalization of guilty sentence across government. The folks from the other side of the political istle are shrewdly working out and pivoting propaganda ploys that indict every government official. The goal is to sufficiently taint the government in its entirety, and when they succeed in leaving no official of the current administration untainted, it helps them in not only increasing their chances to delegitimize the Government, making it unpopular and rejected by the masses, but it also reverts public attention to themselves as political messiahs on the bloc, worthy of election anytime soon.

Secondly, despite President Weah’s explicit and persistent demonstration of the unusual presidential character in the L$16 billion saga, there are still attempts on the part of cynics and detractors to muddle his naturally clean apparel.

Three actions are a firm reliance for the clarity of thoughts and rigidity which President George Manneh Weah brings to national leadership in the fight against corruption and impunity and as an assurance and confidence-building in the alleged missing billions. First, at his inauguration ceremonies, he made it clear that “we will assemble the government committed to fighting for the ideas that have inspired our campaign, and dedicated to delivering for the Liberian people. Those chosen to serve will and must be dedicated to the ideas of grassroots, social transformation. Person looking to cheat the Liberian people through the menace of corruption will have no place in my administration.”

The second assurance of his anti-corruption stance was when news of the alleged disappearance hit the public. In that statement, which he delivered before departing for the United Nations General Assembly, the President reiterated his anti-graft position: “I ask all citizens to be PATIENT and those involved in the investigation to be cooperative. I’m confident that in the end, we will come to a logical conclusion into the circumstances surrounding this money and if anyone is caught in any financial malfeasance, they will be held accountable to the full extent of the law.” And when he returned from the UNGA, after he had officially invited national and international actors to help in the investigation, he reaffirmed his wiliness to get to the bottom of the investigation, vowing to leave the law unleash its venomous onslaught on convicts.

Deeds Beyond Rhetoric
The third expression of unwavering commitment by President Weah to prove himself beyond all reasonable doubts that he comes to the national leadership with iron resolve to making the difference in fighting graft, waste and plunder is this: his personal invitation of independent sources, both national and international, to help unravel whatever mystery there is in the $16 billion controversy.
This is neither a small political step to take by any sitting president nor is it typical in Liberia’s political governance system.

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Departing From the Immediate Past
Just a few years ago, for instance, the nation saw the fall of the Liberian economy epitomized in total bankruptcy of the then government’s most potent sector, the oil sector, presided over by the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL). Conservative economists posited at the time that the NOCAL insolvency left over US$500m in thin air.

Also in the last years before the advent of the Weah administration, the General Auditing Commission put at the behest of the Presidency and the 53rd Legislature nearly 70 audit reports replete with tons of material evidential discoveries bordering waste and pillages. Combined, those wastes and pillages were conservatively put at nearly US$1 billion.

We also cannot forget some 66 audit reports of international and multinational concession agreements, which were audited by an international firm which came to the conclusion that only two of the 66 were done consistent with acceptable standard. Kickbacks, exchange of hands under the table was the order of the processes that brought about 48 major concession agreements by the past administration.

There was also the case of an unaccounted for US$15b at the Ministry of Finance uncovered by the General Auditing Commission few years ago. When challenged on the merits of the audit findings on the $15 million, the then Auditor General, anti-corruption czar John Sembe Morlue retorted that if an international auditing firm were hired to review his findings and that firm came out with findings contradicting his, he would resign his post and refund the European Union all the salaries and benefits he had earned over the three years of his stewardship at the GAC.

In other words, in this country, not too far from where we are, the nation had helplessly seen the evaporation, the pillage and the loot of billions of offshore monies by officials of government who were sufficiently empirically identified, documented along with the exact trails of their nasty misdeeds.
Those who closely follow those huge trails of industrious-scale corruption, graft and theft would all recall that the LACC, the GAC, the IAA and the media put forth clear and variable trails of vicious kleptocracy that was raging at the time. And there was enormous public outcries and calls for action.

But in all that, what did Liberians and the international community watching see? The presidency took responsibility not only for the hundreds of millions that evaporated at NOCAL, but also put her neck on the chopping board for nearly a billions of US Dollars lost to corruption at many government ministries and agencies. The Morlu-headed GAC was viciously fought with the cruelest weapons in the arsenal of Government at the combined vented fury of the Presidency and a well-determined cabal of scoundrels.

What Is George Weah Doing in a Near-Similar Situation?
In addition to public statements averring the iron resolve of his administration if not of him personally to allow the rule of law and punitive actions unleashed in the current alleged corruption debacle, the current president has sworn publically that even his dead mother (peace be to her ashes) would not be spared the dragnet of justice. He said there would be no hiding place for culprits and convicts.
Not only that. President Weah has ensured, perhaps against the advice of lukewarm advisors to calm down, inviting and aggressively imploring international investigators and even local independent experts to participate in the investigation of the L$16 billion. Not only does this unusual mustering of puritanical character bring independence, transparency and believability in the investigation progress and its outcome, it also makes the current President a rare Liberian leader in the fight against corruption and graft.

President Weah could have taken responsibility as was done in the past. He could have put his neck on the chopping board for his lieutenants. He would not have initiated the investigation from the onset as to ignite the media reportage that came about later on. But his big heart for Liberia, his sense of innocence and his drive to keep the promise to Liberian people, “I will not let you down,” and that corruption would be fought by deeds and not by words, drove him to voluntarily emitting the embers of transparency and credibility into the L$16 billion saga.

How else can a national leader demonstrate unfeigned patriotism, rare responsibility and upright seriousness in a pro-poor transformation context?

Editor’s Note: The views expressed in this article are solely and wholly that of the author and not of the New Dawn’s.

By Sherman C. Seequeh

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The New Dawn is Liberia’s Truly Independent Newspaper Published by Searchlight Communications Inc. Established on November 16, 2009, with its first hard copy publication on January 22, 2010. The office is located on UN Drive in Monrovia Liberia. The New Dawn is bilingual (both English & French).
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