House Speaker Bhofal Chambers took the entire nation by surprise last week when he publicly declared here that the 54th Legislature would not submit to investigation in the alleged missing 15.5 billion or 16 billion Liberians banknotes printed abroad and brought into the country.
Addressing a news conference last week at the Capitol in Monrovia, Speaker Chambers said lawmakers would not submit to any investigative committee, not even the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation for interrogation in connection with the missing billions, preaching constitutional sovereignty.
“The people from the FBI know contemporary Democracy; they know contemporary constitution. They will never think of inviting the House of Representative for an investigation; doing so will be a failure on their part,” the Speaker argue, and maintained, “The House Representative is the fulcrum of democracy. Any other institution cannot invite this legislature; this legislature is under constitutional obligation to call anybody for questioning. The Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) told us there is no missing money so how the transaction and authorization was done in my view will be the point of investigation.”
Instead, he embarked on the usual blame game and figure-pointing, taking on former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and excesses of her administration for the current economic and financial woes the country is faced with.
But the records are available. It is the 53rd Legislature under ex-President Sirleaf of which Speaker Chambers was a member that mandated or authorized the Executive branch of government in accordance with the constitution to print new banknotes, stipulating specific amount.
One of the key issues in the ongoing investigation is how much local currency was actually printed. Some lawmakers on Capitol Hill say the Central Bank of Liberia was authorized to print five billion Liberian banknotes, not 10 billion Liberian dollars. So how did the money printed jump from five, 10 to 16 billion Liberian banknotes?
There has been sustained controversy over how much money was printed and brought into the country. The Minister of Information Lenn Eugene Nagbe disclosed 16 billion LRD, but Finance Minister Samuel Tweah, debunked Nagbe, putting the figure at 15.5 billion, and even clarifying that no money went missing as reported.
We are disappointed and Liberians are totally shocked by the utterances coming from the Speaker, particularly where there are sincere and concerted efforts by Liberia’s traditional partner, the United States of America to help us get to the bottom of this money saga.
Speaker Chambers’ declaration is in sharp contradiction to earlier assurances by the Weah administration to probe the matter and dig out the facts so that anyone found liable would face the law. Let us be reminded that the legislature (53rd Legislature) played a very crucial role in the printing of the new Liberian banknotes that were brought into the country.
How could the first branch of government now have the audacity to announce it is washing its hands off a matter that it initiated in the first place? The Speaker should be reminded in clear terms that government is continuity, particularly when Speaker Chambers himself and other members of the current 54th Legislature were part of the 53rd that authorized the printing of the money. Wouldn’t they be helpful in the ongoing investigation? Does the Speaker have something to hide? We don’t understand why this sudden grandstanding.