In the wake of incriminating audit and investigative reports released recently on the fraudulent manner in which the Liberian government’s US 25 million dollars professed mop-up exercise was executed, the Association of Liberian Journalists in the Americas (ALJA) is urging President George Weah to stop shielding from prosecution Finance and Development Planning Minister, Samuel Tweah, Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) Governor, Nathaniel Patray, and members of the Technical Economic Management Team(TEMT), who reportedly played critical roles in the alleged thievery.
ALJA said based on the findings of separate probes conducted by the General Auditing Commission(GAC), the Presidential Investigative Team(PIT), and Kroll, Inc, a US based accounting firm, into how the mop-up exercise was managed and implemented by Minister Tweah, Governor Patray, and members of the TEMT, it is irrefutable to note that the accused have lost the trust and confidence of the international community, and Liberians at home and abroad.
In a press release issued on May 23, 2019, ALJA called for the immediate dismissal and trial of the Finance and Development Planning Minister, the CBL Governor, and accused members of the TEMT for the commission of economic crime against the state. Minister Tweah and Governor Patray, chair and co-chair the TEMT respectively.
ALJA said both men and members of the TEMT associated with the so-called mop-exercise brazenly engaged in acts that undermined the Liberian economy; and they should be held liable for the crimes committed.
The Association called on President Weah to save the state by initiating and leading the campaign for the prosecution of the accused public officials. ALJA asserts if Mr. Weah’s recent pronouncement on raiding the public sector of graft is to be taken seriously, then the burden is now on him and his administration to act swiftly in the interest of the country.
ALJA said if the President refuses to act now or stalls the dismissal and trial of Minister Tweah, Governor Patray and members of the TEMT, who literally stole from the Liberian people, such action would equate to his administration’s indifference to the rule of law, which he vowed to uphold less than two years ago when he ascended the Liberian presidency.
ALJA said the troubled and disgraced Finance Minister, CBL Governor and the accused TEMT members are not more Liberians than the former officials of the Johnson-Sirleaf administration, who President Weah has vowed publicly to audit and prosecute for reported malfeasances.
Beginning July 2018 to October 2018, Minister Tweah as chairman of the TEMT in collaboration with the CBL authority headed by Governor Patray supervised the physical purchase of Liberian dollar banknotes from local businesses and foreign exchange bureaus in keeping with the government’s ostensible mop-up initiative, which it claimed focused on the rejuvenation of the Liberian economy through the elimination of excess Liberian dollars from the market.
However, ALJA quoting the GAC, PIT and the US based Kroll Inc’s recently released special investigative and audit reports, maintained Minister Tweah and the CBL authority reportedly executed the US 25 million dollars mop-exercise with wild spread discrepancies.
ALJA further quoted the GAC’s special investigative report as saying that the CBL allegedly paid out nearly 1.5 million US dollars to 15 entities for the purchase of excess Liberian dollars from the market, but when the GAC contacted the identified businesses for verification of the reported information, those businesses disputed a significant portion of the CBL’s claim regarding payments received.
ALJA said as part of the pseudo mop-up exercise, the CBL authority with the reported acquiescence of Governor Patray documented the disbursement of more than 700 thousand US dollars to 27 unregistered businesses in Liberia for the purchase of excess Liberian dollars from the market. However, the GAC’s investigative report revealed that the reported information couldn’t be verified due to the lack of public information on the cited businesses.
The US based Liberian journalists said the GAC’s report also, revealed that the CBL reportedly paid over 1 million US dollars to 52 businesses that participated in the so-called mop-up exercise, but again the Commission was unable to authenticate those payments, because the named beneficiaries refused to cooperate with the GAC’s auditors by failing to acknowledge or respond to inquiries sent out to them during the special investigation. According to the GAC, the reported payments were also, made for the purchase of surplus Liberian dollars from the market.
ALJA further quoted the GAC’s report as saying that the CBL allegedly paid over 163 thousand US dollars to eight businesses for the purchase of surplus Liberian dollars from the market, but the Commission during its special probe of the US 25 million dollars mop-up exercise determined that the reported businesses were non-existent.
ALJA said the cited reports are damaging and they insinuate shameless robbery of the people’s money by Minister Tweah, Governor Patray and members of the TEMT that participated in the so-called mop-up exercise.
Meanwhile, ALJA is admonishing President Weah that there is no need for arm twisting with the sole objective of concealing the truth in this matter because Liberians want justice; and he must give them justice by not listening to or siding with public officials, who don’t mean well for the country and its citizens.