From NOCAL; US$25million Mop-Up Exercise; LS$15.5billion Saga; Now The Special Presidential Task Force On Gasoline Crisis
It is often said once you have been harmed by a lion, whenever you hear the sound of a cat, you think it is the same lion coming to harm you again. This is exactly the case of Liberia since President George Weah took over the mantle of authority in the country.
The Liberian leader is on record of constituting several investigative teams to authenticate serious matters affecting the country, but has reportedly failed to act on key recommendations from those teams.
With this, Liberians are again wondering whether President Weah will this time act on the report presented to him by the Special Presidential Task Force on Gasoline Crisis following its investigation or it’s another fiasco from the governing Coalition for Democratic Change.
Since his ascendancy as president of Liberia, President Weah has setup few investigative teams to investigate several matters without acting on recommendations in those reports.
Weah Receives Special Presidential Review Committee’s Report on NOCAL:
President George Weah officially received a formal report from the Special Presidential Review Committee that was constituted to probe into the Global Witness Report on NOCAL. The report was presented to the Liberian leader on Wednesday, May 16, 2018 at his Foreign Affairs Office.
It can be recalled that the Liberian President set up a five-member Special Presidential Committee on April 17, 2018 to examine allegations made by Global Witness in its reports on Liberia involving the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL).
Members of the Committee include Cllr. Ndubuisi Nwabudike, Chairperson, Cllr. Pearl Brown Bull, member, Cllr. C. Alexander Zoe, member, the Rev. Joseph Gardea Johnson, III, member and Mrs. Frances Greaves, member.
At that time, the Executive Mansion said President Weah was reviewing the findings and recommendations made by the committee and was due to come up with an appropriate course of action shortly.
It was recalled the committee recommended that there should be no appointment at NOCAL until serious audit can take place at the oil company, but President Weah went ahead and appointed heads of that institution with total disregard to the committee’s recommendations.
GAC Report Shows Discrepancies With US$25 Million Mop-Up Fund:
The General Auditing Commission (GAC) was mandated to investigate circumstances surrounding the US$25million Mop-Up exercise.
The General Auditing Commission released its report and it shows many discrepancies between what the Central Bank reported and what the investigators found.
The GAC report was a review of “agreed-upon procedures,” which means the auditors’ job was to produce factual findings on procedures established and what was actually followed.
The report noted that for the vast majority of transactions conducted, no receipts were issued, even though that has been the past procedure. Only TOTAL, West Africa Fisheries, and Nexiun Petroleum were issued receipts, accounting for a total of US$2.5 million of the US$17 million disbursed.
Additionally, the report said 89 beneficiaries, accounting for US$5,670,880, could not confirm the amounts transacted with the Central Bank.
On July 16, President George Weah announced the infusion of US$25 million into the economy to mop-up excess Liberian dollars, amid an increasing exchange rate, which resulted in high inflation.
Of that amount, US$15 million was used for the direct mop-up, and US$2 million was auctioned to Total, the petroleum retailer. The rest of the US$25 million was never used in the mop-up exercise.
An independent investigation commissioned by the U.S. government also recommended ‘further understanding’ of how the exercise was conducted.
The Liberian leader is yet to act since the submission of said report to his office, instead he announced ‘mandatory retirement’ for then Central Bank Governor, Nathaniel Patray who has just spent a little over one year into his five years tenure position.
Missing L$15.5Billion Saga:
In September 2018, local media reported that shipping containers filled with newly printed Liberian dollars from Swedish banknote manufacturer Crane AB disappeared from Liberia’s entry ports between 2016 and 2017.
The Central Bank of Liberia denied the allegations and stated that the money was stored in vaults across the city.
The government’s Presidential Investigative Team (PIT) completed one. Risk advisory firm Kroll, the other.
Both found major flaws in how government policy was implemented in each case, and neither the PIT nor Kroll were able to account for all of the newly printed Liberian dollars or the additional US dollars in the country.
According to Kroll, only L$5 billion of the total L$15.5 billion was printed and distributed in line with Liberian law.
The central bank did not receive legislative approval for the remainder of the cash, but entered into another contract with Crane who proceeded to print and deliver the money to Liberia anyway.
Kroll also found an excess of L$2.6 billion was printed in addition to what was initially disclosed. The PIT’s report recorded a similar finding.
The PIT recommends a demonetization exercise – the withdrawal of current Liberian dollars from circulation and replaced with an alternative – to cut illegal activity and stabilize the economy.
What Liberians Say?
Following the presentation of the latest report from the Special Presidential Task Force on Gasoline Crisis, Liberians calling on radio stations had mixed views whether the Liberian leader would act on the report.
Most of the callers on a local radio station (Joy FM 101.5 MHz) said “this is another showy by the president.
Huge number of the callers said ‘nothing will come from this report’ as it has been done to other reports.
Few of the callers came in defense of the Liberian leader saying “they wouldn’t force him to act based on mere allegations’ and he will take time to act on those recommendations.
Political pundits are saying the Liberian leader has demonstrated that he is not in the interest of the Liberian people as shown in numerous ‘disregard to committees’ reports’.
According to them, this is another ‘fiasco’ from the chief executive of the country and Liberians should just disregard because the president will not act on the report because of friendship.