Over Currency Printing: Lawmakers Want Ex-Pres. Sirleaf Audited

Former Liberian leader, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Montserrado Representative Acarous Gray has called for an audit of former president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, alleging that she dodged the Legislature by ordering the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) in 2017 to print an additional L$10 billion, apart from the L$5 billion that was approved by the Legislature.

The Legislature has the constitutional authority to sanction the printing of the country’s currency, when there is need to do so.

Gray said there’s no record to show that there was a resolution authorizing the CBL under then Governor Milton Weeks or the Executive to print the additional banknotes.

“These things are done clandestinely without the acquiescence of plenary. CBL brought the money into the country without informing the current government.

“So for former President Sirleaf to get on the BBC and argue that the Legislature provided the authority for which she affixed her signature to governor Weeks’ is not only disgusting; it is also disingenuous; it is a black lie,” Gray alleged.

It will only be fair enough, he said, for political institutions embarking on protest concerning the currency matter to direct their inquiry at the former president, adding that she has more questions to answer in that regard.

A couple of days after the Government of Liberia launched an investigation into circumstances surrounding the printing and shipping into the country of a reported L$16 billion, Madam Sirleaf told the Focus On Africa program of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) on Friday that the George Weah administration was ruining her legacy.

No money printed during her administration ever got missing and that all monies printed were duly accounted for, she said.

Sirleaf said she was “angry” because the Weah-led government was trying to “impugn” her legacy and her administration.

She openly advised her son, Charles Sirleaf, a deputy CBL governor, to quit his official post when the investigation vindicates her administration from any act of financial malfeasance concerning the printing of banknotes.

But when he took to the airwaves at the weekend, Gray said that Madam Sirleaf was being insincere to the prevailing circumstances because, according to him, she played the lead role in the printing of the additional L$10 billion in question.

“The first thing is that you authorized the printing of some money in this country through a communication in August of 2017—that is the 10 billion dollars. The Board of Governors (of the Central Bank), under your authority, carved a resolution outside of the Legislature which you endorsed to print an extra 10 billion dollars and yet you get on the BBC and begin to play hanky-panky. This is unfortunate,” Gray said, referring to ex-President Sirleaf.

According to the Montserrado District #8 lawmaker, the former Liberian president needs to “account to the Liberian people so that we can have a forward march.”

Another lawmaker who weighed in on the subject is Bong County’s Mavin Cole.

He urged the 54th Legislature to summon both ex-President Sirleaf and ex-CBL governor Weeks to provide clarity on how they were authorized to print an additional L$10 billion.

The ongoing currency issue, Rep. Cole indicated, does not augur well for Liberia and calls on the Legislature to get to the core of the matter, primarily by citing Madam Sirleaf and Mr. Weeks who he believes were key players in the printing and alleged circulation of an amount reportedly totalling L$15 billion, notwithstanding another claims of a total of L$16 billion.

Even so, former President Sirleaf was dismissive of claims that she ordered the printing of extra L$10 billion in banknotes though the legislature only approved L$5 billion in 2016.

“The Central Bank is an autonomous institution. The National Legislature by its constitutional role gives approval for the printing of banknotes – the record on that is clear. Why didn’t they take time to look at the records before coming up?” she told the BBC.

According to her, the CBL has already done an investigation on the direction of the Minister of Justice.

“Why haven’t they released the report of the investigation? Why are they sitting on it? Has the President realized what he has done to the country? The reputation of the country is also at stake. They’re talking about 16 billion, do they know what the GDP of this country is?” Sirleaf pondered.

Moreover, former CBL governor Weeks told a news conference over the weekend that he was cooperating with police investigation on the history of the printed monies.

Weeks claims the CBL did not act outside of the law in the printing of an additional L$10 billion, and expressed shock over widespread belief of “a missing container of money.”

Gray also countered the position of the ex-CBL chief. The lawmaker argued that “instead of coming back to the Legislature to say exactly how much would have been printed they did not do that,” quoting Weeks as saying that it was the Board of Governors of the CBL that passed a resolution based on which the money was printed, although it is the Legislature that has such authority.

About Cholo Brooks 14625 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists, and is currently contributing to the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation as Liberia Correspondent.