8 February 2014

Liberia Legislature Probing U.S.$200 Million Public Relations Saga

Monrovia — The House of Representatives at the 53rd National Legislature has begun preliminary Investigation into the alleged two hundred and sixty three Million United states dollars (US$ 263,000,000.00) spent by the executive branch of the Liberian government on foreign Public relations.

The Plenary of the House of Representatives last Tuesday set up a special investigative committee headed by Representative Gayah Karmo of Bomi County to investigate the executive Branch of Government as a result of a communication written by Representative Bhofal Chambers of Maryland County.

Representative Chambers (CDC-District #2 Maryland County) wrote a communication to plenary of the House of Representatives asking that august body to launch an investigation into a US state department report, which indicated that the Liberia spent over two hundred million united states dollars on PR as reported by the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA).

The United States department of records in its report claimed that the Liberian government paid more money for Public relations abroad in 2008 than expenditure it capture in 2007.

Representative Chambers in his communication further claimed that firms from which services were periodically solicited or contracted are located in Washington D.C and Vienna, Virginia in the USA.

On Friday the committee was given a two week mandate to report back to plenary. Jump-starting the investigation, the committee has invited the Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs.

Though findings from the discussion with the first invitees were not released to the press because according to the committee there are still other entities to appear for investigation, including the Bureau of Maritime Affairs, and Finance Ministry but accordingly the committee cross examined some official from the Ministry of State in an effort to get to the bottom of the matter.

After the meeting, the crafter of the communication that led to the investigation, Rep. Chambers in a news conference said, invitees have not denied or confirmed the allegation but said the first investigation conducted by the committee have discovered that the government have spent fifty thousand united states dollars annually on Foreign Public relation.

Bhofal said: "The Ministry of State during our first interaction confirmed that they have been acting on behalf of government and they are willing to furnish us with the relevant information, but there has not been any denial that lobbying has been going on but again we should be in the Know."

He also told journalists that the committee has given the Ministry of State one week to provide the needed information to the committee.

"We will leave no stone unturned in the offices that are involved which include the Finance Ministry, the President's Office and LISCR will all be involved. I want government officials to understand that when we as legislators are asking for information, it is not personal it is our responsibility and if we ask on behalf of the people there should not be a platform for castigation and condemnation they should be careful because if they continue to do these things there will be remedied," he said.

The Maryland County Lawmaker comments were in response to a statement made by the head of the Liberia Maritime Agency Binyah Kesselly, when he appeared Thursday at the Information Ministry regular press briefing.

Representative Chambers, who once served as caucus chair of the ruling Unity Party before joining the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) said, the action by the Executive Mansion to spend such money without it being allocated in the National budget through the National legislature is surmountable to the looting and exploitation of the country's resources.

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