13 March 2014

Liberia: Ellen Admits to PR Expenditure

Photo: Liberian Legislature
Members of the Liberian legislature in session (file photo).

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has admitted to spending over US$368,209.00 on international public relations.

The President's response came in the wake of communication written by Maryland County Representative, Dr. Bhofal Chambers alleging to members of the House of Representatives that the Sirleaf-led administration had spent over US$200 million on international public relations.

"I am compelled to bring to your attention the case involving the potentially great harm that Liberians may suffer as a result of the statement made by Maryland County Representative Bhofal Chambers regarding an irresponsible and uninformed report that Liberia spends US$200 million in lobbying fees.

It is simply preposterous to believe that with a budget under US$600 million and under our transparency and accountable financial system, we would spend such an amount," the letter of the Liberian leader's read.

According to a communication from the Executive Mansion dated March 7, 2014, under the signature of President Johnson-Sirleaf's and addressed to House Speaker Alex Tyler, states that the Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs provided evidence on what was spent for lobbying by the government which is limited to a United States Firm, RRL, for which a total of US$368, 209.00 over the period of 2007 to 2013, making an average of US$52,601.00 per annum.

According to the communication, the President tries to understand the motive behind those who spread 'wicked and false information to undermine the credibility of the country and can only conclude that the dirty politics will end up hurting the country at large.

"It is my understanding, that you, (Speaker Alex Tyler) called for hearing on this issue and was duly informed that such expense can be attributed to the Liberia Shipping Registry Corporation (LISCR), the United States Company, which is registered as an agent for Liberia's Maritime program," the letter further explained.

It detailed that Liberia's Ambassador to the United States, Jeremiah Sulunteh, is home to participate in the US-Liberia Partnership Dialogue, has confirmed the concerns expressed by the country's good friends and support in the US Congress, who may believe that a statement made by a legislator, might have been verified as a fact.

On January 30, members of the House of Representatives set up a special committee, headed by its Committee on Judiciary to probe the more than US$200m allegedly spent on international public relations by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and some of her key officials. The House's decision was predicated on a communication dated January 29, 2014, from Maryland County Representative Bhofal Chambers.

The communication quoted Dr. Chambers as stating that his attention was drawn to the alleged 'unexplained and unauthorized expenditure' by the Executive Mansion of over US$200 million for public relations services rendered by foreign firms, as stated in the US State Department's report.

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