28 February 2018

Liberia: Amid Biting Hardships, Senate Wants Full Disclosure On Actual Status of Liberian Economy

Photo: Erik Hersman
Downtown Monrovia

The Senate at its 13th day sitting yesterday voted unanimously to mandate it's Committees on Ways, Means, Finance and Budget, Banking and Currency to cite the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA), Liberian Central Bank (CBL) and Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) "to present the actual status of the country's economy."

This development comes against a backdrop of claims by former President Sirleaf that she left US$155 million in the national coffers and counterclaims by President George Weah that the country is broke with its economy in a free fall.

Presidential Press Secretary Sam Mannah appeared to have upped the ante when he disclosed in a recent radio interview that only US$55 (fifty-five U.S. dollars) was left in the accounts of the Ministry of State, with 91 percent of its total budget already exhausted.

Meanwhile, Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence, chair of the Senate Committee on Rules, Order and Administration, has requested the House's plenary to have the three financial institutions brief the committee on the financial statements of the reserved balances and realistic projections on revenue collections.

Sen. Lawrence said her communication, the second in recent months, was prompted this time by the statement of President George Weah during his first Annual Message, that his government has inherited a broken economy and a broke government.

This announcement has led to many arguments, including a counterclaim by former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who, in a BBC interview, declared that she left an amount of US$155 million dollars in the nation's coffers.

It can be recalled that the Senate few months ago received several communications in which concerns were raised about the downward trend of the country's economy. The Senate's communication was accompanied by requests for intervention of the Senators.

In one her communication to her colleagues, Senator Lawrence on the eve of the October 10, 2017 presidential and legislative elections, warned of a looming and imminent economic danger if the government did not institute the necessary austerity measures in time to improve the situation.

Sen. Lawrence's stance was buttressed by her fellow Grand Bassa Senator Jonathan Kaipay who, together with Montserrado County Senator Geraldine Doe-Sherif, went further by requesting the outgoing administration to inform the nation on the status of the economy that would be inherited by the next leadership.

The mandate of the two committees chaired by Bomi County Senator Morris G. Saytumah and A. Marshall Dennis of Grand Gedeh County is to conduct hearings into the concerns raised in the soonest possible time in the wake of a continuing rise in the exchange rate of the US dollar on the parallel market.

Financial experts have reportedly welcomed President Weah's pronouncement to conduct a comprehensive audit of all government agencies, after he disclosed that the Ministry of State inherited only US$55 in its coffers.

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