Liberia: Patray Hangs to Dry

Liberia's chief prosecutor, Justice Minister Frank Musa Dean says the burden of proof is on the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) to explain variances and discrepancies cited in a report by the General Auditing Commission (GAC) on the use of a US$25m intended to mop-up excess Liberian Dollars here.

Central Bank Executive Governor Nathaniel Patray is the co-chair to Finance Minister Samuel Tweah on the Economic Management Team that spearheaded the controversial mop - up exercise intended to stabilize the exchange rate here. The entire mop-up transaction was handled by CBL's officials.

Responding to the GAC's factual findings on the mop - up exercise Wednesday, 22 May, Minister Dean indicates that multiple sections of the GAC report reference discrepancies and variances in the accounting records of the mop-up exercise.

"Again, these variances and discrepancies place the burden of proof on the CBL to explain these variances and discrepancies or to establish that they are not factual," Dean says.

Consistent with findings, Minister Dean says the GAC's report provides evidence that LRD$2.6bn representing the value of US$17m was actually brought to the Central Bank.

"There is therefore no issue as to the Liberian Dollars Two Point Six Billion (LRD2.6b), representing the value of the United States Dollars Seventeen Million (USD17m), being brought to the vault of the CBL," he notes.

He says he can safely conclude that no money is missing in the US$25m mop-up exercise.

According to Minister Dean, he has made specific recommendations to President George Manneh Weah in view of the unfolding, and the president "will shortly address the nation."

The US$25m mop - up and other concerns about the poor performance of the economy, allegations of corruption and other issues are concerns held by some Liberians for which they want to be a part of a planned June 7 protest.

Suggestions have been coming from some quarters for President Weah to dismiss and submit Mr. Patray and Mr. Tweah to investigation.

But the Justice Minister finds that the burden is on the Central Bank to explain the variances cited by the GAC.

"The description of the discrepancies, variances and delays in posting financial transactions, contained in the GAC's Report, point to systematic weaknesses at the CBL," Minister Dean reveals.

He explains that the GAC report, like the Kroll and the Presidential Investigative Team's (PIT) Reports, reveals entrenched, systemic flaws at the CBL over the years.

In a summarizing the GAC report, Minister Dean says the amount of US$25m was authorized to be infused into the economy to stabilize the exchange rate, through monetary interventions by the Central Bank of Liberia.

Out of the US$25m authorized, Minister Dean says "only" US$17m was used.

Out of the US$17m used, Minister Dean explains that the GAC report indicated that US$10m was exchanged at a rate of LRD$155 to US$1.He says US$5m was exchanged at the rate of LRD$152 to US$1.

Applying the rates mentioned above, Minister Dean indicates that US$15m was exchanged for LRD$2,302,710,940.

"This amount was deposited with the Central Bank, as per the accounting records of the CBL," he explains.

Out of the US$17m, Minister Dean detailed that the remaining US$2m was sold directly to Total Incorporated at an exchange rate of LRD$156.5709 to US$1, realizing the value of LRD$313, 141800.00.By Winston W. Parley-Edited by Othello B. Garblah

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