Liberia: MOJ Shifts Burden of Proof to CBL for Mop-Up Flaws

According to Justice Minister F. Musa Dean (pictured), the accountability of the mop up funds is not in question, however, section 2.2.4 of the GAC's report says that fifteen entities listed by the CBL as having received moneys from the CBL's staff during the exercise, denied their participation in the exercise.

Liberia's Justice Minister and Attorney General Frank Musa Dean has attributed the description of discrepancies, variances and delays in posting financial transactions contained in the General Auditing Commission (GAC)'s report point to systemic weaknesses at the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL).

"As Minister of justice and attorney general, I have the responsibility and obligation to respond to the report on behalf of the government of Liberia. I will, hereafter, summarize the factual findings established by GAC's report," Minister Dean said.

He recounted how the US$25 million was authorized to be infused into the economy, to stabilize the exchange rate through monetary interventions by the CBL.

"Out of the US$25 million authorized, only US$17 million was used. Section four, table five of the GAC's report establishes that out of the US$17 million used, US$10 million was exchanged at the rate of L$155 to US$1; and US$5 million was exchanged at a rate of L$152 to US$1," Mr. Dean said.

Mr. Dean said the GAC's report, like the Kroll and Presidential Investigation Team's (PIT) reports , also revealed entrenched, systemic flaws at the CBL over the years.

According to Mr. Dean, US$15 million applying to rates spelled out above, was exchange for Liberian dollars two billion three hundred two million seven hundred ten thousand nine hundred forty (LRD2,302,710,940), adding that the said amount was deposited with the bank as per the accounting records of the CBL.

Mr. Dean said the ministry received on May 15, 2019 the findings contained in the GAC report on the use of (US$25million), authorized by President George M. Weah in his speech delivered on July 16, 2018.

"Section 2.5.2 of the GAC's report establishes that the remaining United States dollars two million (US$2), out of the United States dollars seventeen million (US$17M), was sold directly to Total Incorporated at the exchange rate of (LRD156.5709) to (US$1), realizing a value of Liberian dollars (LRD313,141,800)," he said.

Mr. Dean said as Justice Minister and Attorney General, he has made specific recommendations to the President and that President George M. Weah will shortly address the nation.

Mr. Dean said consistent with the above findings, the GAC's report provides evidence that two point six billion Liberian dollars (LRD2.6), representing the value of United States seventeen million (US$17 m), was actually brought to the CBL, indicating that "it can safely be concluded that no money is missing in the25 million United States mop up exercise."

"In the process of exchanging the fifteen million used for the direct mop up exercise as detailed above, section 2.2.5 table two of the GAC's report shows that United States dollars six million seven hundred thousand (US$6.7 m) was taken out of the bank to be exchanged during the exercise, using five different teams; while (US$8.3m) was exchange at the CBL, on the bank's premises," Mr. Dean said.

According to Mr. Dean, the accountability of the mop up funds is not in question, however, section 2.2.4 of the GAC's report says that fifteen entities listed by the CBL as having received moneys from the CBL's staff during the exercise, denied their participation in the exercise.

"Eight of the entities on the CBLs transaction list were found not to be in existence. The burden of proofs is on the CBL to establish the veracity of the transactions and the existence of the entities. Multiple sections of the report reference discrepancies and variances in the accounting records of the mop up exercise," Mr. Dean indicated.

He emphasized that these variances and discrepancies places the burden of proof on the CBL to explain or to establish that they are not factual.

But a leading legal practitioner(name withheld) has described the Justice Minister's position as a charade noting that the Minister served as a member of the Technical Economic Management Team(TEMT) which took the decision to infuse the US$25m into the economy through local money exchangers rather than through the commercial banks as the law dictates.

According to the lawyer, Finance Minister Samuel Tweah had boastfully declared on radio that as head of the TEMT he made the decision to deal with local money exchangers rather than through the commercial banks because according to him doing so through the commercial banks would have not yielded the desired results.

Further, according to the lawyer, former CBL Deputy Governor had told investigators on the record that the CBL had no part to play in the infusion exercise which was solely handled by Finance Minister Tweah who has since distanced himself from the exercise and placed blame squarely on CBL Governor Nathaniel Patray for the fiasco.

Liberia's Justice Minister and Attorney General Frank Musa Dean has attributed the description of discrepancies, variances and delays in posting financial transactions contained in the General Auditing Commission (GAC)'s report point to systemic weaknesses at the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL).

"As Minister of justice and attorney general, I have the responsibility and obligation to respond to the report on behalf of the government of Liberia. I will, hereafter, summarize the factual findings established by GAC's report," Minister Dean said.

He recounted how the US$25 million was authorized to be infused into the economy, to stabilize the exchange rate through monetary interventions by the CBL.

"Out of the US$25 million authorized, only US$17 million was used. Section four, table five of the GAC's report establishes that out of the US$17 million used, US$10 million was exchanged at the rate of Liberian dollars (LRD155) to (US$1); and US$5 million was exchanged at a rate of Liberian dollars (LRD152 to (US$1)," Mr. Dean said.

Mr. Dean said the GAC's report, like the Kroll and Presidential Investigation Team's (PIT) reports , also revealed entrenched, systemic flaws at the CBL over the years.

According to Mr. Dean, US$15 million applying to rates spelled out above, was exchanged for Liberian dollars two billion three hundred two million seven hundred ten thousand nine hundred forty (LRD2,302,710,940), adding that the said amount was deposited with the bank as per the accounting records of the CBL.

Mr. Dean said the ministry received on May 15, 2019 the findings contained in the GAC report on the use of (US$25million), authorized by President George M. Weah in his speech delivered on July 16, 2018.

"Section 2.5.2 of the GAC's report establishes that the remaining United States dollars two million (US$2), out of the United States dollars seventeen million (US$17M), was sold directly to Total Incorporated at the exchange rate of (LRD156.5709) to (US$1), realizing a value of Liberian dollars (L$313,141,800)," he said.

Mr. Dean said as Justice Minister and Attorney General, he has made specific recommendations to the President and President George M. Weah will shortly address the nation.

Mr. Dean said consistent with the above findings, the GAC's report provides evidence that two point six billion Liberian dollars (L$2.6), representing the value of United States seventeen million (US$17 m), was actually brought to the CBL, indicating that "it can safely be concluded that no money is missing in the25 million United States mop up exercise."

"In the process of exchanging the fifteen million used for the direct mop up exercise as detailed above, section 2.2.5 table two of the GAC's report shows that United States dollars six million seven hundred thousand (US$6.7 m) was taken out of the bank to be exchanged during the exercise, using five different teams; while (US$8.3m) was exchange at the CBL, on the bank's premises," Mr. Dean said.

According to Minister Dean, the accountability of the mop up funds is not in question, however, section 2.2.4 of the GAC's report states that fifteen entities listed by the CBL as having received moneys from the CBL's staff during the exercise, denied their participation in the exercise.

"Eight of the entities on the CBLs transaction list were found not to be in existence. The burden of proofs is on the CBL to establish the veracity of the transactions and the existence of the entities. Multiple sections of the report reference discrepancies and variances in the accounting records of the mop up exercise," Minister Dean indicated.

He emphasized that these variances and discrepancies place he burden of proof on the CBL to explain or to establish that they are not factual.

But legal analysts have slammed Justice Dean's report claiming that the Minister as a member of the TEMT which took charge of and led the mop-up exercise should be held liable because as a lawyer, the Justice Minister should have been aware that Finance Minister Tweah's decision to use local money exchangers, some of who were not licensed, was explicitly against the Public Finance Management law(PFM).

Additionally, according to the lawyer, the Justice Minister, in trying to cover-up his role and that of the Finance Minister, illegally imposed restrictions on the Auditor-General in the performance of her duties by having her agree to a set of procedures to guide the conduct of what should have been a forensic audit. This, according to the lawyer, was illegal although the Auditor-General faltered by subjecting herself to the authority of the Justice Minister when the law provides that she should be free and independent in the discharge of her duties.

Moreover, according to the lawyer, Finance Minister Samuel Tweah had boastfully declared on radio that as head of the TEMT he made the decision to deal with local money exchangers rather than through the commercial banks because according to him doing so through the commercial banks would have not yielded the desired results.

Further, according to the lawyer, former CBL Deputy Charles Sirleaf had told investigators on the record that the CBL had no part to play in the infusion exercise which was solely handled by Finance Minister Tweah. But Tweah has since distanced himself from the exercise and placed blame squarely on CBL Governor Nathaniel Patray for the fiasco.

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