In earnest, the chips in the alleged missing L$16 billion saga have begun to fall even though it is established by investigative reports that there are no clues that the money evaporated from containers as was widely perceived by the public when news first broke. The mix of professionals constituted into what is called Presidential Investigative Team (PIT) by President Weah to probe the so-called missing billions have come out clearly and forcefully on culprits that stand liable for breaches and violations of Liberia’s financial laws and procedures in handling the money. As The Analyst reports, PIT is reporting that during its report, several executives of the Central Bank of Liberia, mainly “middle management executives” were found in violation of Liberian laws in handling their responsibilities.
What appeared to be effective way of calming public nerves and reducing speculations over final reports of two different teams happened yesterday, February 28, when the international auditing firm and the special presidential team investigating the alleged missing of L$16 billion nearly simultaneously released their respective reports.
Despite immaterial variances between figures and some dates, reports by the two investigative teams were unanimous in two key conclusions: that there was no missing containers of newly printed banknotes and that the Central Bank of Liberia and the Economic Management Team were afoul with laws and procedures in handling the L$16b saga and the US$25 million “mopping-up” exercise respectively.
Another slight variance between the two teams was that the PIT took responsibility of culpability to specific actors in the saga with specific recommendations for what Government must do to acquit for the breaches committed.
For instance, the PIT said the Central Bank of Liberia did not abide by international best practice for selecting and contracting the Crane Currency to print new Liberian banknotes.
The Presidential Investigative Team was specific about its finding that the former and current senior management executives of the Central Bank of Liberia were found in violation of various laws of the Republic of Liberia in the discharge of their duties.
According to PIT, the referenced senior CBL officials, both current and former, endorsed the printing of L$l$146,250,00.00 above the approved amount of L5 billion and thereby incurred an extract cost of US$401,469.58 without authorization from the Liberian Legislature.
The Team said the CBL offices also endorsed the printing of L$359,750,000 above the contracted amount of L$10 billion, and thereby incurring an extra cost of US$433,898.14 without authorization from the Liberian Legislature.
The PIT report also revealed that the senior CBL executives failed to report and account for the amount of L$2,645,000,000 banknotes which is the difference between the L$18,151,000,000 banknotes discovered from the parking list as the total amount of Liberian Dollar banknotes printed and shipped to Liberia and that of the L$15.506,000,000 banknotes reported by the Central Bank of Liberia as the total amount printed, shipped, and received at the CBL.
Accordingly, the presidential investigative team point out that several middle management executives of the CBL were found in violation of the laws as it related to ensuring full receipt and accountability of the total and actual amount of Liberian dollars banknotes and knowingly conspiring with the former senior management executive and the current senior management executive of the CBL.
The Team said they also criminally doctored and fixed reports understating the full and actual amount printed and received by the Central Bank of Liberia.
CRANE Currency AB Liability
The PIT report also held accountable the CBL contractor, Crane Currency AB, which printed the new banknotes.
The report states: “CRANE Currency AB of Sweden, contracted by the Central Bank of Liberia in two separate contracts to print the total of L$15 billion banknotes at the total cost of US$15,331,689.20 violated the laws of the Republic of Liberia.
PIT revealed that CRANE Currency AB knowingly and willfully conspired with officials of the Central of Liberia to defraud the Government of Liberia and that it also ignored the terms and conditions of the contract by printing L$18,151,000,000 in complete breach of the contract, causing the Government of Liberia to incur an extract cost of US$835,367.72.
Discrepancies in US$25m Mopping Up Exercise
The PIT report also touched on the US$25 million ordered extracted by the national reserve to mop up excess liquidity in the Liberian money markets.
The Team wrote: “Given the many discrepancies noted in the manner in which the mop up exercise was conducted in relation to the infusion of the US$25m in to the Liberian economy, and the scope, time and financial resource limitation encountered by the PIT-TC, the investigation recommends the that Technical Economic Management Team (TEMT) and Central Bank of Liberia put a halt to the exercise, and that a forensic investigation of the entire mop up exercise be conducted without any delay.”
The report furthered that given the many discrepancies observed throughout the investigation in relation to the operations of the Central Bank of Liberia in executing its starutory mandate, there was a need to review the Standard Operational Procedures (SOP), banking supervision and internal controls of the Central Bank of Liberia to curb the possibility of abuse of the money supply of the nation, as well as enhancing efficiency and productivity.
It concluded that to further protect currency banknotes in reserve, the CBL should consider discontinuing the use of the Vault at the erstwhile National Housing and Saving Bank.