Following the publication of a damning report from the Kroll Independent Reviewers who were hired by USAID to investigate into Liberia’s missing billions, the Government of Liberia has begun to make some arrests.
Up to press time, it was confirmed that Central Bank of Liberia Deputy Governor for Operations, Charles Sirleaf, has been arrested, along with the CBL Director of Finance, Dorbor Hagba. This paper has learned that former Governor Milton Weeks among other “persons of interest” will be rounded up in the next hours.
According to the Kroll investigation, discrepancies were discovered at every stage of the process for controlling the movement of banknotes into and out of the Central Bank during the Independent Review, including: the Legislature approval for printing new banknotes; the procurement and contracting of Crane AB; the shipping of new banknotes to Liberia; the delivery of new banknotes to CBL; and, the movement of funds within and out of the CBL vaults.
Kroll’s Independent Review discovered that the CBL ordered new currency totaling LRD 15 billion from Crane Currency in two tranches in 2016 and 2017. “Communications from the CBL and the Legislature indicate that there was no clear or consistent strategy driving the process to circulate new banknotes from inception to conclusion. As a result, this raised the risk of unintended negative economic effects, including high inflation and the rapid depreciation of the LRD,” Kroll stated.
Kroll also noted that although Legislature approval under “Senate Resolution #002” was granted on May 17, 2016 for the CBL to print new banknotes LRD 5 billion, CBL under former Governor Milton Weeks had already awarded an initial contract to Crane Currency on May 6, 2016 to print new banknotes, eleven days before the Legislative approval was granted.
The Independent Reviewers also discovered that for the printing of the second tranche of LRD 10 billion, no Legislative approval was granted as in 2016.
Surprisingly, the CBL at the time procured the services of Crane AB for both printing contracts without adhering to its own internal tendering policies for procurement, the Reviewers noted, disclosing further that the actual value of the new banknotes printed by Crane to Liberia totaled LRD 15.506 billion; meaning Crane printed an excess of LRD 506 million above the initial contractual amount of LRD 15 billion.
The Group also discovered that of the printed LRD 15.506 billion, the CBL had infused LRD 10.146 billion into the Liberian economy without removing from circulation and destroying the equivalent quantity/value of legacy banknotes.
It remains to be seen whether others fingered in the report will likely be arrested, including Finance Minister Samuel Tweah whose name is entangled in the USD25 million that was said to be infused into the economy to offset the depreciation of the Liberian dollar.
“Under the direction of the Minister of Finance, the President’s Economic Management Team conducted a separate USD25 million exercise to “mop up” excess LRD banknotes with USD banknotes. At the time of the Kroll review, this resulted in LRD 2.3 billon (USD 15 million) being purchased by the CBL from local businesses and foreign exchange bureaus, in an attempt to address the depreciation of the Liberian Dollar. This action was taken by the CBL without a clearly documented strategy,” the report noted.
The INSIGHT will provide updates as development unfolds.