By Wilfred S. Gortor
Monrovia, Feb. 28 (LINA) – The final report by the Presidential Investigation Team (PIT) has revealed that there is no L$16 billion missing, but has exposed a trail of discrepancies leading to the printing, shipment and delivery of the nation’s banknotes.
In August 2018, it can be recalled, the government of Liberia received reports about suspicious activities concerning the shipment of new Liberian dollar banknotes in the tone on L$15.506 billion to the Central Bank of Liberia that had allegedly gone missing.
Later increased to L$16 billion as a result of variance in media reports from unconnected sources, the Liberian public went haywire over news that a container full with the country’s legal tender had gone missing.
Many, however, sensed corruption and did not hesitate in pointing accusing fingers at the former and current governments of Liberia.
President George Manneh Weah, in his bid to solve the mystery-money quagmire and in an apparent attempt to make real his campaign commitment to fight corruption, commissioned a probe into the matter by establishing the PIT, following a preliminary investigation by the Liberia National Police (LNP) and the National Security Agency (NSA).
With a little over four months since the investigation was commissioned, PIT in its final report delivered at a news conference in Monrovia refuted the popular notion of a missing U$16 billion, cataloguing several inconsistencies that were occasioned mainly by the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) in the journey leading to the printing and shipment of the of the money.
The release of the PIT report coincided with another commissioned by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) at the request of the Liberian government in an effort to add credibility to the fact that no container of money was missing.
« The CBL did not abide by international best practice for selecting and contracting CRANE Currency AB to print the new Liberian Dollar Banknotes, » Alex Cuffy, the Head of Secretariat of the investigation team, told journalists at the Ministry of Information in Monrovia on Thursday.
Cuffy said the CBL only relied on a letter dated June 19, 2017 from the National Legislature and a resolution of the Board of Governors of the CBL to print and import an additional L$10 billion which was not authorized by the legislature.
The investigation discovered that there were 10 shipments of printed materials (banknotes) in 24 containers (20-foot) between September 7, 2016 and March 25, 2018.
All containers bearing the new Liberian dollar banknotes printed and shipped by CRANE Currency AB, according to the report, were received by the CBL.
Among major inconsistencies, the report showed that in 2016, the total amount of L$5,146,250,000 new banknotes printed and shipped by CRANE Currency AB was received by the CBL
However, the amount of L$146, 250,000 was printed in excess of the L$5 billion authorized by the National Legislature and contracted for by the CBL.
In 2007, the report further uncovered, that the CBL contracted CRANE Currency AB to print L$10 billion at a contract value of US$10,121,689.20, however, the CBL paid Crane Currency AB a total of US$10,555,587.34.
This overpayment, according to the PIT report, was not authorized by the legislature and was paid outside the terms and condition of the contract, adding that CBL did not provide an amendment to the contract or any document to justify the overpayment.
While the CBL reported that it printed and received a total of US$15.506 billion between July 2016 and April 2018, the report showed that analysis of Packing List submitted by the CBL revealed that the amount of 18.151 billion was printed and shipped by CRANE Currency.
By this, the report indicated that the CBL is yet to account for a variance of L$2.645 billion.
Whether or not an additional investigation will be launched into how the excess of L$2.645 billion was expended by the CBL remains a question yet unanswered, nevertheless, the summary of the report submitted by PIT has so far provided several answers to the currency debacle.