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House holds 4 former Central Bank governors in contempt

Liberian Observer/Maximilian Kasseh, Jr.
Former CBL board members Kolli S. Tamba and Melisa Emeh and Board member Elsie Dossen Badio
Former CBL board members Kolli S. Tamba and Melisa Emeh and Board member Elsie Dossen Badio

MONROVIA,LIBERIA-The House of Representatives has unanimously voted to hold former Executive Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) Milton Weeks in “contempt” for printing additional L$10.5 billion banknotes without an expressed authority from members of the 53rd Legislature, an action which, according to the House has put the past and current Legislators in disrepute, and has caused unwanted protests that impeded legislative function on Monday, September 24.

Former members of the CBL Board of Governors, Kolli S. Tamba and Melisa Emeh and Elsie Dossen Badio, were also placed under contempt charges.

The contempt of the Legislature is an offense of obstructing the House in carrying out its functions, or of hindering any legislator in the performance of his or her duties.
The motion was made by Nimba County District #8 lawmaker, Representative Larry Younquoi after a closed-door session.

The motion carried the three former CBL Governors, and the current Governor, who also served between 2016 to July, 2018, to reappear on Monday, November 19 at 11:00 a.m. before the full Plenary, including former Governor David Farhat, Deputy CBL Governor Charles Sirleaf, CBL Director and Deputy Director for Internal Audit, Adolphus Forpka and Joseph Dennis, respectively, to also appear with evidence as to why they, too, should not be held in contempt for the unauthorized printing of additional L$10.5 billion.

The Chief Clerk, according to the motion, was mandated to write President George Weah to expedite those employees of the Executive, who are not in the country to be made to come home before next Monday to appear.

The motion was prompted following over four hours of testimonies from the four witnesses but some lawmakers argued that their testimonies cannot be considered as  ‘prima facie’ evidence because of inconsistency in their testimonies.

A ‘prima facie’ is based on the first impression, accepted as correct until proven otherwise.

Former board member Kolli S. Tamba (May 2016 – May 2018), told lawmakers that being aware of continuous back-and-forth meetings with the Legislature in their interpretation, the letter written by the Chief Clerk and the secretary of the Senate was an “expressed authority,” especially with the second-to-last paragraph.

“In the view of the above, and with the power assigned with the Legislature under Article 35(d) of the Constitution, this shall constitute your legal and sufficient authority,” Tamba’s letter said.

Kolli said the CBL’s resolution was written verbatim based on the letter from the Legislature.

Governor Melisa Emeh (January 2016 – January 9, 2018) said for their understanding, the letter from the Legislature meant “Approval” but apologized that the last paragraph was not adhered to, which said: “Meanwhile, the Legislature would request that you furnish with the appropriate details of the volume and denominations of the replacing banknotes prior to the printing and minting of coins.”

She pointed out that the Board of Governors are policymakers, but the administrative matters or day-to-day activities are taken care of by the Executive Governor and Deputy Executive Governor for Operations.

She also stated that deposition of some of the money at a warehouse at the Housing Bank is an old scenario and intended to “spread the risk.” She indicated that the Finance Ministry was paid for using the Housing Bank.

Mrs. Elsie Dossen Badio (2016 – present) also admitted seeing the letter from the Legislature and said they understood it to be an authority given the CBL to print additional money. She indicated that LD$15 billion is gradually being infused in the economy.

Former Executive Governor Weeks maintained that the letter from the Legislature was interpreted as an authority based on a two-month long conversation with the Legislature.
Though the letter did not state the volume and denomination, he stressed that their interpretation was that the Legislature already knew the volume and denomination from the “closed-door meetings.”

Weeks denied acting alone to print additional LD$10.5billion and indicated that it was a collective mistake.

He, however, admitted failing to inform former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and the Legislature with the appropriate details of the volume and denominations of the replacing banknotes prior to printing.

The former CBL boss further disclosed that coins were minted and are with the CBL with the remaining Liberian banknotes, but stressed that there is no money missing.

In adherence to the Legislature’s authorization, the Central Bank convened a Board meeting in which resolution BR-06-/2017 for the printing and replacement of Liberian dollar legacy banknotes was adopted.

The resolution cited Article 32(2) of the Central Bank of Liberia Act of 1999, which grants the Central Bank the authority to print and issue Liberian Dollar (LRD) banknotes, albeit with the consent of the Legislature.

The resolution referenced the Legislature’s July 19 letter requesting its full consent for the printing and subsequent issuance of new LRD banknotes, the simultaneous replacement of all LRD legacy notes and the introduction of LRD coins in lower denominations.

The Board’s resolution authorized the Executive Governor to print more of the new banknotes and mint coins in obedience with the Legislature’s mandate.

But a noted Liberian lawyer(name withheld) has told the Daily Observer that the Board of Governors as well as the Executive and the Deputy Executive Governor for operations were in error to have proceeded with the printing of the banknotes. According to the lawyer, the letter purporting to authorize the CBL to proceed with printing was not only irregular but illegal as well.

This is because the letter did not bear the signature of the Speaker of the House of Representatives since he is, according to the Constitution, head of the Legislature argued the lawyer. He further maintained two separate letters bearing the signatures of the Chief Clerk of the House of Representatives and the Secretary of the Senate respectively cannot be construed as a having the force of Legislative authority simply because both individuals, by law, lacked the standing to commit the Legislature to any deal or arrangement. As such, according to the lawyer, since what is not done legally is not done at all, the letter of authority unto which former CBL Governors acted was bogus and by extension their decision to print the banknotes was also illegal.
 

 


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