Two Lawmakers Differ over House ‘Probe’ of Missing Billions

Monrovia: The alleged mission billions Liberian Dollars debate has surfaced at the House of Representatives with some lawmakers opposing a separate investigation by plenary on the matter.

Rep. Mariamu Fofana and Clarence Massaquoi both of Lofa County have surmised that the plenary’s decision to probe the missing billion indicates ‘vindication of Oneself’ out of the entire missing money saga, noting that the entire Legislature are persons of interest.

A number of current Lawmakers in the 53rd Legislature when the 15billion Liberian Dollars was printed by the former government of ex-President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

The Central Bank of Liberia indicted that it acted on the orders of a July 17, 2017 letter written over the printing to which the legislature is claiming that at no time did it authorized the CBL to print additional 10.5billion.

Rep. Gray’s Communication to plenary indicated that all stakeholders should be invited to a public hearing to give information on the missing money in order to ensure credibility and save the image of the legislature which he believes has been dragged in the mud.

Two Lawmakers

Representative Gray

Currently, a special investigative team combined with international forensic investigators is investigating the missing money while the Central Bank of Liberia issued a statement indicating that there was no money missing as it is being speculated in the country.

Both Rep. Mariamu Fofana and Clarence Massaquoi differed with their colleagues that it was needful to await the outcome of both reports in order for plenary to make a decision where necessary.

“It will not hurt this body for us to allow them to reach the conclusion of the investigation-and act on the findings but if we proceed with this it will create a ‘conflict of interest”, Rep. Clarence Massaquoi stated.

“This missing money issue has damaged the image of the country both locally and internationally, as a matter of fact, we are all persons of interest so let’s get away with sentiments in this matter and allow the international and local investigators do the work”, Mariamu Fofana.

The position by both Rep. Fofana and Massaquoi in plenary did not materialize as 23 which made the majority of the members of the House of Representative disagreed with them on grounds that Liberia is a sovereign nation and that all branches of government uniquely carry out its function in the interest of the country and its people.

During the heated debate, Montserrrado District #8 Representative argued that the probe by the house of representatives which include public hearings in no way interfere with international and local investigators’ work,

“I see nothing wrong with the legislature inviting all stakeholders to include the former president of Liberia which does not suppose that they are guilty but we need to find out the facts in the Liberian people money”.

Following a recent letter to the Chief Clerk of the House of Representatives from the local investigators on information query, House Speaker Bhofal Chambers told the media in a news conference that the Legislature will not allow itself to be questioned by any investigators over the disappearance of the money.

Speaker Chambers statement sparked debate among his colleagues, many of whom termed his statement as ‘unilateral and personalized’ and does not represent the view of them

“Because the integrity of the 54th National Legislature matters, any or all members of the Legislature who for any reason are to be subject of investigation should comply to extent provided for in the Law, and in the interest of the Liberian people, The Honorable Speaker should refrain from the use of the House’s platform in launching his attack on the former officials of government, as doing so will sway the debate in a non-productive manner to the detriment of the Liberian people”, a statement from opposition lawmakers.

The majority lawmakers who thrashed their two colleagues’ argument in the House probe of the missing money included Edwin Snowe, Acarous Gray, Thomas Fallah, Matthews Zarzar, Edward Karfiah, Emerson Kamara and Rustonlyn Dennis, among others.

They spoke strongly in favor of the House conducting its own investigation, so as to give them (lawmakers) the opportunity to establish the reality of how the mandate to print additional Liberian dollar banknotes came about, as well be informed and not accepting anything given them from other investigations.

The majority of lawmakers also argued that the presence of international investigators in Liberia is at the request of the Executive, one of the three branches of the Liberian government. “The executive ordered that investigation and we do not have any power to ask the team to report to us directly, while if the president receives the report and decides not to share with us he will be right and it is the prerogative of the Executive to investigate and it is as well the prerogative of the House of Representative to investigate”, Rep. Gray.

According to him, the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) did not get any authorization from them (lawmakers) to print the additional Liberian Dollars, “If we conduct our own investigation, we will establish who say the truth or not.

Based on the request made by Montserrado County District #8 Lawmaker, the majority members of House of Representatives resolved to begin its own investigation, starting this Thursday November 8, 2018 with the appearance of those they termed as persons of interest including present and past Ministers of Finance, present and past Ministers of Justices, present and past Commissioner Generals of the Liberia Revenue Authority, the present and past Governors of the Central Bank of Liberia and the former speaker of the House of Representatives as persons of interest expected to appear before them in open session starting this Thursday.

In the 53rd Legislature, the current Deputy Speaker, Prince K. Moye served as Chair on the House’s Committee on Ways Means, and Finance; Grand Bassa County District #1 Representative, Hans Barchue was Deputy Speaker and defected district #10 lawmaker; defeated Lawmaker Julius Berrian served as Chair on Banking and Currency when the over 15 billion Liberian dollar banknotes were printed.

But while the lawmakers don’t want to be subjected to questioning by the forensic team probing the missing billions saga, the House of Representatives has acknowledged that this issue has created serious embarrassment for them “everywhere we pass the Liberian people are pointing accusing fingers at us so we need to get to the bottle of this matter”.

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