Early hours of last week, Liberia woke up to the most-talked-about ‘16B’ report. Though it's ludicrous to believe such quantity of local currency (Liberian Dollar-LRD) filled in a container would go missing without a single trace, yet only an independent investigation could unearth the truth. For some, it's a snapshot of fun and unique opportunity to score political goals against the incumbent while others saw it as a perfect moment to save the tainted image of the country via truthfulness to power.
Flipping through the pages of the detailed report backed by citizens’ reactions, something interesting grabbed my attention on the ‘new normal’ of our body politics. The ‘new normal’ we've seen in the public domain mainly from political actors and supporters is what I allude to as the ‘Blame-game theory’. Blame-game theory, I mean, owning the good and disowning the bad. This mirrors my mind to the words of my late mother “Stubborn orphan is extremely unlikely to attract legal adoption”. Good is good and bad is bad regardless who's involved. Good governance denotes priding in the good and taking full responsibility for the wrong with corrective measures.
Now, let's switch to the synopsis of the USAID sponsored Kroll's investigative report covering the period of January 1, 2016 to December 7, 2018. “Kroll has identified discrepancies at every stage of the process for controlling the movement of banknotes into and out of the CBL 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 the CBL, and; the movement of funds within and out of the CBL’s vaults”. These are strong words of Kroll Associates, Inc., painfully pointing to gross abuse of vested authority, systematic bias, internal and external controls’ breaches, monetary deficiencies and financial mismanagement manly within the monetary power house(CBL).
In subtleties of the report, there're 10 grieved findings outlined by the independent forensic investigative firm ranging from control mechanisms, legislative approval, procurement and contracting of legal tender(LRD), and movements of currency. These are material findings strictly levied against fellow Liberian citizens not the normal politics of incumbent versus opposition, so what's vital now is to judiciously and impartially dispense justice against political and social interests.
In the context of zero win and gain, I join from afar in demanding speedy and fair justice, as well as inject the following points:
- An independent and speedy investigation into the ‘discrepancies’ surrounding the US 25M ‘mop-up exercise’ conducted by the Central bank of Liberia approved by the Technical Economic Management Team (TEMT)
- A speedy and formal responses from key parties (Technical Economic Management Team(TEMT), Board of governors of CBL and 53rd/54th Liberian Legislature under the auspices of the then speakers) on their roles played in the controversial ‘mop-up exercise’. These responses will match up for accuracy and consistency in ensuring forensic investigations of public funds
- A reconfiguration of the TEMT’s scope and manpower to incorporate new ideas and independent minds especially experts in stipulated field
- Consolidation of a well decentralized and coordinated communications system to convey meetings, workings and briefings of the TEMT
- Strengthen and upgrade the operational supports (Capacities and infrastructures) of our anti-graft institutions(General Auditing Commission, Liberia Anti Corruption Commission, Public Procurement & Concessions Commission, etc.) from a traditional approach to a transformational approach using new technologies and appropriate mix of people and knowledge
- Endorse a National Economic Management Forum (integration of students, business professionals, bankers, locals and related experts ) and derive conventional and unconventional frameworks for enhancing economic growth and development
- Under the famous Liberian adage, “Where there’s smoke, there’s a likelihood of fire”. Henceforth, it’s appropriately necessary to conduct a comprehensive external audits of previous government and a separate audit on the incumbent’s one year of operations with findings be used to reinforce internal controls and external monitoring and controls
- Set up and covey important performance metrics, set stretch targets, and create cross-organizational mechanisms blended with unannounced presidential supervisions to key ministries and agencies implementing the Pro-poor agenda
- Brainstorm and launch mandatory anti-graft training modules/tools for all public officials (elected and appointed) and operatives in the public domain. Key pointers to include certificates and refresher trainings
- Demonstrate strong political will and maintain non-negotiable stance in policies’ breach
Again, instead of playing the ‘blame-game’ of predecessor versus successor, it's prudent we take time to meticulously analyze the faults and connect the holes in our public financial management corridors. It's a big shame to scapegoat the situation as this is tied to the image of our country especially the investment climate of the country we're governing or intend to govern. The normal culture of impunity is seriously undermining the fight against corruption as this is a litmus test for the incumbent to strengthen its integrity institutions in raising the bar and maintaining citizens' trust and confidence. Baba Odewale laid out in his famous script (The gods are not to blame), “Only a mad man goes to bed with his roof on fire”. Dig deeper! Name, shame and impartially prosecute the bad apple while recognizing and commending the good.
Public Sector Management has taught us that one of the meats of good governance is honesty, that's, being truthful to power. Honesty, an inseparable virtues deeply rooted in the heart. It’s that value that sticks to the conscience! A good lawyer can spine his arguments to win an unwinnable case, but he cannot win his conscience. ‘My government is exonerated’ is not quite the same as ‘My country is exonerated’, so the best thing President George Weah can do is to step above the ‘Blame-game theory’ with a bipartisan approach by acting with ingenuity not emotionality. Chief, the ball is in your court, shoot the winner or lose the ball!
Disclaimer: This remains my independent opinion; neither represents the views of my employ nor family.
Samuel Saah Karimu, Sr., a globally prepared Liberian writer, researcher, entrepreneur and certified public discussant with backgrounds in Business Economics, Financial and Project Managements and Quantitative reasoning blended with quality business communications and problem solving skills. Hold training in development studies, The IMF sponsored public financial management training, Management Information System and Forensic Investigation. Worked with the private sector on a private-public partnership mainly design for strengthening rural-health system in Liberia.