By Martin K. N. Kollie
We cannot sit here and allow Min. Samuel D. Tweah to distort the narrative, especially ahead of 2020 and 2023 polls. In just 30 months as Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Samuel D. Tweah, Jr. has told many LIES. And most partisans of CDC, including some senior officials of government, have become so comfortable with his usual LIES. Either because of their ignorance or because they just have to praise this “king” even though he is NAKED. It is all about survival (struggle for stomach). But permit me to deal with just 4 of Tweah’s numerous lies:
LIE #1: Budget Surplus
LIE #2: No L$16 billion missing
LIE #3: Pres. George Weah is the 6th best Head of State in Africa
LIE #4: Tweah’s “US$500k” annual salary at the African Development Bank (AfDB).
Let me perform some quick surgical operations on his lies. Let us get straight into it:
LIE #1: In an effort to justify his US$16,000 first-class air ticket in September 2018, Min. Samuel D. Tweah lied about earning an annual salary of US$500,000 while serving as Advisor (Grade PL6 or below) at the African Development Bank (AfDB). This was a BIG LIE. Even the Vice President of AfDB does not earn an annual salary of up to US$400,000. Then how could have a low-level advisor earned US$500k per annum?
Here are my facts based on the salary structure or grading system at AfDB. Annual salaries are usually paid in UA*. UA is the official currency of the African Development Bank:
Vice President – Grade EL2 – 261,558
Director – Grade EL4 – 207,531
Manager – Grade PL1 – 159,843
Chief Officer – Grade PL3 – 128,748
Principal Officer – Grade PL4 – 114,935
Senior Officer – Grade PL5 – 100,715
Officer – Grade PL6 – 88,250
Conversion: 1UA = 1.4USD
Follow this link to get more details on salary structure and grading system at AfDB: https://www.afdb.org/fileadmin/uploads/afdb/Documents/Generic-Documents/AfDB_Grade_and_Salary_Data_-_2016.pdf.
LIE #2: Since last week, high-ranking officials of government have been running with another LIE that Samuel Tweah shared with them to spread like wildfire. The LIE is, “President George M. Weah has been ranked the 6th best Head of State in Africa”. It seems like Samuel Tweah paid some good US dollars to manufacture this LIE. But this propaganda is too cheap and slippery.
How can someone’s private YouTube Channel rank or rate African Presidents or Heads of States? This is just a common video that anyone can produce and upload. Here is my fact: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0UMsuRMIkVU&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR0D4DDy34Kj1w5zyKGBF031_-Tz8Yh5aAjLA3mRsCbi-ylz39KgNGYUp7U.
The “ranking platform” is not even recognized. It is a SCAM for the owner of this YouTube channel to even rank Pres. George Weah above President Sahle-Work Zewde of Ethiopia and President Macky Sall of Senegal.
So, what independent standards, indicators, or thresholds were used to rank President Weah as the 6th best Head of State in Africa? How can this even have any ounce of reliability when Liberia is now the poorest country amid rampant corruption and bad governance? Weah is not even considered among “Champion Presidents” according to the African Union (AU). Follow this link to know the facts: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0UMsuRMIkVU&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR0D4DDy34Kj1w5zyKGBF031_-Tz8Yh5aAjLA3mRsCbi-ylz39KgNGYUp7U.
Additionally and throughout Africa, African Presidents are often rated mainly based on two major indicators or standards, namely: the Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) and the Transparency International Corruption Index (TICI). President Weah has not made the list of the Top 10 Current African Heads of States for the past 3 years of his administration. Liberia has even declined on the TICI under his administration. Here are official finalists of the latest rating of African Presidents:
Paul Kagame of Rwanda #1, Danny Faure of Seychelles #2, Mokgweetsi Masisi of Botswana #3, Hage Geingob of Namibia #4, Macky Sall of Senegal #5, Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa #6, Beji Caid Essebsi of Tunisia #7, Saadeddine Othmani of Morocco #8, Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana #9, Roch Marc Christian Kabore of Burkina Faso #10.
Here is my proof: https://www.africanvibes.com/top-10-current-african-heads-of-state-2/.
LIE #3: At a local intellectual center in Iron Factory Community, Min. Samuel D. Tweah said that the government experienced “budget surplus” for 2019/2020 Fiscal Year. This is the wittiest tale that I have ever heard since this year began. Here are my facts to counter this barefaced lie:
The US$525.91m Approved 2019/2020 National Budget could not meet its target in terms of inflow and outflow. Projected Revenue (US$525.91) could not match up to Projected Expenditure (US$525.91m). Therefore, a 2019/2020 Recast Budget was proposed and ratified on May 22, 2020. According to ‘Senate Resolution $001/2020’, the National Budget for FY2019/2020 through a recast process was adjusted from US$525.91m to US$518m with a ceiling of US$520m for FY2020/2021. This accounted for a US$6m fall in the approved National Budget.
It was impossible to even meet this US$518m target as at the end of the fiscal year (June 30, 2020). So, how did GOL experience “budget surplus”? Except there is a different meaning for “Budget Surplus”. But the simplest meaning is when revenues/receipts/inflows collected are more than expenditures/outflows or when revenue exceeds expenditure. Min. Tweah is yet to answer the question, “when and where did LRA or GOL generate more than US$525.91m for Fiscal Year 2019/2020?” To date, Min. Tweah is refusing to even release the 4th Quarter Financial Report even though a new budget year (FY2020/2021) legally started on July 1 2020. Tweah’s “invisible surplus” is a BIG LIE and an overloaded SCAM only intended to gain political capital.
All through the Fiscal Year, the budget has been underperforming (consistent shortfalls). In the First Quarter FY2019/2020, US$79.7m was the actual revenue realized out of the quarterly projection of US$117.3m. This accounted for a fall in revenue of US$37.6m or 32% (Ref. Appendix 2, Section 10, Page 38 of the GOL Quarterly Financial Report). In the Second Quarter FY2019/2020, US$99.28m was the actual revenue realized out of the quarterly projection of US$111.85m. This is a US$12.57m drop or an 11% fall in revenue (Ref. Page 38). In the 3rd Quarter, US$139.42m was actually raised out of a projection of US$150.12m. The budget still underperformed by US$10.70m or a 7% decrease in revenue (Ref. Page 39). In the 4th Quarter which is the last quarter of the fiscal year, the shortfall in revenue was projected at 50% (more than US$32 million could not be raised according to Pres. George Weah’s letter to the National Legislature on Stimulus Package).
All through FY2019/2020, there has been a consistent fall in revenue. So where is Min. Tweah coming from with his “budget surplus”. Tweah needs to spare the Liberian people this gimmick. But again, he has deceived a lot of CDCians as always. That’s why this clarification is very important.
The government has been borrowing loans and begging for grant/aid/bond facilities from both domestic and external creditors (e.g. IMF, World Bank, AfDB, AEIB, Commercial Banks in Lib, etc.). How can you have “budget surplus” but you keep begging for loans/grants just to fund a small “Stimulus Package”? For instance, the government borrowed US$50m (1.7 percent of GDP) from the IMF on June 5, 2020, through IMF Rapid Credit Facility Program (RCF). Tweah is bragging about “Surplus” but failed to even buy rice to begin the implementation of their failed “Stimulus Package”.
The Government has been unable to even service its huge debt stock (both domestic and external). Currently, the total debt stock of Liberia under Pres. George M. Weah is around US$1.47 billion (External debt is US$861.8m while domestic debt is US$604.4m). For instance, the Debt stock increased from US$978.33 million as of July 2019 to US$1,218.23 billion as at September 30th, 2019, which showed a net increase of 24.5% or US$239.89 million. Out of this US$1.2 billion, GOL was only able to service this debt or pay back a total of US$10.09m as of September 30, 2019. How can you boast of “surplus” but can only pay more than 0.82% of your total liabilities as of Sept. 2019? The 2019/2020 Budget failed to repay a total debt or liability of US$61.02 million as was projected on the expenditure side of the budget. Where is the “budget surplus” that Min. Tweah has been talking about? Is it a “utopian surplus”?
Most of the commercial banks in Liberia are becoming increasingly insolvent as a result of a liquidity crisis. The government borrowed up to US$62.2 million from those commercial banks and US$487.5m from the Central Bank of Liberia. This has led to a decline in savings and a lack of confidence in those banks. In fact, what did they do with this huge amount of money borrowed from commercial banks? Just to pay astronomical salaries, buy flashy cars, travel first-class, party, and build private properties? As a result of this huge domestic liability coupled with a crumbling financial market, Min. Tweah recently begged the African Export and Import Bank located in Egypt for a US$65m bond discounting facility. Thanks to the IMF for blocking this bad deal. Henceforth, how will the government survive? Can GOL survive on Tweah’s “invisible surplus”? To date, the government is incapable of implementing and/or completing most of its programs and projects. The fact is that there is NO MONEY.
Min. Tweah is claiming to have had “budget surplus” but civil servants, in general, are yet to be paid since June 2020. Ahead of the Independence Day on July 26, 2020, why isn’t Tweah’s “surplus” paying civil servants? Beach workers under MARITIME and NHA workers have not been paid for more than 11 months. Legislative staffers have been protesting for their 12-month arrears (LRD). Health workers and LIBTELCO workers have been protesting for their salaries and resisting an unjustified cut in their wages. Where is Tweah’s “invisible surplus”? How can Tweah even talk about Surplus when the economy is growing below zero percent (-2.5%) coupled with high inflation (31%) and high unemployment (over 80%)? Read this latest report from IMF: (https://www.imf.org/en/News/Articles/2020/06/05/pr20237-liberia-imf-executive-board-approves-a-us-50m-disbursement-address-the-covid19).
Liberia was recently declared the poorest country on earth according to the 2020 USA Today Annual Report. Big economies and developed countries around the world are experiencing “budget deficit” as a result of COVID-19 and the interruption of international trade but Tweah is talking about “budget surplus”. Min. Samuel Tweah must be a magician.
LIE #4: Tweah said, “No L$16 billion got missing. Therefore, the opposition should apologize”. Apologize to whom and for what? Tweah is playing mockery out of himself because he already has a whopping “US$25m mop up scandal” on his back. As the Minister of Finance, ‘loose talking’ should not be a practice or a vocation. Tweah does not deal in facts. This is pathetic though.
There is absolutely nothing in the Kroll’s Report that says “no L$16 billion got missing”. Why is Tweah not reading? In fact, the Report that was released is a “Redacted Version”. This means that some sensitive parts of the report were removed (edited version). Common sense should even inform Tweah and CDCians that there is something damaging to hide or there is something far more than that “Redacted Report”. That is why it was obscured.
Furthermore, the report flagged the inability of the CBL to cooperate in providing information to KROLL. It was clearly established that there was a risk of “significant funds” being unaccounted for and there were discrepancies. Tweah needs to define “significant funds” and “discrepancies”. The report also highlighted potential misappropriation of banknotes, potential opportunities for money laundering, and potential execution of transactions with illegal businesses. Hence, Kroll had to recommend further investigation through a forensic audit.
There are two (2) basic sections of the Kroll’s Report that have killed Tweah’s weak argument and sickening falsehood of “No L$16 billion got missing”. They are Section 2.3.6 on page 14 and Section 3.2.7 on page 15.
“Kroll has sought to obtain information from the CBL regarding the end recipient of the new banknotes (e.g. commercial banks, Liberian Ministries, etc.) however, the CBL has not been able to provide this information. Consequently, there is a risk that significant funds were (and remain) unaccounted for by the CBL, and Kroll, therefore, recommends that this matter merits further understanding.”
“The approach was taken by the CBL to implement the USD Mop-Up Exercise, whereby small teams of bank personnel directly purchased LRD banknotes from local businesses and foreign exchange bureaus in exchange for USD notes, creating an enhanced level of risk with respect to: i) potential misappropriation of banknotes, ii) potential opportunities for money laundering and iii) potential execution of transactions with illegal businesses. Consequently, there is a risk that significant funds were unaccounted for by the CBL, and Kroll, therefore, recommends that this matter merits further understanding.”
This is how I thought to castrate or quarantine Min. Samuel Tweah’s four (4) different LIES. The masses have had enough of these lies. Beyond this end, is Min. Tweah a Wholesaler of LIES? The facts supra have justifiably established such a cogent conclusion. It is time to put an end to those lies. It is my hope that most CDCians will begin to read and get to know the truth. Liberia first, Liberia last.
Main Photo: L-R: Pres. George M. Weah and Min. Samuel D. Tweah, Jr.
About The Author: Martin K. N. Kollie is a Liberian activist and columnist. He is a graduate of the University of Liberia (B.Sc. in Economics). He currently lives in exile and be reached via email@example.com