Where are the missing millions?

Liberians are angry about the apparent disappearance of state funds – and are planning a protest march on Friday to demand answers.

Their anger centres on two scandals:

Revelations last year that $15.5bn Liberian dollars ($104m, £82m) of freshly minted currency had disappeared from Liberia’s ports
The mismanagement of a 25m US dollar cash injection into the economy last year.
What happened?
In September 2018, local media reported that shipping containers filled with newly printed Liberian dollars from Swedish banknote manufacturer Crane AB disappeared from Liberia’s entry ports between 2016 and 2017.

The Central Bank of Liberia denied the allegations and stated that the money was stored in vaults across the city.

Just a few months before the revelation, President George Weah, who came into office in January 2018, announced that the central bank would pump $25m into the economy to replace older Liberian dollars.

The Liberian dollar has been losing value – or depreciating – since July 2017. This has led to higher import costs and inflation, which means that everyday goods have become much more expensive for the average person in the country.

The president’s “mop-up” exercise, as it was dubbed, took place between July and October last year. It intended to reduce the amount of local currency in the economy to slow further depreciation.

But there were a number of concerns around the exercise and unanswered questions about the shipments of cash into Liberia. Two reports were commissioned to examine the details. The government’s Presidential Investigative Team (PIT) completed one. Risk advisory firm Kroll, the other.

Both found major flaws in how government policy was implemented in each case, and neither the PIT nor Kroll were able to account for all of the newly printed Liberian dollars or the additional US dollars in the country.

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