By Alva Mulbah Wolokolie, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has sharply reacted to Maryland County Representative, Bhofal Chambers’ allegation that the Executive Mansion has spent US$200 million in lobbying fees to foreign firms for public relation.
The Liberian leader said that Dr. Chambers’ allegation could cause a potentially great harm to Liberia regarding an irresponsible and uninformed media report that US$200m has been spent on public relations.
It may be recalled a month ago that Dr. Bhofal Chambers alarmed over an unauthorized expenditure of over two hundred million (US$200,000,000.00) allegedly used by the Executive Mansion for public relations services rendered by foreign firms.
He wrote a communication to Plenary at the time informing his colleagues that the alleged unexplained expenditure by the Executive Mansion is captured in the United States Department’s report.
Also as it was stated in his letter, Dr. Chambers disclosed that the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) at the U.S. State Department reported that the Liberian Government paid more money for public relations abroad in 2008 than expenditure it captured in 2007.
But in her communication on Tuesday, March 11, 2014, to the House Plenary, President Sirleaf said the Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs has provided evidence that the only lobbying by Liberia is limited to the US firm KRL for which a total amount of US$368,209.00 was spent over the period 2007 to 2013, averaging to US$52,601.00 per annum. The President did not say what exactly the public relations were about and what the meaning of KRL is.
President Sirleaf’s letter dated March 7, 2014, and addressed to House Speaker Alex J. Tyler, said she is compelled to bring to the attention of that honorable body the case involving the potentially great harm that Liberians may suffer as a result of the statement made by Maryland County lawmaker regarding an irresponsible and uninformed media report that Liberia spent US$200 million as lobbying fees.
The Liberian leader told the lawmakers that Ambassador Jeremiah Sulonteh, who is now in the country to participate in the US-Liberia partnership dialogue, has confirmed the concerns expressed by good friends of the government and supporters in the US Congress who may believe that a statement made by a legislator has to have been verified as a fact.
President Sirleaf attributed the spending mentioned by the Maryland County lawmaker to payments made by Liberia Shipping Registry Corporation(LISCR), the US Company which is registered as an agent for Liberia’s maritime program.
“It is simply preposterous to believe that with a budget under US$600 million and under the country’s transparent and accountable financial system, we could spend such an amount,” President Sirleaf wondered in her communication.
She pointed out that she sometimes try to understand the motive behind those who spread wicked and false information to undermine the credibility of the country and can only conclude that such dirty politics will end up hurting the country at large.
The House Plenary has directed President Sirleaf’s communication to its leadership to handle while Rep. Chambers’ allegation is being investigated by the House Committee on Judiciary.
But minutes after the 15th day sitting at the House on Tuesday, Dr. Chambers quickly arranged a press conference condemning the letter of the President and said her communication is meant to distract the attention of the Liberian people concerning this US$200 million fees paid for lobbying.