Good afternoon, everyone! Thank you for joining our final press roundtable with me before I depart Liberia.
I would like to start by correcting two statements I previously made:
First, the use of the word “nonsense” during the last press conference without fully appreciating how that word is viewed in Liberia. Thank you to the journalist who attempted to correct this phrasing and bring to my attention the cultural context. This phrasing may have clouded the delivery of our important message, which is if you sign that signatories of the Farmington Declaration should honor their pledge and not be physically provocative or promote violence—these people need to stand by that pledge. Enough said!
Second, I discovered that I used the wrong figure in my press release after my last trip to the Southeast. I wrote that Parliament had spent $65 million on itself in Fiscal Year 2022. That was the wrong figure. From the unaudited Statement of Consolidated Fund Account of the Calendar Year 2022, -released by the Ministry of Finance and Development we can now see that the correct figure was $90.8 million for Parliament in FY22, out of a total budget of $811.6 million, or 11 percent of the total budget.
Next, I would like to address the false reports that the U.S. Embassy was “asked” about nominating sanctioned individuals for office and that the Embassy replied that this was “alright.” The Embassy is NOT “okay” with it, and we find it disappointing that political parties are nonchalant about the Global Magnitsky sanctions. The U.S. Department of the Treasury spends many hours and other significant resources to research and approve sanctions on individuals. Though the Embassy is separate from the Treasury Department, we fully trust and respect the validity of these designations.
The fact is that no Liberian Government entity has even formally taken up our accusations to initiate an investigation to determine the veracity of USG “allegations.” This is extremely disappointing and discouraging. That said, if the voters of Liberia wish to elevate to public office individuals who have been sanctioned, that is their prerogative.
This should also prompt the listener to ask if anything else from the same source is suspect.
At this time, I would like to say that I hope you all and the Liberian public recognize my genuine care for the country and countrypeople, even if the delivery of these messages may have been course at times. My motivation has always been “what is best for Liberia?” Not to say that I know better but that some Liberian actors know better than to do what they are doing. They know better!
The Liberians who work for me at the Residence and at the Embassy continue to be unhappy. They are now paying income tax, but they don’t see where the money is going.
Which brings me to something we’ve discussed before – your role as in following the money. Never hesitate to ask what is happening with taxpayer funds – that is YOUR money! It doesn’t belong to the LRA, it doesn’t belong to the Ministry of Finance and Development, it doesn’t belong to the Administration, AND, it doesn’t belong to Parliament. It belongs to the PEOPLE!
Just as Senators and Congressmen should be serving the people when they appropriate revenue, YOU represent the people when you probe and research how taxpayer funds are spent. Don’t forget that! You have a right to know, and a duty to ask questions.
It isn’t necessarily a game of “gotcha,” it is also part of a healthy continuous debate on funds can be spent most effectively.
Now, off the record. I want to take this time to thank you all for your dedicated and excellent reporting. Thank you for asking the tough questions, and I encourage you to never stop! Your work is crucial to public awareness. Interacting with Liberian media has been one of the many highlights of my time here. Keep up the good work. Thank you.