Martin K. N. Kollie
Activist and Columnist
About 2 weeks ago, First Lady Clar M. Weah toured her privately-owned ‘City of Hope Project’ which sits on 15 acres of land in Marshall City, Margibi County. The First Lady has been priding herself as a ‘philanthropist’ even though she is overly dependent on public funding to implement her projects and programs.
It was shocking but not surprising when Sheroes Forum in Ghana gave First Lady Clar Marie Weah a humanitarian award in May 2019. A few pro-regime establishments, seeking financial assistance and presidential approbation, have deceivingly bejeweled and gowned Madam Weah with similar honor as well.
Is First Lady Clar Marie Weah really a Philanthropist or an Opportunist?
Generally, a Philanthropist or a Humanitarian is a generous person who uses his/her own resources (mainly to donate money) on charitable causes/initiatives.
No philanthropist or humanitarian use public office and public resources (mainly money) to render assistance and/or donate to charitable causes. It is about time that Mrs. Clar Weah immediately disengages from violating Section 9.6 of the 2014 Code of Conduct Law (Ref. The Use of Public Office for Private Interest).
In fact, when did Clar Weah become a Philanthropist or when did she even become so generous or good to Liberia and unprivileged Liberians? No one knew this overnight ‘humanitarian’ before ex-Soccer Star George M. Weah could ascend as President of Liberia. Liberians only began to encounter her “generosity” and “hospitality” after she became First Lady.
All programs and activities, including donations to charitable causes, under First Lady Clar M. Weah since January 22, 2018, have been and are being fully funded by public monies (our tax-dollars) and/or monies raised through the public office (The Office of The First Lady). She is using her office and budgetary appropriations allotted to it to fund her private foundation named and styled “Clar Hope Foundation”. Is she really a philanthropist or an opportunist?
The First Lady is even violating our Laws (The Code of Conduct of 2014 and The 2009 Public Financial Management Law). The Clar Hope Foundation is not a public agency or entity but is being fully funded with public money. What does our Law say about Clar’s egregious action? Let us shift a bit to legality and reasoning.
Part IX Section 9.6 which encompasses the ‘Use of Public Office for Private Interest’ states, “No Public Official or Employee of Government should use an official position to pursue private interests that may result in conflict of interest.”
The blatant acts of First Lady Clar M. Weah are even in sharp contrast to Liberia’s Public Financial Management Law of 2009. Since 1847, this is the first time for a First Lady to have a special budget in our Fiscal Envelope which current custodians of our National Budget have described as “Humanitarian Outreach for First Lady”. Wow…Isn’t this mind-boggling and chilling especially when Clar Weah has already received a whopping US$2.2 million in just 24 months amidst increased infant and maternal mortality?
Here is a breakdown of Madam Clar Weah’s budget in just 24 months:
- 2017 – 2018 Recast Budget: US$500,000
- 2018 – 2019: US$1,000,000
- 2019 – 2020: US$700,000
- Total: US$2,200,000
A few questions to ponder over:
- What was Clar’s occupation before becoming First Lady?
- What justifies her receiving a whopping US$2.2m of our money?
- Is there any form of system and control to ensure full accountability of such a huge amount? Who is really checking on this First Lady?
- Who does Clar Weah report to after expending such a huge amount? Has she ever made public any financial report in order to guarantee openness and transparency?
- Is her City of Hope School Project in Marshall private or public?
- After all, why is she even violating our Laws all in the name of being a humanitarian?
- So far, what are her “key projects or achievements”?
- Why is it important and urgent to audit First Lady Clar M. Weah?
As I endeavor to answer these eight (8) critical questions, it pricks my heart every day to see thousands of our young sisters out of school while Madam Clar Weah is receiving US$2.2m (L$433.4m).
Before becoming First Lady, Madam Clar Weah could barely generate US$100,000 all year round. She could not even manage her 2 restaurants in Queens, New York. Realistically, this Jamaican-American First Lady was only managing a small restaurant in Queens, New York which was rarely known in terms of brand, prestige, and productivity. The real fact is that the Weahs actually ran into insolvency. They become so BROKE! The Liberian Presidency rescued them. Both Clar and George have become more of a burden to Liberia than a relief.
It appears like a miracle to Clar for her to be managing an astronomical budget of US$2.2 million – money she has no reason to sweat for. While rape, GBV, teenage pregnancy, girls’ illiteracy, early and child marriage, FGM, infant, and maternal mortality are alarmingly increasing, First Lady Clar Weah is swimming in luxury. It was vexing for her to have even called for a budgetary increment of US$10m for her Private Foundation in October 2018 according to reports from FrontPage Africa Newspaper. Nothing even justifies her receiving this whopping US$2.2m. It seems like Liberia has become Clar’s Plantation or the Weahs’ Private Enterprise.
There appears to be no system and control. No one seems to be checking on Madam Clar Weah to ensure full compliance with basic financial principles that are hinged to accountability and due diligence. The First Lady is yet to publicly display any financial report in order to fully account for what she has received so far (US$2.2m et al).
Her ongoing City of Hope School Project in Marshall is private and the 15 acres of land she is even building such property on land belonging to her even though she is using public money to carry out this project. She is going at every length to even violate our Laws (2014 COC and 2009 PFM Law) all in the name of being a ‘humanitarian’. Is she really a philanthropist or an opportunist?
Since June 2018, these are her ‘landmark achievements’:
- The Launching of the She’s You Movement;
- The Renovation of ‘Love A Child’ Orphanage (a small orphanage);
- The monthly Feeding Program for a few elderlies and the infrequent distribution of food supplies to a few orphanages;
- The Construction of a 3-bedroom house for an elderly woman (Doris Johnson) in VOA Community, Paynesville;
- The Sponsoring of 30 girls to a 4-week industrial hair production training in China; This assistance through the First Lady’s Office was made possible by the Henan Ruimei Hair Production Company of China and its Chairman Zhang Xihe;
- The French Government-sponsored Bilateral Scholarship for 21 students to study in Cote D’Ivoire through the “advocacy” of the First Lady.
Since the last two (2) achievements are mostly bilateral (Country to Country), I am left to wonder about the total amount that First Lady Clar M. Weah actually spent or has been spending on the remaining four (4) projects out of the US$2.2 million? Has she even spent US$200,000 on all of her projects and programs combined? In fact, credible information in our possession indicates that Madam Clar Weah has been using her office as the First Lady of Liberia to solicit foreign and local assistance both in cash and kind.
The name Clar Weah only became known as a “humanitarian” when she founded and launched her Private Foundation “The Clar Hope Foundation” on June 4, 2018. This ‘humanitarian’ was nowhere around during Liberia’s brutal civil war. Where was this ‘humanitarian’ when the Ebola Virus Disease was raging? What did this ‘humanitarian’ personally do for underprivileged Liberians when her husband (President George Weah) made millions from football in Europe and Asia? Let Madam Clar Weah spare us this ‘humanitarian’ gimmick.
Why Audit is a MUST:
In my opinion, there are four (4) major reasons why the Office of the First Lady should and must be audited without any delay. These reasons are contained herein:
- To ensure full accountability of the US$2.2 million her office has received so far;
- To ensure full accountability of monies/donations her office has solicited and continues to solicit from foreign and local donors;
- To ensure full compliance with basic financial principles and legal instruments especially the 2014 Code of Conduct Law and the 2009 Public Financial Management Law;
- To thoroughly investigate the source of the quick acquisition of private properties owned by Madam Clar Weah in and out of Liberia.
Though First Lady Clar Weah manages over US$2.2 million of public money she is yet to declare her assets. Her action is in gross violation of Part X Section 10.1 of the 2014 Code of Conduct Law. There are reports that the First Lady is hugely investing in her homeland, Jamaica as well as the United States of America. Only a forensic audit can unveil all of these hidden revelations and truths.
Let it be known that the position of the First Lady is more ceremonial in terms of title and function. Unlike First Lady Clare M. Weah who has received US$2.2 million in our National Budget for ‘Humanitarian Outreach’, most First Ladies do not use tax-dollars to carry out humanitarian and philanthropic projects. They initiate genuine programs to source funding from donors.
Having tailored my thoughts, I am compelled to ask this fundamental question, is First Lady Clar Marie Weah a philanthropist or an opportunist? The latter would suffice in my opinion. Only a forensic audit can expose the true identity of First Lady Clar M. Weah. The General Auditing Commission (GAC), the Internal Audit Agency, and the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission MUST act now.
About The Author: Martin K. N. Kollie is an exiled Liberian activist, columnist, economist, and former student leader. He holds a B.Sc. degree in Economics and Political Science (Cum Laude). He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org