On Friday, January 21, 2023, edition of the Spoon Talk show, host Stanton Witherspoon, who customarily affords officials of President Weah’s administration ample time to speak on his program, unquestionably took a hard-hitting stance against President Weah’s “kleptocratic regime.”
Mr. Witherspoon highlighted several failures and alleged corrupt acts by President Weah and his officials, including:
- President Weah’s failure, in over five (5) years, to hold a news conference,
- President Weah’s repeated use of pre-recorded speeches to address the nation.
- The Finance Minister (Tweah) uses “hush money,” ranging between USD$ 3,000 to USD$ 20,000, to silence on-air government critics.
- The government tried bribing Mr. Witherspoon by offering him “USD$50,000” to silence his criticisms.
- The Finance Minister (Samuel Tweah) continual misappropriation and siphoning of government funds, including:
- Misuse of the Road Funds
- Missing funds for rice subsidies
- Missing funds for Liberia’s census
- According to Mr. Witherspoon, “the first money Samuel Tweah ate” was the $25,000,000 mop-up money.
Liberia’s finance minister’s brazen money laundering scheme using the U.S. financial system is perhaps one of the most ill-advised schemes that may land him on a U.S. sanctions list – second only to the former finance minister of Mozambique’s money laundering scheme that plunged Mozambique into financial crisis.
Mr. Witherspoon said Liberia’s finance minister’s withdrawal of $25 million from the New York Federal Reserve Bank was allegedly transferred to banks in Ivory Coast, where the Finance Minister owns a home.
Corruption has been a persistent problem in Liberia, dating back to the country’s founding in the 19th century. Despite efforts to combat corruption, under President Weah’s administration, corruption remains a significant issue that affects various sectors of the government and society, leading to Representative Chris Smith of New Jersey calling President Weah’s administration a kleptocracy to fleece the country. Examples of corruption under Weah include the missing billions from Liberia’s Central Bank, bribery, and significant corruption that led to sanctions of officials of his administration by the U.S. government.
Failures by Frank Musa Dean and the corruption crisis in Liberia
In the sanctions report against President Weah’s former Minister of State, Nathaniel McGill, the Solicitor General and the Managing Director of the National Port Authority, the U.S. government stated, “McGill has used his position to undermine the integrity and independence of Liberia’s democratic institutions and subvert government priorities for personal gain. Cephus has developed close relationships with suspects of criminal investigations and has received bribes from individuals in exchange for arranging for their cases to be dropped. Twehway has used his position at the NPA to corruptly advance his wealth and political agenda.
The country’s weak institutions, particularly the incompetent and ineffectual Minister of Justice, Frank Musa Dean, and limited resources have contributed to Liberia’s corruption. The Liberian government has taken steps to address corruption, such as passing anti-corruption legislation and establishing institutions to investigate and prosecute corrupt officials. However, implementation and enforcement of these measures have been scarce and laughable, and the problem persists.
Liberia ranks near the bottom of various corruption indices, including Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index. However, corruption is pervasive in all sectors of the government and society, and it undermines the rule of law, hinders economic development, and hinders the delivery of public services. Additionally, it is a significant obstacle to Liberia’s foreign investment and economic growth. The government continues to spend over $288,000 per month on foreign lobbying. An effort that led to the government not being able to win the U.S. MCC Compact in over five years, and they foolishly believed that coaxing Republic Senator Lindsay Graham was a strategy.
Mr. Witherspoon went on to demonstrate the disconnect between government official’s lifestyle and their salaries. For example, a civil servant who makes $2,000 per month owns over half a million assets.
Despite these pressing issues, President George Weah has never held a press conference to speak on issues affecting the average citizen in over five years. In addition, the Minister of Justice, Frank Musa Dean, is more muted than the President.