Liberia: Outgoing U.S. Ambassador Michael McCarthy Expresses Disappointment Over Government’s Failure to Investigate Sanctioned Officials

Outgoing United States Ambassador Michael McCarthy says it is “extremely disappointing and discouraging” the government’s failure to investigate officials that were sanctioned by the United States Treasury Department for their alleged involvement in public corruption.

In his final press roundtable with the Liberian media, Amb. McCarthy debunked “false” media reports that the Embassy said it sees no problem with sanctioned individuals running for public office.

Amb. McCarthy has been vocal in speaking against graft in Liberia, a pledge he made during his confirmation hearing following his nomination by former U.S. President Donald J. Trump. Upon taking the assignment, he made his presence felt by boldly speaking against “rampant corruption” that has marred the Weah-led government.

Under his tenure, several Liberian officials were sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department under the Global Magnitsky Act for their “involvement in public corruption.” Two of the sanctioned officials, former Minister of State for Presidential Affairs Nathaniel McGill and Bill Tweahway, former Managing Director of the National Port Authority have been certificated by the National Elections Commission (NEC) to contest for Senator in their respective counties in the ensuing elections on the ticket of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC).

With their certification, the two disgraced former government officials will be joining Senators Prince Y. Johnson of Nimba County and Varney Sherman of Grand Cape Mount County, who had earlier been sanctioned to run or rerun for public office.

He said contrary to the report, the Embassy was not in favor of the idea.

“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.”

He added: “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.”

Setting the record straight

Earlier, Ambassador McCarthy acknowledged that he had provided inaccurate information in a press release following his recent trip to the Southeast. Following his tour of the counties, he accused lawmakers of “buttering their own bread” and “feathering their own nests” while underfunding hospitals and service centers, leaving rural citizens “destitute.”

He said: “It was striking that the further I went from Monrovia, the more elaborate and explicit the reasons given for the lack of funding from the central government… While hospitals went without, and service centers withered on the vine, (Liberia’s) 30 senators and the 73 representatives spent US$65 million feathering their own nests.”

However, he now clarified that the unaudited statement of the consolidated fund account for the calendar year 2022, released by the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, indicated that the correct figure was US$90.8 million. This amount constituted approximately 11 percent of the total budget of US$811.6 million.

Making an apology

Speaking earlier Amb. McCarthy issued an apology for his choice of words during his penultimate press conference, acknowledging that he did not fully grasp the negative connotations associated with the word “nonsense” in Liberia.

During the press conference, Ambassador McCarthy condemned the attack on Senator Prince Y. Johnson’s Church, deeming the action unacceptable and asserting that such behavior should not be repeated, referring to it as “nonsense.” However, during his final press roundtable with the Liberian media on Tuesday, Amb. McCarthy expressed regret that his use of the phrase may have overshadowed the Embassy’s crucial message, which called on political parties who had endorsed the Farmington Declaration to refrain from engaging in provocative or violent acts.

He expressed hope that the media and the Liberian public recognize his “genuine care for the country and the countrypeople,” even if the delivery of his 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!”

“Liberians are unhappy”

He mentioned that Liberians who work for him at his residence and the Embassy continue to be unhappy as they continue to pay “income tax, but they don’t see where the money is going.”

He said: “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.”

Source: Front Page Africa