By Lennart Dodoo*
Monrovia — When Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was sworn in as Liberia and Africa’s first woman head of state, some eleven years ago, she pledged to set an example for others in her government to follow, starting with the declaration of assets.
“I further call on all Presidential aspirants, to consider in their own interest to do the same” – President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf
Said Sirleaf on January 6, 2006: “In this respect, I will lead by example. I will expect and demand that everyone serving in my Administration leads by example.
“In an environment of rumors, conspiracies, lies and suspicions, it is important that those holding high public office disclose their financial status to the public” – President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf
The first testament of how my Administration will tackle public service corruption will be that everyone appointed to high positions of public trust such as in the Cabinet and head s of public corporations will be required to declare their assets, not as part of a confirmation requirement, but as a matter of policy.”
“I will be the first to comply by declaring my assets. My Administration will also accord high priority to the formulation and passage into law of a National Code of Conduct, to which all public servants will be subjected.”
On Tuesday, Sirleaf, for only the second time in her presidency, notified the public that she had declared her assets, only this time, she put it out in the open for all to see.
The last time Sirleaf made her assets public was prior to the 2005 Presidential elections when all candidates were required per election guidelines to do so.
Assets Total US$1,707,279.64
In assets papers released Tuesday, the President’s declaration put her total worth of her assets at US$1,707,279.64
According to the President, she earns L$1,645,500 as gross salary per anum and US$72,000 in allowances per anum.
The asset declaration form also shows that President Sirleaf has US$49,933.76 in her personal checking account at IB Bank, EJS Farm account also at IB Bank has a balance of L$379,502.20 , EJS personal Account: L$630,363.31 and a saving account with a balance of US$9,777.72.
In foreign accounts, President Sirleaf has savings with Bank of America in Charlotte, North Carolina in the tone of US$153,006.00 and a UNFC account with a balance of US$7,300.
For treasury bills or investment in securities, President Sirleaf recorded having US$704,314.00 with Vanguard Mutual Funds in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania and US$61,003.00 with American Funds, Los Angeles in California.
She also owns a vacant 513 acres of land in Todee District which she valued at US$51,300 and four acres of vacant land in Paynesville worth US$4,000. According to the President, her garden is also worth US$5,000.
Last Assets Push was in 2012
In August 2012, President Sirleaf suspended her son, Charles Sirleaf and 45 other government officials for failing to declare their assets to the Liberia Anti-Corruption authorities, in a step seen as a strong effort to battle corruption.
Sirleaf, addressing the nation in a special live broadcast to the nation said: “In an environment of rumors, conspiracies, lies and suspicions, it is important that those holding high public office disclose their financial status to the public”.
The President did not stop there. She called upon all high-level officials, particularly those in public fiduciary positions, to do likewise. “I further call on all Presidential aspirants, to consider in their own interest to do the same”, she noted
She then said that the records of her family members, including those based abroad are clear and subject to the stringent laws of said countries, thus addressing any suspicion of family members holding assets that belong to her.
The President’s declaration of her assets comes amid the preliminary results of an ongoing audit process of the Private Sector Development Initiative at the Ministry of Finance & Development Planning, commissioned by the Minister of Finance, revealing some shocking outcome and results which showed that officials at the Ministry of Finance & Development Planning were making loans to themselves in violation of the law.
“We can say with a high degree of confidence that such a scheme set up at the PDSI is clearly a conflict of interest and will be dealt with by the full weight of the law.”
The PSDI is a project, that was established in 2014 at the MFDP to provide loans to Liberian-owned small and medium-sized Enterprises (SME’s).
The loan was meant to financially-strengthen Liberian businesses. In so doing, the process would create jobs and accelerate the participation of Liberian owned businesses in the economy of Liberia.
The President also ordered Dr. James Kollie, the principal administrator of the program during the audit period, to return to Liberia from his official trip to assist in the audit and answer all of the issues associated with it.
Battle Misconceptions About Family’s Wealth
Since her ascendance to the presidency, Sirleaf has been consistently bombarded about her finances and forced to clarify misconceptions about her perceived wealth.
The President acknowledged those concerns in a FrontPageAfrica interview last year as she sought to dismiss what she described as wrong perceptions about her family’s wealth.
Said Sirleaf: “I feel so sad because this is one of the greatest lies that the future will debunk. This family does not have excessive wealth; this family lives by certain principles of my mother.” “We do not steal, we do not steal, do you understand, we have no shares in companies, we have nothing, I personally do not own a piece of property in America where I owned houses before and sold them before coming to Liberia”.
In another interview three years earlier, in 2013, Sirleaf charged: “I myself, what do I have? I have three houses – all built during my years of struggle, going through many things. I live in one house right now; my son Jess lives in the other house; and the one house that is rented, behind the “Y”, where my children grew up. I have some land in Todee, but that’s all. But I’ve earned good money over the years, enough to be able to take care of myself comfortably. I’m not rich, I don’t want to be rich, I don’t care to be rich. My mother taught us humility, honesty, hard work, and that’s the code I live by.
“Fortunately, I won the Peace Prize; that probably gave me the biggest lump sum of money that I’ve had. I’ve already built a school in my ancestral village; I put up money to build a girls’ dormitory in Todee. That building is nearing completion; that’s a commitment I made, and I’m meeting the commitment.”
With less than seven months to the end of her tenure and as she prepares her exit from the presidency, President Sirleaf’s public declaration of her assets Tuesday, political observers say, could go a long way in giving the public some idea into the range of her worth.