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Liberian Lawmakers Demand Answers on Foreign Lobbying Fees

  • James Butty

Liberia's President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf disputes claims of a member of parliament regarding amounts paid to U.S. lobbying firms.

Liberia's President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf disputes claims of a member of parliament regarding amounts paid to U.S. lobbying firms.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has denied allegations that her government spent more than $200 million in lobbying fees to foreign firms in the United States.

In a letter to the plenary of the Liberian House of Representatives, Sirleaf said it is “preposterous” for anyone to believe that her government could spend such an amount.

She said only the US firm KRL lobbied on behalf of Liberia from 2007 to 2013 and was paid a total of a little over $368,000.

But Representative Bhofal Chambers of the opposition Congress for Democratic Change, who has called for an official inquiry, said Sirleaf and her government should cooperate fully.

Citing a U.S. State Department report, Chambers said that from 2006 to 2009, 102 lobby payments were tracked by foreign lobby trackers, amounting to an alleged $263 million

“I think the communication from the President, if she says from 2007, now she has not looked at 2006, which we discovered to be the amount of $19 million. Let’s say $19.7 million that was spent for 2009 for lobbying and public relations,” he said.

Chambers listed a host of other companies, which he said were paid huge sums for lobbying for Liberia.

“She said 2007," Chambers said. "She said KRL. Okay, let’s look at 2007 from the documents we have. We have JWI, one group that did public relationship work for (Monrovia), and the amount spent was $31, 933.38. The next one is LISCR (the Liberia International Ship and Corporate Registry) for lobbying. It’s $6.5 million. So, we want the president to come forth and tell us what she knows,” he said.

He said the legislature is concerned about the alleged large sums of money being spent for lobbying abroad, while the country has nothing to show for the money spent.

“We have gross deficits in Liberia in terms of infrastructure at home, in terms of employment, in terms of welfare. There are so many gaps and our people cannot afford,” Chambers said.

Yet, said Chambers, Sirleaf appears to be the most popular leader in the world.

“Internationally, we hear so many good things about our president, and this president of ours has got more accolades than the Pope, has got more accolades than the President of United States, than Russia’s leader, and the great leader of Germany, Angela Merkel.

"And yet, there is nothing that we can show for," Chambers says, "to say that because this amount was spent, this is what we are seeing in Liberia. So, that is why we are concerned.

"When so much is alleged to be spent for these kinds of exercises, what is the value of the money?” Chambers said.

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