Former Defense Minister Brownie J. Samukai, Jr. left an unfinished business in government that he must voluntarily address or be forced thru the law to address. We are talking about money the longest serving minister in the government of ex-president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf deducted from soldiers’ salary for nearly a decade.
Before the exit of the Sirleaf government Samukai recently acknowledged that the Defense Ministry under his leadership deposited US$2,062,160.14 deducted from the salary of soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia under a compulsory pension benefit scheme.
But disgustingly, he said US$1,147,656.35 of the above amount was expended on soldiers’ welfare under circumstances that lack detail explanation except that the money shall be refunded to soldiers of the AFL by the Government of Liberia immediately in the next budgetary appropriation.
We believe it is not enough to just say government shall refund the money, but the fact that it took street protests by soldiers’ wives in order to bring the issue to public attention raises serious suspicions about accounts coming from Samukai.
If the Samukai-led administration had expended the money with the consent of soldiers then their wives wouldn’t have barricaded roads in demand of their husbands’ money as they did along the Robertsfield highway in Margibi County recently, obstructing movement of people and goods.
Secondly, where does this new government get the money from to put it in the national budget to refund soldiers before coming up with the actual budget for the Ministry of National Defense?
Someone has to account for this money or else, we are setting a bad precedent here that could hunt future governments and embarrass our fiscal policy implementation process. Samukai should personally take responsibility and be compelled by law to refund the soldiers’ money.
It’s about time that public officials learn to take responsibility for their administrative judgment or decisions rather than shifting blames or looking up to someone else, in this case, the new government, to clear the mess they have left behind.
As Minister of Defense, he presided over the ministry’s budgets during the entire 12 years period of the Sirleaf administration and, if any time along the way, he had noticed that appropriations fell below target, including soldiers’ welfare, the prudent decision to have taken was to ask for more money rather than turning on poor soldiers’ meager salary! That’s being completely heartless, to say the least!
We welcome pronouncement by the Liberian Anti-Corruption Commission to initiate effort to probe usage of the soldiers’ money in order to dig out the facts and where probable, prosecute those responsible in order to serve as deterrence.