From time in memorial, the issue of disbursing the salaries of civil servants in Rural Liberia has been a daunting task for the Government of Liberia. The only means by which rural civil servants received pay checks was to travel to Monrovia, even spending weeks before travelling back to their respective areas of assignments, especially to the disadvantage of public school students. While the expansion of ECOBANK, as well as the Liberian Bank for Development and Investment or LBDI in Rural Liberia, as well as the mobile pay team of the Ministry of Finance may have, to some extent, tried to help the situation, the problem was still insolvable.
In continuation of efforts to ensure that government workers access their salaries/pay checks conveniently across the country, the government, through the Finance Ministry recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding or MOU, authorizing a local commercial band, Afriland First Bank to establish and make effective, cash centers in River Gee and Grand Kru Counties in the Southeast of the country.
According to the Ministry of Finance, the MOU exemplifies the government’s plan to expand some of its treasury functions to the counties to grow their capacity for fiscal decentralization as envisaged in the recently promulgated national policy on decentralization and local governance. Out of 15 counties, only nine are served by either commercial banks or the Central Bank of Liberia. In consonance with this latest arrangement, the Finance Ministry will charter UN flights on a monthly basis to deliver salaries to government employees working in River Gee and Grand Kru Counties.
The Ministry has begun the construction of Cash center- a mechanism launched by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in Gbarpolu County in July 2013- a framework with the primary objective of enabling civil servants to convenient and timely access their salaries with few constraints. While this development may be gradual, it is also important to acknowledge such stride by the Government of Liberia, through the Finance Ministry, in alleviating the difficulties employees of government encounter in accessing their check checks. Citizens of River Gee Gee and Grand Kru or even Sinoe, Maryland, Lower Grand Gedeh and Upper River Cess may even take advantage of the Cash Centers.
Even though it may not all be resolved at once, commendation must be given the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf Administration for such a leap towards its decentralization program. We can only hope that the Ministry of Finance will take another leap to cover the entire country so as to reduce the tension not only to rural government employees, but Monrovia also. True enough, the establishment of the cash centers by the government, through the Ministry of Finance, is an excellent initiative.