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Editorial: Minister Tweah’s threat is belated

Finance Minister Samuel D. Tweah’s threat to hold back salaries of heads of ministries, agencies and commissions, who fail to present budget performance reports to his office is nothing but belated.

“I didn’t make that law; it’s the legislature and it says the Minister of Finance will hold back salaries of officials, who failed to report for the budget given their various institutions”, Tweah explained on Monday, June 4, when the Government of Liberia and the European Union signed four new financing agreements in the tune of US$88 million and 80 million euros, respectively. The monies are intended for various government programs.

But having spent five years in office without enforcing such law, when did Minister Tweah realize that spending institutions of government are not providing performance reports for funds allotted them.

From year to year, this has been a major problem for heads of ministries, agencies and commissions appearing for budget hearings at the Legislature. In fact, ministers go with the audacity of requesting for increments of their allotments without detailed reports of expenditures from the previous year. And the government, under the watch of Minister Samuel Tweah, has been making increments for several ministries.

For instance, increments have been made for the Ministries of Health, Education and Agriculture, among several others without expenditure reports from the previous fiscal period. Today, the country’s educational sector is in shamble with dilapidated public school buildings across the country staffed with volunteer teachers yet to be placed on the payroll.

Similar situation is with the Health and Agriculture sectors, where millions have been allotted thru the Finance Ministry with no progress on the ground like a bottomless drum that one tries to fill with water. What an irony!

Yet, Tweah wants foreign partners to believe that he means business when it comes to public financial management, while the reality in practice is totally the opposite.    

In fact, the Public Financial Management Law of Liberia has been on the book since the administration of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. So why has Tweah, as Minister of Finance, not enforced this law as a prudent financial policy ‘till now?

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These are some of the lip services of our public officials. Without political will, they profess to be tough in applying the rules when they mean completely something else. This has kept Liberia in a vicious cycle with no tangible progress.

The government is trying to present itself as tough in an election year, a strategy that could boomerang and further erodes already dangling public trust. It may well be shooting itself in the leg with the ammunition of Minister Tweah, who seems to be overly zealous in putting out a face that does not exist.

If the right thing was never done at the beginning, how relevant can it be at the end? It could be misconstrued and interpreted as a ploy to witch-hunt people being targeted in government. We rest our case here.

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