Liberia’s Defense Minister Brownie Samukai says the full amount of US$1,147,656.35 expended on the Armed Forces of Liberia for the past several years shall be refunded to soldiers of the AFL by the Government of Liberia immediately in the next budgetary appropriation.
Reading a press statement in Monrovia Thursday, 18 January the Defense boss explains that his ministry deposited US$2,062,160.14 deducted from the salary of soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia as compulsory savings pension benefit.
He says the Government of Liberia has determined that it is appropriate and the right thing to do is to restitute the full amount. Minister Samukai acknowledges that the Ministry of Defense did not provide timely information to personnel of the AFL on the operation and utilization of the money, resulting to recent street protest by soldiers’ wives along the Robertsfield highway in Margibi County, demanding restitution.
The statement notes that the ministry spent US$1,147,656.35 of the amount on soldiers and a balance of US$688,964.96 remains in the bank as of 8 November 2017.
With the confirmation, soldiers of the AFL look forward to receiving their benefit from the incoming government of President-elect George Manneh Weah.
The Defense Ministry further admits to not providing timely information to personnel of the AFL on the operation and utilization of the Ecobank account, adding that it authorized the expenditure of funds from the account on soldiers’ welfare without the requisite consent of the AFL high command.
It notes that monies spent on military personnel welfare should have been handled by and through the government normal budgetary appropriation, rather than from the AFL welfare account.
Minister Samukai, under whose watch the soldiers’ money was expended without their consent or approval, notes that the Ministry of National Defense failed to seek requisite budgetary appropriation for the welfare of soldiers, pointing out that there were procedural lapses in the management, expenditure and utilization of said funds.
Recently wives of soldiers numbering about a thousand erected road blocks on the Roberts International Airport highway in demand of their husband’s welfare money, which the ministry deducted from their salary.
The protest came as the administration of Commander-In-Chief, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf ends its two terms in office without the Defense authorities saying anything about the soldiers’ money.
Meanwhile, the statement says henceforth, the AFL shall manage all of its accounts itself, including welfare accounts, through the chain of command without any interference from Defense Ministry authorities.
Accordingly, Samukai says there shall be no further withdrawal from the account until such time when a clear and concise policy is put in place that will articulate the management, procedure, criteria and authorization for the usage and expenditure of monies from the AFL Welfare account and no further deduction from the morale and welfare account.
By Emmanuel Mondaye-Editing by Jonathan Browne