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Millions unaccounted for

Millions of dollars are unaccounted for at the end of each budgetary period due to failure or refusal of ministries and agencies under the Executive branch of government to produce performance reports to the Legislature, not only as required by law, but in line with best practices.

What this seems to suggest is that millions of taxpayers’ money collected thru revenue are expended anyhow by spending institutions within the Executive without least regard on the need to account for allotments entrusted in their care based on proposed programs or what they say they would do.

Yet, at the start of each budgetary period, institutions scramble and scream for more money to be allotted to their respective budgets, with the argument that they have more programs and projects to execute.

The Director for Press and Publications at the House of Representatives, Isaac G. Redd, flagged this issue on Tuesday, 28 March when he appeared on State-owned Liberia Broadcasting System or LBS and disclosed that despite these lapses, ministries and agencies would want their allotments increased and approved without indicating performance for the previous period.

This is not only highly disappointing, but demonstrates lack of responsibility by ministries and agencies in conducting financial matters based on transparency and accountability. There are clear policy procedures on the book, but implementation seems lacking.

Now the 2017/2018 budgetary period is here, and ministries and agencies have completed forecasts for their respective institutions, which have been captured in a draft national budget to be submitted to the Liberian Legislature shortly for scrutiny and public hearings.
Heads of various ministries and agencies must be reminded in no uncertain terms that transparency and accountability should be the hallmark of a democratic governance process characterized by check and balance as enshrined in the Constitution of Liberia.

But when officials, particularly cabinet ministries decide to evade openness in their operations as it relates to usage of public funds, it leaves room for suspicions, which eventually resorts to confidence crisis. This has been the problem with the budget hearing process with lawmakers and spending institutions seem to be continuously in disagreement.

When officials continue to behave in such manner, it does not portray any positive lesson that our next generation of leaders could learn from. And so, we wallop in a cycle of no accountability and transparency. There has to be a change from such practice that benefits only a group of selfish and greedy individuals at the expense of the vast majority.

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It is not enough to demand more money, but taxpayers deserve to know how funds allotted and approved, are expended because those millions that vanish in thin air without trace, could be used to execute some tangible programs in other sectors of the economy. Therefore, we call on the Executive to, this time around, make it mandatory that ministries and agencies submit performance reports from the previous budgetary period along with their projections for the coming fiscal year, which would indicate how many allotted and approved are being expended.

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