The Ministry of Finance has outlined its achievements for the year ending 2010, listing the country’s march to the HIPC Completion Point in June 2010, which resulted in the cancellation of over US$4.6 billion in external debt as some of the successes.
The ministry said in September 2010, the Minister Augustine Ngafuan led the Liberian team that successfully negotiated with the Paris Club creditors (USA, UK, France, Norway, Germany, Japan, Sweden) in Paris, France, etc) a 100% debt waiver from all members of the Paris Club.
In November 2010 successfully concluded negotiations with Hamsah & Wall Capital, two holdout creditors (“vulture funds) that were actively attempting to seize Liberian assets over a US$43M debt obligation.
Hamsah & Wall had sued Liberia and won in New York, London, and was attempting to get similar judgment in Hong Kong. With active negotiation on the part of the Minister, coupled with pressure from international debt relief NGO, Hamsah & Wall finally accepted Liberia offer of 3 cents on a dollar, an offer that it had rejected in 2009 when Liberia bought back over US1.2bn in commercial debt from its commercial creditors.
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Expansion of the Direct Deposit Scheme to all Monrovia-based ministries and agencies and the National Legislature.
Additionally, the Direct Deposit Scheme which was introduced by Minister Ngafuan in late 2008 has now been expanded to eight leeward counties. Under the Scheme, government employees are no longer paid through checks but are paid directly through their private accounts at commercial banks. This gives the employees an additional opportunity of accessing loans from banks to build houses and for other productive purposes.
Adoption of International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) and Chart of Accounts for government for the first time ever in Liberia’s history. This will lead to the publication for the first time ever in Liberian history of financial statements for the Government of Liberia as per international standard.
Adoption of Internal Audit Strategy that will professionalize the functions of internal auditors across government, ensuring that they are hired through a competitive process and cannot be fired by heads of ministries and agencies. Under the Strategy crafted by the Ministry of Finance and endorsed by the Cabinet this year, there will be a five-member Internal Audit Governance Board that will include the Minister of Finance, the Auditor General, the Director of Civil Service, the Chairman of the Public Procurement and Concessions Commission (PPCC), and one individual to be mutually agreed by the Minister of Finance and the Auditor General.
There will be an Executive Secretariat reporting to the Governance Board. The Secretariat’s responsibility will be to hire auditors under a competitive process and, where there are complaints emanating from ministries and agencies about the performance of a particular auditor, recommend appropriate actions to the Board.
Other Major International Achievements
Elected in May 2010 as Chair of a five-member constituency at the African Development Bank (ADB) that includes Liberia, Ghana, Sudan, Sierra Leone, and the Gambia.
Led negotiations and signed on behalf of the Liberian government a US$40M dollar Agreement with the African Development Bank for the full rehabilitation of the White Plains Water Treatment Plant that will ensure the expansion of access to safe drinking water beyond to Monrovia and its environs to above pre-war levels. The Agreement also provides for the expansion of access to safe drinking water to Buchanan, Kakata, & Zwedru as well the improvement of sanitation in Monrovia, Buchanan, Kakata, & Zwedru.
Signed a US$24M dollar Agreement with the ADB that is directed towards increasing productivity in the agriculture sector, especially the rehabilitation of farm to market roads. Negotiated and received commitment from the African Development Bank to fund the paving of the Fishtown Harper Highway.
Selected as one of four African Finance Ministers to represent the African Finance Minister community in meetings held by the African Development Bank with its donors for the twelfth replenishment of the African Development Fund (ADF) from which funds are allocated for the development of African countries.
Spearheaded the advocacy for the passage of the Public Financial Management (PFM) Law of 2009 and spearheads the implementation of the Law and its regulations as a result of which a Debt Management Committee was established by the President chaired by the Minister that has crafted and is implementing strict rules to ensure that Liberia does not return to debt un-sustainability. Spearheaded the passage of the Revised Revenue Code that will go into force effective January 1, 2011 that will ensure a series of Tax Reductions including the following:
Reduction of the Corporate Income Tax from 35% to 25%
Reduction of the highest threshold of the Personal Income Tax from 35% to 25% and general reductions in all tax bands. Reduction of import duties that will among other things lead to the reduction of duties being paid on vehicles, leading to the general decrease in the price of cars on the Liberian markets
Anti- Graft Measures
Introduced Automation in the Revenue Collection & Expenditure Processes. ASYCUDA software at the Freeport of Monrovia that has led to reduction of the container clearing time. Integrated Tax Administration System (ITAS) that will ensure real-time production of tax payer information and increase efficiency in tax administration thereby reducing processing time that create avenue for unwholesome practices.
Signed contract for the supplier of the Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS) that will automate the budget preparation and execution processes. IFMIS is expected to go live by July 2011.
Took tough administrative decisions including dismissal of staff engaged in fraud. Notable among the cases was the dismissal of the Principal Director of the Large Tax Payer Unit, Mr. Dawo Morris along with two others from the Unit for demanding and receiving a US$10,000 bribe.
Other Positive Initiatives
With funding and support provided by USAID, dedicated new custom facilities at BO Waterside, Ganta, Yealla, and Toe Town. The facilities serve as a one-stop shop that also houses. Ensured that civil servants salaries were paid on time and as way of ensuring a joyous Christmas, ensured that civil servants get their pay well in advance of Christmas.
Inaugurated a graduate scholarship scheme for staff members of the Ministry of Finance both locally and internationally.
Currently more than 9 Ministry of Finance staffers are the United States and Britain pursuing graduate studies in various financial disciplines. On the local scene, 143 employees are undergoing graduate studies at various universities courtesy of the MOF sponsorship.