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MOF Reacts FrontPage Africa

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The Ministry of Finance has reacted sharply to a Frontpage Africa story in which the writer alleged that US45M were discovered in the 2011/2012 budget during a review by the Legislature.

In its reaction the ministry said the story written by the Press Union of Liberia Assistant Secretary General Julius Kanubah is untrue, unsubstantiated and falls short of the basic journalistic principle of balanced and objective reporting of facts.

“The writer, Mr. Julius Kanubah failed to provide the basic evidence that would make such a story credible,” the statement said.

The Statement: “Under the headline “45M BUDGETARY DISCOVERY: Was Executive shielding millions for electioneering?” Mr. Kanubah alleged that the National Legislature has “uncovered forty-five million United States dollars as part of the ongoing Legislative review of the 2011-2012 draft National budget.”  While admitting that the details of the so-called discovery were unclear, he still went ahead to publish without reference to the appropriate budgetary authorities, i.e., the Ministry of Finance.

In the first place the Legislature did not discover any new money as erroneously reported by Julius Kanubah and the FrontPage Africa. It can be recalled that on April 30, 2011, the Executive Branch through the Office of the President  presented a draft budget for FY2011/2012 in the amount of US$459,906,000 (four hundred fifty nine million, nine hundred and six thousand US dollars), two months before the start of the fiscal year on July 1.

As is standard practice from year to year, the Ministry of Finance (MoF) has, since April 30, been keenly monitoring the projections and assumptions for all the revenue sources that comprised the amount in the draft budget. As a result, the MoF has updated the revenue projections by more than US$45 millionbased on increases in the estimates for the following lines:

i. Core (more certain) revenue US$15,123,000 (from US$364,735,000 to US$379,858)
ii. Estimated cash carried forward US$6,250,000 (from FY2010/2011 from US$2,536,000 to US$8,786,000)
iii.  Contingent (less certain) revenue US$24,151,000 (from US$87,635,000 to US$111,786,000)

Secondly, Julius Kanubah claimed that the President’s Budget Message that accompanied the draft budget ruled out salary increment for civil servants. This assertion is false and intended to incite public sentiments against the Government. Under the caption Compensation of Public Servants the President’s stance on civil servant salary adjustments is printed ad verbatim below:

“Mr. Speaker and Honorable Members of the Legislature:

Most recently, we made targeted increases to the money salaries of teachers, health care professionals and members of the security services. I am pleased to inform you, Mr. Speaker and Honorable Members of the Legislature, that in FY2011/2012, we make further increments to the salaries of teachers, health workers and members of the security forces. We also intend to make minimum adjustments to the salaries of the rest of the civil service. I assure you that in subsequent fiscal years, we will, to the extent of resource availability, continue to augment public sector wage rates in fulfillment of our commitment to fully restore dignity to the civil service and other sections of the public work force.”

Moreover, the Minister of Finance, Deputy Minister for Budget, and other staff of the MoF have been repeating this fact to various radio stations and newspapers since the submission of the draft budget to the Legislature. Just recently, during the time leading to and after the 2011 Independence Day celebrations, staff of the Ministry of Finance carried out a massive public information campaign on the budget, including proposed salary increment for all civil servants in Montserrado, Margibi, Bong, Lofa, Nimba and Grand Bassa Counties. It therefore beats the imagination that Mr. Kanubah, a member of the press would choose to misinform the Liberian people in this manner.

With the Ministry of Finance’s demonstrated willingness to discuss budgetary matters with the public, including the media, it is highly unbelievable that a journalist with many has years of practice would choose to ignore the basic element of a simple inquiry he needed to make to substantiate a story that has wide ranging national and international implications.

Mr. Kanuba’s decision to run to press with an unsubstantiated and uncorroborated story can be attributed to one of three possible reasons:

  1. He is ignorant of the Liberian budget process, including the iterative dialogue that ensue between the Legislature and Executive represented by the Ministry of Finance between the submission of the draft budget and final approval by the Legislature;
  2. He made a deliberate decision to misrepresent the intentions of the Government; and
  3. A desire to become unnecessarily sensational.

Because of the potential danger that Mr. Kanubah’s story poses to the lives of officials and employees of the Ministry of Finance, and the implications for discontent and unrest among some members of the society, the Ministry of Finance has decided to expose the shortcomings of the story as a way of assuring Liberians that the Ministry of Finance and the Liberian Government are committed to using national resources in the national interest.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Finance is lodging a formal complaint against journalist Julius Kanubah before the Grievance and Ethics Committee of the Press Union of Liberia.

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