Liberia’s Police Director Chris C. Massaquoi has apologized to officers for delays in the payment of two months salaries, saying they faced nearly a life and death situation during the period.
He made the apology Wednesday, 20 July hours after begging the management of one of the commercial banks in Monrovia, Ecobank Liberia Limited, to assist in resolving payments of the Liberian Dollar component of over 5,000 police officers for May and June, 2016.
“We told him look, it is almost like a life and death situation with our officers … the money is available by the Liberian Government, but it’s just the issue, the conflict of the percentages that one percent going to Liberian Dollars, one percent going to US dollars. So he has agreed to, for us to write him a letter,” Mr. Massaquoi told journalists.
The police chief says the delays came as a result of lack of Liberian Dollar accounts because since government decided to pay its employees 50 percent of their salaries in Liberian Dollars, the LNP had not been able to reach agreement with the Ecobank through which officers are paid.
But after series of failed meetings with the bank, he said on Wednesday evening, the LNP Administration met with the bank manager in the morning at the Police Headquarters and explained the officers’ plight, begging him to resolve the payment issues.
Massaquoi said prior to the problem finally being resolved, officers were earlier encouraged to open their own LD accounts due to the difficulties in writing over 5000 checks, but some did not have the funding to open accounts, though others did open accounts personally.
He however apologized “for the inconvenience to our officers and even to their families,” noting the LNP administration knows what it is for a husband or a wife not to be paid for even a month. “So you can rest assure that we will do everything possible, continue to work with the bank to be sure that police officers will be relieved of such inconvenience. So that matter has been resolved,” he said.
At the time the LNP was still in negotiation with Ecobank, Mr. Massquoi said Administration decided to make payment through checks and went ahead to purchase check books at the cost of US$3,000 following which 50 percent of the LD salary component was paid through written checks for May.
The police chief clarified that police salaries are neither placed into anybody’s account nor the LNP operation’s account, noting that it is done through direct deposit by the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning to the bank from whence it goes into officers’ personal accounts.
He recalled that the problem started when payroll for 100 percent USD salary payment was rejected by the ministry in May without prior notice. Rather, he said MOFDP advised that the payroll be re-submitted with 50 percent payment in USD and 50 percent in LD; even though the police at the time did not maintain LD account for its officers.
The problem became worse for the officers when Ecobank refused at the time to open LD accounts for them on grounds that the fiscal measures by MOFDP was temporary and could cause the bank additional expenses to have the account maintained.
“As we speak, significant numbers of our officers have received 50% of their LRD salary cheques and soon to complete payment for the month of May, 2016,” Mr. Massaquoi assured. He said hopefully within three days, the LD component for officers’ June pay will also be placed in Ecobank, and the process will flow onward as the matter has been resolved.
By Winston W. Parley-Editing by Jonathan Browne