The New Dawn newspaper (New Dawn, July 8, 2014) reported that the “Former Public Works Minister (the Honorable Samuel Kofi Woods) has emphasized the need for a comprehensive audit of the Ministry of Finance before the merger of the Ministries of Finance and Planning & Economic Affairs . . . Even though an audit has already been conducted, the Public Works Committee of the Legislature must conduct the necessary hearings to establish a firm foundation for the merger . . . because they (the two ministries) were (and are) critical to Liberia’s development . . .” and that “the issue of the merger . . . has been a source of controversy . . .”.
Responding to this need for emphasis on an audit, according to the FPA (FrontPageAfricaonline, July 9, 2014), “The Authorities (un-identified) of the (new) Ministry of Finance & Development Planning (MFDP) read, with dismay, a quote . . . attributed to Former Public Works Minster . . . as ‘sinister motive in the making’. The Ministry (MFDP) would like to state . . . that it has . . . formally requested the GAC to conduct a ‘Financial and System Audit’ for fiscal years 2011/2012, 2012/2013 and 2013/2014 of both, the defunct Ministries of Finance and Planning & Economic Affairs . . . If only Minister Woods had done some due diligence and taken the time to ascertain the facts relative to the transition, he (Former Minister Woods) would have known that both ministries . . . are in the process of being audited by the GAC”.
Moreover, the New Dawn newspaper quoted a release by the Ministry of Finance that “we see his (Former Minister Woods’) latest comments as not only self-serving and politically motivated, but intended to gain public attention at the expense of others and . . . that being the longest-serving member of the cabinet . . . and the most afraid of any kind of audit, always terming them (audits) as ‘witch-hunt’, Minister Woods lacks the moral authority to make such comments”.
Potential Public Policy Debate
The need for emphasis on an audit of the activities of two, very important, agencies of government, with critical impact – negative or positive – on the lives of every citizen and the peace and security of the nation, appears to be developing into a tug-of-war, an academic “debate”, perhaps; a war of fancy words without end, judging from the response by the merged agencies, MFDP. Meanwhile, the very objective – finance & economic planning for the development of the nation, for which, hopefully, a special, “comprehensive audit” is sought, has become irrelevant.
Former Minister Woods’ expression of this need is, apparently, innocent, reasonable and crucial, and his obligation to the nation, being a prominent citizen, naturally, a political animal with concerns about the vital interests of the state and people. Now, given the prevailing condition of public dishonesty (corruption, Inc.) and decadent behavior which know limit, particularly, the very Ministry of Finance that has been and is in press, periodically, about public dishonesty, no informed, dedicated, patriotic, Liberian professional will do anything less in this regard. In fact, according to the Liberian rumor mills or public perception, most of the “professionally-staffed” sections/bureaus of the Ministry of Finance are corruption points.
Therefore, it is, also, reasonable, necessary and, indeed mandatory, that the new, merged, super-agency welcome, respond to and address suggestions, advice, critical analysis, for or against, with due respect and in peaceful, cordial, civil language and general atmosphere. It is necessary that the mergers confine or restrict response or debate to the issue(s) raised and at hand. For, it is abundantly clear that the days are gone, buried in the archives of our history – of our macho, invincible, ethnic/tribal approach of defensive mechanisms – irrelevant personality attacks, name-calling, character-assassinations, political profiling roped in the out-dated, discredited notion of “guilt-by-association” directed, mainly, against imagined/known “opposition”, an eternal enemy to be destroyed by all means (opposition is indispensable, remember!!).
I the light of the present state of our fiscal and monetary policies and, therefore, the questioning nature and locus of the nation’s economic planning/development and analysis, finance and management, this “debate” is critically crucial.
Our nation is a small country of less than 4 million people, sparsely located, with more land than people, but caught in clutches of rapid population growth and urbanization; lacks safe, efficient, national transport/communications (the “premier, multiplier effect” in national economic development); with excessive demand for imported goods (including our national staples – rice & cooking oil) and services; and lacks, also, or ignores planned, policy approach of production for export. Cumulatively, this merger is bound to be controversial, because the following, critical policy elements/responsibilities appear not to be treated:
1. Analysis and planning development;
2. Analysis and allocation of financial resources for development and management;
3. Implementation of the planned development and others; and
4. Report to whom – reporting/accountability relationships.
5. Or is it the proverbial “police to police the police” within the merged, super ministry?
In our world or nation of the mosaic of competing interests – socio-economic and political – factoring in the un-avoidable public dishonesty (corruption), there is the inevitable need, therefore, to emphasize comprehensive audit of prior activities of the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Planning & Economic Affairs.