June 15, 2021. Monrovia- Liberia: Our economy is under severe stress. The government is begging for budgetary support from friendly nations, including to meet its payroll obligations, as the productive sector of the economy collapses. Businesses are shutting down, cost of living is rising, and our people are suffering.
Reports are pointing to a rise in confirmed cases of Covid-19, and Liberia could be at the dangerous onset of a new wave of transmission of the virus with increasing health risks to Liberians, and further risks to the crumbling economy. Liberia is not prepared for a new wave, and could lose more lives and livelihoods.
Under these conditions, no responsible government would be spending wastefully, and with no accountability. It is why it is wrong and inexcusable for the Liberian Government to be spending money to take care of the political interests of those at the top, and not provide for the livelihood of those at the bottom who need to be helped the most, especially as the threat of Covid-19 hangs over the nation.
I join my voice in condemnation of this continued irresponsible behavior of the Weah-led Government.
Without the possibility of audit and any acceptable means of accountability, the disbursements and receipt by individual legislators of USD15,000.00 (Fifteen Thousand United States Dollars), violate the Public Financial Management Law. The PFM Law provides that all disbursing and receiving entities, and individuals, must account for public monies disbursed, received, and or entrusted into their care. This continues to not be the practice.
To date, while this is not the first of similar disbursements, there is yet to be an audit and accounting of these “constituency development” or “legislative engagements/projects” for which public monies are being continuously disbursed. Additionally, the disbursements, as packaged and explained, provide a chance to legislators to showcase personal and or political accomplishments. This is political corruption. Here, political corruption is the use, or misuse, of public office to achieve personal political gains.
Of course, a government must work to ensure that each village and political district is provided with schools, clinics, hospitals, roads, electricity, safe-drinking water, and the basic necessities of life. Legislators, representing the people, have a duty to ensure that these are provided for and prioritized in the national budget.
However, to allocate monies to individual legislators in the name of attempting to do for the people what the government should be doing for them, so that legislators are personally and politically credited for doing so, is political corruption.
I therefore urge all legislators to do the following:
- Return the USD15,000 to the national coffers for the provision of basic services to the people;
- Authorize such payments for constructions to the relevant public entities, like LACE, which are clothed with public accounting responsibilities; and
- Refrain from budgeting and accepting any such monies for lawmakers.
- Authorize the audit of the Legislature.
Finally, I know that changing our country, and the way we have always done things, believing them to be right when they are wrong, will be difficult. But we will only get the same results of backwardness, mismanagement and corruption, if we do not manage ourselves better, and be more accountable. It means not just doing the right things, but doing them the right way.
I have a lot of friends in the legislature, many I know mean well for our country. The intent is not to disparage or ridicule them. In fact, I face the same difficulty like everyone else, as I publicly disagree with friends. But if Liberia is to truly become better, we must not just look to change individuals, or correct only our opponents. We must change our mindsets, our systems, and correct our friends, when they too, go wrong. A wrong is a wrong whether it is done by a friend or a foe. I believe that if I cannot speak honestly to a friend about a wrong, I lose the right to speak honestly to an opponent about the same wrong.
I know this may not make me popular and that is not the intent. I have even been told that this is not smart politics, but it sets my conscience free and keeps my principles intact. As they say, it is impossible to be committed to your country, your principles, and your friends, all at the same time. While it is not my intent to lose friends, I will not bend principles or compromise the interests of our country, only to keep friends.
God Bless You and God Bless Liberia.