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This is Corruption – Deceit, Bribery & theft of Property

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Just one day after I penned an article entitled “What is Wrong with Liberians”, a question seeking answer(s) to our failure/refusal/neglect to prioritize construction of all-weather highways and roads throughout the nation, although we have had and continue to have “what it takes” – the need, commitment, education, training/experience, natural/human resources, foreign aid/capital support – to have criss-crossed our small nation of 43,000 square miles, less than 4 million, sparsely-populated people by all-weather, super-highways and roads throughout its length and breadth, I got a preview of an answer, a shocker.

According to Mr. Abraham Massaley (In Profile Daily, July 2, 2013), the Liberian National Draft Budget submitted June 29, 2013 to the National Legislature for review/approval contains the following allocations:

Office of the Speaker, House of Representative   US $766,357.00

Office of the Deputy Speaker                                               700,302.00
Office of the President Pro Tempore of the Senate       846,653.00

Grand Total    $2,313,312.00

In words, Two million, Three Hundred Thirteen Thousand, Three Hundred Twelve dollars allocated to three offices!! The concerns raised by these figures demand explanation; in that,  our country that is reeling not only under the burden of socio-economic and political under-development, but also that with an overwhelming majority of its citizens shackled with abject poverty, un-information, illiteracy, disease and an alarming mortality rates, it is next to inhumanity to note that three offices are allocated, almost, a million, US dollars each with no obligation to account. Do not get me wrong, continue reading.

The Continuing Rise of Corruption

Back in my days (of the 1980s and beyond) as policy advisor to decision-makers, I wrote a Memo to my superiors on “Combating Corruption” in which I observed that, “The effort to combat Liberian corruption in the public sector must be taken seriously; it should and must be based on social, economic and political considerations. Salary/wage and benefit rates/levels in the public (government) sector should and must be not only consistent with prevailing rates/levels in the private sector, but also consistent with the changing levels of the cost of living as well as reflect human need and perception of human value or worth. However, experience shows that this condition has not been the case in our Liberian, public service. Such employment benefits as health/life insurance, retirement, job security, in-service training & education for upward advancement, periodic performance appraisals for merit promotion etc., taken for granted elsewhere, are either non-existent and/or systematically abused for personal gain. Thus, highly-educated and experienced cabinet ministers, state enterprise executives, professional technocrats, medical doctors, state university professors and public school teachers who put in ten-to twelve-hour days of dedicated service do not have job security and other related, employment benefits, including salaries and wages that are not compatible with their training/experience and the social demands of their positions”. I concluded with recommendation that we seek foreign Aid from our “partners-in-progress” (the USA-USAID, EU, UNDP, etc.) to be known as “allowance” to complement low-level, public salary/wages. This has become successful but turned out, apparently, to be something else, as I shall point out later.

Moreover, transparency, accountability and believability demand that those who crafted this budget with these allocations will have to come forward with reasonable, credible explanations/rationalizations for the taxpayer and our foreign donors.  If we agree, just for the sake of the argument, that the taxpayer and donors will go along with the three, unexplained and, therefore, questionable “allowances” – general, special and salary – why should and must the taxpayer foot the bill for the cost of personal expenses (high-lighted in red below) such as rent, electricity (generator & fuel), automobile insurance, newspaper purchase, automobile repairs and upkeep, including such dubious allocations as “special services, operation expense, transport equipment, etc.?

The generous, salary/wage allowances made available are intended to enable civil servants to pay their own costs of living, in accordance with generally-accepted and practiced conventions. There is, absolutely, no reason for which such costs should and must be paid by the taxpayer/employer.

A closer look at these budgeted, line-item “allowances” is, indeed, necessary because there are several, unexplained categories of allowances – “general, special and salary” – raising questions about the level of amounts allocated. These are:

Office of the Speaker

General Allowance                             US$197,654.00

Special Allowance                                      72,000.00                        $269,654.00

Salary Allowance                                        55,000.00                           55,000.00   $324,654.00

Personal, Un-explained Allocations

Rental Expense                                        24,000.00

Fuel –Vehicles                                          90,942.00

Fuel – Generator                                     37,252.00

Repairs                                                     24,000.00

Special Services                                       28,892.00

Operational Expense                              11,271.00

Local Scholarship Give-away                 10,000.00

Purchase of Newspaper                           4,000.00

Equipment                                                 3,000.00                                                   $233,357.00  

Office of the Deputy Speaker

General Allowance                                   111,557.00                      

Special   Allowance                                    60,000.00                         $171,557.00

Salary Allowance                                       65,000.00                              65,000.00      $236,557.003

Personal, Un-explained Allocations

Rental Expense                                         24,000.00

Fuel – Vehicles                                        100,056.00

Fuel – Generator                                       41,000.00

Repairs                                                       36,000.00

Operational Expense                                39,694.00

Special Services                                         22,000.00

Vehicle Insurance                                       4,000.00

Local Scholarship Giveaway                      3,500.00

News Paper Purchase                                2,100.00                                                     $272,350.00     

Office of the President Pro Tempore

General Allowance                                  162,000.00                         

Special Allowance                                      72,000.00                        $234,000.00

Salary Allowance                                     175,000.00                         $175,000.00      $409,000.00

Personal, Un-explained Allocations

Rent                                                            18,599.00                           

Fuel for Generator                                     30,838.00

Special Services                                          66,000.00

Operation Expense                                     61,000.00

Transport Equipment                                 16,000.00

Local Scholarship Giveaway                        5,000.00

News Paper Purchase                                  4,000.00                                                   $201,437.00

The next and final, crucial and closer look is and must be at the budgetary, line-item allocations of, just, these three offices; this is enough to raise an alarm, because these are likely to be a tip of the proverbial “iceberg”. We took the pain to list the allocations as described and questioned by Mr. Massaley, and reported by the In Profile Daily newspaper, and let the people know and decide:

Office of The Speaker

General Allowance                                                              US $197,657

Special         “                                                                                  72,000

Salary          “                                                                                   55,000

Foreign Travel                                                                              139,638

Domestic Travel                                                                             12,000

Residential Rent                                                                             24,000

Fuel – Vehicles                                                                                90,942

Fuel – Residential Generator                                                        37,252

Vehicles Repairs                                                                              24,000

Entertainment                                                                                 15,000

Special Services                                                                               28,892

Internet Service & Postage                                                           12,000

Operational Expense                                                                      11,271

Local Scholarship Giveaways                                                        10,000

Purchase of Newspapers                                                                 4,000

Stationary                                                                                         11,904

Furniture                                                                                             6,000

Equipment                                                                                          3,000

$766,357

Office of the Deputy Speaker

General Allowance                                                                        111,557

Special          “                                                                                    60,000

Salary            “                                                                                    65,000

Management Expense                                                                   446,745

Foreign Travel                                                                                    98,896

Domestic   “                                                                                       14,000

Fuel, Vehicles                                                                                   100,056

Fuel, Generator                                                                                 41,000

Internet Service/Postage                                                                 28,000

Repairs                                                                                                36,000

Residential Rent                                                                                24,000

Operational Expense                                                                        39,694

Entertainment                                                                                   19,000

Special Services                                                                                 22,000

Vehicle Insurance                                                                                4,000

Local Scholarship Giveaway                                                              3,500

Stationary                                                                                             8,500

Printing                                                                                                 5,000

Newspaper Purchase                                                                         2,100

$700,302

Office of President Pro Tempore

Salary Allowance                                                                                175,000

General     “                                                                                         162,000

Special       “                                                                                           72,000

Foreign Travel                                                                                     101,000

Domestic   “                                                                                           72,000

Residential Rent                                                                                   18,599

Fuel, Vehicles                                                                                        69,092

Fuel, Generator                                                                                    30,838

Internet/Postage                                                                                  18,605

Special Services                                                                                     66,000

Operational Expense                                                                            61,000

Entertainment                                                                                       12,240

Transport Equipment                                                                           16,000

Machinery                                                                                              14,900

Local Scholarship Giveaway                                                                  5,000

Newspaper Purchase                                                                              4,000

Stationary                                                                                                 9,000

Printing                                                                                                     3,404

$846,653

Apparently, public/private dishonesty – corruption – has become a thriving, big business, an industry, than ever before, with specialized experts and consultants – MBAs, Economists, Financial Managers – who “earn” or steal six-figured “income”, fashioning our fancy, line-item budgets and financial statements by disguised theft. All of this corruption enterprise is taking place right under the noses of our policymakers. No wonder, the President of the Nation has described corruption as the nation’s “public enemy No.1”.  

With the aid and knowledge of computer technology, these budget and finance gurus have captured the nation’s successful salary/wage allowance system and transformed it into a sophisticated, booming, corruption bonanza for the few, well-heeled and connected. For, they and their business friends are wheelers/dealers in high-priced SUVs, electric generators, spare-parts and service, high-rental apartments, mobile cell telephone, etc., all financed from and by “allowances”.

No wonder, also, that the Country Representatives/Agents of our “Partners-in-Progress” (the donors who made all of this salary/wage “allowance” possible) have joined the bandwagon, because it is financially reasonable and beneficial, although their superiors have a declared, anti-corruption policy.

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