Stop the Useless Foreign Trips

By Winsley S. Nanka

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

March 11, 2004

Recent media reports from Liberia that indicated the legislative branch of government has spent nearly $500,000 on international travels since the inception of the transitional government is disturbing. However, if Liberians follow the history of interim governments in Liberia, the news should not surprise them.

Liberian interim government officials have routinely used foreign travels to fleece Liberia. According to one publication, the interim government of Amos Sawyer spent nearly $400,000 on foreign travels in one year. Some government officials at the time justified the exorbitant travel costs as necessary because Liberia was in chaos and the travels were essential for the various peace conferences government officials had to attend.

One of the reasons Liberian interim governments spend so much on foreign travel is it is a major source of hard currency income for Liberian government officials. Therefore, they will do anything to be included on government delegations abroad. The recent Donors Conference hosted by the United Nations is an example. What was the relevance of more than 30 persons traveling to the United States to seek assistance from the international community?

The recent media reports raise several questions: First, if the so-called legislative branch of government can spend about half a million dollars in three months, how much has the executive branch spent? Second, what has been the benefit of all these foreign travels to the Liberian people? Third, why the Liberian assembly could not use the amount it spent on foreign travels to resettle Liberians, assist displaced Liberians or do anything that will directly help the people of Liberia?

Liberians must understand that most of the interim government officials are not looking out for them. Some of the MODEL and LURD elements from the Samuel Doe regime are primarily serving in the interim government to “regain the ill-gotten wealth they lost when the Doe regime was deposed”. Another group of Liberians currently serving the interim government is purely fortune hunting. Members of this group are mainly in Liberia to acquire the wealth that has eluded them in Europe and America.

One important observation about Liberian interim government officials is the more they do not have access to the natural resources of Liberia, the more they turn to foreign travels to exploit the Liberian people. Presently, the United Nations imposed sanctions on Liberia means corrupt and dishonest Liberian government officials do not have access to the natural resources of Liberia. Hence, they have to turn to foreign travels for hard currency income.

Liberian interim government officials’ failure to consider the interest of Liberia is a major obstacle to the reconstruction of Liberia. It shows the international community Liberians are not serious about Liberia. If Liberians do not have the interest of Liberia at heart, why do they think the international community will continue to give more money to Liberia that is likely to end up on foreign travels and other uses that do not benefit the Liberian people?

About the Author: Mr. Winsley S. Nanka is a contributor to The Perspective newsmagazine. He holds a MBA in Finance and a MSc. in Accounting. He currently practices public accounting with a Pittsburgh based public accounting firm.