State of Our Transition to Democracy
By Gbe Sneh
September 1, 2004
In vivid colors we are now seeing what the National Transitional Government of Liberia is all about. We have a lame-duck Executive Branch caught in a strangle hold by the tentacles of a vicious NTLA headed by a Speaker bent on perpetuating disunity and lawlessness. UNMIL remains oblivious to its surroundings.
Lest you think I am being too hard on the Chairman. Just read this recent quote. "I see information coming across my desk for payments for things that are questionable - domestic arrears dating as far back as ten years ago, for what purpose I don't know, why they weren't paid for at the time I don't know," Bryant said. Courtesy of The Inquirer, Monrovia.
This is what happens when one inherits a mess and only pretends to something about it.
These vouchers making their way to the Chairman’s desk for payments could very well be coming from old shady contracts from the past regime. It wouldn’t be a surprise if current shady deals are also involved. This is precisely why it is necessary to audit all running government contracts. Now it is evident why most Liberians are against the Lifting of Sanctions on Diamonds and Timber at this time. Prior concession agreements, along with company revenue remittance over the period of their existence, need to be audited. All government agencies that generate vouchers payable through the Finance Ministry need to be audited, just as an audit was recently conducted for government agencies employees in order to determine the extent of salary arrearages.
A month was allowed for the completion of the Government Employment Audit. I did personally think that was an unrealistic time table for an audit of such proportion. However, if my contention proved to be right, and an extension granted, the people have not been notified of such. After all, why would an audit take a month to complete and the report alone take so much longer to be made public? We are still waiting on the NTGL to make public that audit report.
Transition, by definition, includes formulating strategies for finding these loopholes (voucher fraud) and plugging them. Absent such formal strategies, the people are still uncovering some of these loopholes, as they amount to “broad daylight stealing”, and the people have been sounding the alarm. When will some action be taken? For Liberia Sake!
Now, these (fraudulent payment vouchers) appear to be agencies-wide, individualized clever ploys to siphon funds from the state treasury, the cumulative effect of which has pinched the Chairman to a breaking point. What we are talking about is happening just on the disbursement side of the National Ledger. Only God knows what’s lurking on the revenues side! Under reporting of state revenues, kickbacks, or simply reporting nothing at all! What’s there to prevent the entire nation from having nightmares of that also occurring?
Ok, we have heard the Chairman finally cry about it in public, under the watchful eyes of an international representative who made explicit the consequence of this ongoing corruption. When the Liberian people were crying about it, the Chairman did not “pay us any mind”. Now, he has joined us, and we are all crying; on whose shoulder? That’s the question. And what are we going to do now?
Enters Peoples Power!
My people, we are left with the last resort. I am talking about Power Of The People. We have to let them know that it is our country. It does not belong to the corrupt few that are frenziedly feeding their selfish desires at our expense. “The pepper is too much in our eyes now” (National Archives). We do not want to be thrown back into the bushes where we languished for fourteen years! The price we have paid is unthinkable. We have a Peace Process in progress, and we want to stay the course.
Civil Societies have done well so far in trying to keep the NTGL honest, but to no avail. We might want to start applying MASS PEACEFUL DEMONSTRATIONS to get our points across.
What is the justification for the imminence of this exercise of Peoples Power? Just read the following: “According to sources who spoke with our reporter, the advocates' petition was intended, besides other objective, to avert a citizens' mass action allegedly planned against the NTGL to compel port authorities in Buchanan to halt the deal.” Analyst, Monrovia.
In brief, the article points out that the NTGL is infringing on the terms of the Comprehensive Peace Accord by evading transparency in the sale of 800,000 metric tons (estimated at US$10m) of iron ore accumulated at the Port of Buchanan to a Chinese company. The people of Grand Bassa cry wolf, ready to picket the NTGL. Six Civil Organizations (the advocates mentioned in the above quote) intervene by successfully securing from the courts an injunction on the sale. Despite the injunction, a Chinese vessel leaves port with a second consignment of the said questionable sale.
Needless to say, the people, once again, got “sticked”! The article concludes with “ Investigation continues”. I hear that, but be vigilant in your inquiry; don’t just drive by the Chinese Embassy; enter, just as the Chinese Ambassador has come to you when he’s got news. We can be sure his office has some pertinent information to aid our course. So let’s move on it and see what we can flush out.
If the NTGL does not come forth with satisfactory answers to the inquiry, the People of Bassa County, the people of the entire nation, for that matter, have every right to go ahead with a peaceful demonstration to seek redress. If the Courts can be overruled, as it seems, then PEOPLES POWER must take its rightful course. Enough is enough!
At the time of this publication a similar article threatening
Mass Citizen’s Action has hit the NET. http://allafrica.com/stories/200408310246.html
To that, I say, BRAVO! It’s time for citizen’s action! Let the chips fall where they may!