The Liberian Legislature: An Unholy Political Theater of Unrepented Crooks –Vote Them Out – Part I

By Martin K. N. Kollie
Contributor


The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
February 15, 2017

                  



 
 
 
 
Liberian Legislature

Why must a poverty-stricken nation like Liberia spend over US$170.8 million in 4 years on just 103 Lawmakers alone when education is a mess?  It is somehow difficult to determine which branch of the Liberian government is the most corrupt and the most unpatriotic, but one would reasonably crown the Legislative branch with such characterization. Undeniably, Liberia has one of the most corrupt and unpatriotic Parliaments in the World. Legislators of both the 52nd and 53rd National Legislatures have betrayed public confidence and poorly represented the interest of the people.

The struggle for power and wealth on Capitol Hill has dishonorably plagued the integrity of the National Legislature and rendered it politically barren for almost 12 years now. The political marathon of 73 lawmakers is nearing completion and it is no secret that all of them have become millionaires overnight at the expense of those who elected them. This is what happens when a group of unrepented crooks are elected by the people to lead. With 239 days to go on this journey, the race to amass wealth at the detriment of the ordinary masses will soon be over.  

Even though there are few (probably 2%) with vision, passion and good intention to uplift Liberia and Liberians from the trench of economic misery, but 98% of them are pro-Crooks and anti-Change agents. This article reveals the hardcore facts about how Liberian Lawmakers have become millionaires in a small, but resource-rich country where over 80% of the citizenry is extremely poor and unemployed.

Sierra Leone has a national budget of over 4.7 trillion Leone which is equivalent to US$648.8 million while Liberia has a budget of over L$57.3 billion which is equivalent to US$600.2 million.  The population of Sierra Leone is 6.092 million while Liberia is 4.294 million (Reference: World Bank February 6, 2017).
50% of Sierra Leone’s national budget accounts for recurrent expenditure while 86.7% of Liberia’s budget accounts for recurrent expenditure.  Recurrent expenditures are payments made by government on goods and services such as salaries, wages, etc.

The budget of the National Legislature of Liberia in 12 months is US$40,635,340.00. From this US$40.6 million plus, the Speaker alone bags US$444,945.00 while the Senate Pro Tempore of the Liberian Senate receives US$482,203.00 in a period of one (1) year. Both the Speaker and the Pro Tempore receive US$927,148.00 while over 800 Liberian children die every year as a result of unsafe drinking water according to WaterAid International.

Liberian Lawmakers: Are They Fighting Over Money?

Sierra Leone has a unicameral Legislature. This means that the Parliament of Sierra Leone comprises only a House of Representatives. The Sierra Leonean Parliament has a total of 124 Lawmakers from 14 Districts.

On a monthly basis in Sierra Leone, each Member of Parliament (MP) or Lawmaker receives a total of 21,167,000 Sierra Leonean Leone which is equivalent to just US$2,862.63. This includes:

  1. Constituency Development Fund – US$698.74
  2. Salary – US$2,163.89

Liberia has a bicameral Legislature. This means that the Parliament of Liberia comprises both a House of Representatives and a House of Senate. The Liberian Parliament has a total of 103 Lawmakers from 73 Districts and 15 Counties. 

On a monthly basis in Liberia, each Representative receives over US$14,342.00 while each Senator gets US$15,424.33. This excludes other expenses done annually. Permit me to give you a clear financial breakdown of what our nation is spending on just one lawmaker.
House of Representatives (Monthly – 30 days)

  1. Basic Salary - US$2,873.00
  2. General Allowance - US$5,793.70
  3. Special Allowance - US$2,500.00
  4. Transportation Reimbursement Allowance - US$3,175.00
  5. Total – US$14,342.00

Other Expenses (Annually – 12 months)

  1. Telecom, Internet & Post – US$16,957.00
  2. Residential Property Lease – US$15,656.00
  3. Vehicle Fuel – US$45,499.00
  4. Generator Fuel – US$2,586.00
  5. Repair of Vehicles – US$1,724.00
  6. Domestic Travel – US$20,128.00
  7. Other Specialized Materials – US$35,896.00

According to our National Budget, each Representative takes home US$172,104.00 in 12 months. This means that in a period of 6 years, Liberia is spending over US$1,032,624.00 in salaries and allowances on just one Representative while citizens in Southeastern Liberia are completely cut-off due to bad roads.
House of Senate (Monthly – 30 days)

  1. Basic Salary - US$2,913
  2. General Allowance - US$6,811.33
  3. Special Allowance - US$2,500.00
  4. Transportation allowance - US$3,200
  5. Total – US$15,424.33

Other Expenses (Annually – 12 months)

  1. Telecom, Internet & Post – US$13,793.00
  2. Residential Property Lease – US$12,000.00
  3. Vehicle Fuel – US$42,371.00
  4. Generator Fuel – US$2,465.00
  5. Repair of Vehicles – US$19,832.00
  6. Foreign Travel – US$14,000.00
  7. Other Specialized Materials – US$19,938.00

According to our National Budget, each Senator goes home with US$209,516.00 in 12 months in basic salary, general allowance and special allowance. This means that in a period of 9 years, Liberia is spending over US$1,885,644.00 in salaries and allowances on just one Senator while extreme poverty strangulates thousands of our citizens. I am still wondering what is the difference between General Allowance and Special Allowance? Why are we spending over US$16K for Telecom & Internet and US$15K for Residential Property Lease for each Representative? Isn’t this wasteful spending, mass looting and midday conspiracy against the people?
Annually, over US$17.7 million is spent on just 103 Lawmakers who continue to ratify bogus concession agreements and mortgage our interest for self-gain. Now, let us take a keen look at what we have spent on the Legislative branch alone since 2013 up to now.
Legislative Branch

  1. FY 2013 – 2014 – US$39,249,883
  2. FY 2014 – 2015 – US$41,937,420
  3. FY 2015 – 2016 – US$49,056,294
  4. FY 2016 – 2017 – US$40,635,340
  5. Total FY 2013 – 2017 – US$170,879,037

These millions are paid to Legislators at a time when health workers, security personnel and teachers are receiving US$150.00 on the average in a period of one (1) month. They are paid at a time when access to safe drinking water, quality education, improved sanitation, good roads, better housing, food security, electricity, environmental safety, social welfare, etc. is rare.   While Lawmakers are taking home more than US$172,104.00 yearly, teachers, security officers and health workers are paid US$1800. Just take a moment and compare the gap in wages that currently exists between the lawmakers and the common people.

Even though they continue to receive huge sums of dollars at the expense of the people, but they are yet to be satisfied. Receiving brown envelops to ratify concession agreements and change our laws in favor of foreign interest are common practices in the Legislature. Our National Legislature is one of the most clandestine and incompetent assembly anyone can ever imagine. Out of US$8 billion worth of natural resource contracts ratified and signed since 2009, almost all (66 out of 68) violated Liberia’s Laws (Reference: Moore Stephens Report, May 2013).

In addendum, it is important that we take a glance at few Legislative facts between Liberia and the United States of America. The 2016-2017 budget of the United States of America is US$4.147 trillion while Liberia is just US$600.20 million. Even though Liberia’s national budget is far less than the USA, but its Speaker and Senate Pro tempore receive more money annually than the Speaker and Senate Pro tempore of the United States of America. Isn’t this an irony? This is not only an irony that provokes, but gross wickedness and unpatriotism beyond limit.

These are few facts relating to what lawmakers receive in a period of one (1) year from both Liberia and USA:

Parliament of Liberia
1. Speaker – US$444,945.00
2. Senate Pro tempore – US$482,203.00
3. Each Senator – US$209,516.00
4. Each Representative – US$172,104.00

Parliament of the United States of America
1. Speaker – US$223,500.00
2. Senate Pro tempore – US$193,400.00
3. Each Senator – US$174,000.00
4. Each Representative – US$174,000.00

Interestingly, the Speaker and Senate Pro tempore of the Liberian Legislature even make more money than the President and Vice President of the United States of America. US President gets US$400,000.00 per annum while the Vice President receives US$230,700.00. If these facts do not provoke you to act and stand up for CHANGE now, then you are a utopian. We must demand immediate reduction in the salaries and benefits of Liberian Lawmakers through mass civil action. We also remain hopeful that 2017 will make a lot of difference.

Our nation is bleeding as a result of the decisions Lawmakers have been taking. Unequivocally and undoubtedly, they have become millionaires overnight as a result of greed and unpatriotism. Corruption has been an acceptable standard or value in the Liberian Legislature. They have looted enough and it is time for them to go.

We must put an end to mass looting of State resources by voting them out. They have never been in our interest – not even once. If they have been working in our interest, youth unemployment would have been minimized by now. The exponential increase in drug addiction, gambling, prostitution, labor abuse, human trafficking, poverty, etc. would have been curtailed. Unfortunately, service to the people through selflessness and patriotism has even been the least priority on their agenda.

Pathetically, corruption has polluted the minds of our lawmakers. Disinfecting or fumigating their minds of corruption remains a mountaineering challenge. To them, PATRIOTISM and NATIONALISM are taboos. TRANSPARENCY and ACCOUNTABILITY are forbidden. We must not allow them to deceive us any longer. Most of them are trucking eligible voters from one district to another simply because they have miserably failed. It is time to let them go.

Can Liberians make the difference this year? Yes, I believe so if only we vote wisely. Go and register to vote in October. Our story can change if our trend of doing business as usual changes. It is about Liberia reclaiming its destiny. Together, we can reclaim our future. We must make it happen and prove our pessimists wrong. Your voter’s registration card is not for sale. It is meant to boot out unrepented crooks and usher in a new breed of patriots.

From the largest slum of West Point and the top of Ducor, I see a new Liberia rising above the African Continent.


About The Author: Martin K. N. Kollie is an enthusiastic proponent of a NEW LIBERIA that seeks a concrete and sustainable pro-poor agenda driven by a people-centered and patriotic National Legislature.   He is youth activist and can be reached at: martinkerkula1989@yahoo.com

sylvester moses
Another great piece, Mr. Martin Kollie: well – written, well – argued, unquestionably insightful. And certainly, your part 2 to this appetizer will center on the Executive Branch’s contributions to the socioeconomic cauldron in Liberia.

For although the Legislature controls our country’s purse strings, the president approves of all spending bills. And, you might recollect, in response to reporters in the US, who were aghast by those bonanza compensation packages amid pervasive poverty, the Iron Lady coyly said that senators and representatives “took them” by deliberately delaying approval of a submitted annual budget. However, many Liberians later learned what she didn't reveal was that the salaries and emoluments for herself, the principals of the Executive branch, Supreme Court justices, and State Corporations were so high that legislators demanded theirs be hiked up too.

That was the opportune time a responsive responsible political leader – fortunately for the fatherland an “economist” to boot - should’ve immediately initiated comprehensive stabilization exercise of all related salaries, allowances, and so on. Instead, she didn’t only allow the monumental waste, which yearly would consume a third of annual budget, to be enacted, but also ordered bribes be paid to legislators for questionable laws she hurriedly wanted passed; to wit, the Oil Law, and few NOCAL concoctions.

Not to mention repeated complaints of legislators that approved bills were often watered down by her vested in - house legal team thus losing any rehabilitative potency.

Mind you, we aren’t defending legislators who conned marginalized constituencies that consider them as representatives, and abandoned constitutional duties - far from it. But if the Liberian ship of state has hit an iceberg like the Titanic did, the blame is on Captain EJS: she indifferently steered it toward that course. Sometimes, it makes one wonder whether all along she wasn’t setting up legislators for public ridicule by the following: offering bribes, ordering them to forego recess/ holidays to pass hot bills, and, allegedly, secretly using surrogates to spoon – feed Global Witness in order to disgrace some in her own former party on behalf of LP.

Thanks once again, Mr. Martin Kollie. Part 1 has made us expected mothers waiting breathlessly for the coming of part 2, which will surely focus on the Executive Branch‘s role in our nation’s 2017/ 2018 existential predicament. It is a conversation we must have now.


sylvester moses at 05:28PM, 2017/02/15.
Garblejay Saturday Zoryah
Great piece Martin! No better way to put this than how you brilliantly narrated. Liberia's copycat, US population is over 323 million while Liberia's population is merely 4.294.

One would have thought that with small population, the better the country should develop, but this is not so with Liberia. Small population and more resources mean more poverty and underdevelopment. Corruption swallow half of every proceed for development.

One may think from sickening and corrupt Africa perspective and experience that with such "huge" 4.147 trillion budget of the USA, more of this money with go in the pockets of the Senate Pro-Tempero, the President, the Vice President and legislators, but this is not so-the country and people interest are all their priorities.

Sadly, Liberia with just little 600.20 million budget and will so many to do for the country, regrettably the legislature and the Executive pockets half for their personal benefits while poverty, basic social services, underdevelopment, illiteracy, unemployment grow higher and higher every day. Liberian public official’s interests are not the country interest. Self-interest and personal aggrandizement are to Liberian public officials.
Garblejay Saturday Zoryah at 11:45PM, 2017/02/15.
Andrew Worth
Looking at the fuel allowances I'm guessing that Legislators are amongst the largest fuel distributors in the country.
Andrew Worth at 02:59AM, 2017/02/16.
Efessayf
The situation so abled described in this treatise is on point; thanks to the author. The problem is that this has always been the issue since the founding of the republic. A book that I have found which described this situation is by James Ciment and entitled, Another America: The Story of Liberia and the Former Slaves Who Ruled it – published 2014. He discussed the partying ways of the “Honorables” in the making of Liberia in a country of so many destitute people. Fast forward to the festive Valentine Day celebrations of 2017 in a country where so many go hungry daily. Reminds me of the Ferdinand Marco’s days in the Philippines of the 1980s when it was alleged that their “Honorables” would pipe chilled air into a ballroom so that they could wear and thus show-case their fur and mink coats in an improvised country. Back to Liberia.
I recommend this book because while the novice may consider the situation in Liberia to be new, it has in fact always been in existence since the founding of the country. For example, putting unqualified persons into positions of power, decision-making, future planning, etc. has always been the norm. Recycling failed people from one job to another, ditto. Concentration on Latin-speaking lawyers, accountants, human resource personnel to the exclusion of technical people (welders, electricians, mechanics, engineers, builders, etc.) has always been the norm. James Ciment makes the argument that J. J. Roberts and people of his era wanted to move as far away as possible from activities that reminded them of slavery. Hence, they mimicked slave owners by wearing stove top hats, tail coats and the like. People at the time would rather live in the congested areas of Monrovia (known as Rock Town), dressed well but starving than live 20 miles away, where the soil was conducive to farming, the air was fresher, and the land could support a generally healthy life style. Compare Monrovia of today. One consequence of which is that there is no respect for the trades and similar activities that grow the middle class.
We have changed, for example, Presidents Pro Tempore of the Liberian Senate from Gbehzongar back thru Nyenabo, Kpoto, John Rancy, to Frank Tolbert, with no solid or sustainable benefit to the common man. I have therefore come to the conclusion that we should at every voting cycle vote out all the rascals and replace them with a new batch of rascals who will seek their own interest. “What the hell do” we “have to lose?” If this is done over a period of time, the distribution of wealth will benefit a wider group of people. Consider the length of time the Henries, Deshields, Tolberts, and Tubmans held power without the distribution of wealth. I agree that there are better means of wealth distribution than my conclusion, but it is also apparent that nothing has worked in about 170 years of independence. If my method is put in place for the next 170 years, the roads will “cut” every rainy season, there will be no health care, schools or infrastructure to speak of, but there will be a whole lot more millionaires in the country.
Efessayf at 07:41AM, 2017/02/16.
Kandajaba Zoebohn Zoedjallah
"Monrovia - Senator Prince Johnson wants to be President of Liberia, but when a proposal for a pay cut of 25% was brought to the floor of plenary, he walked out in sign of protest before discussion could begin.


Report by Henry Karmo - henrykarmo@frontpageafricaonline.com


“With all due respect, Mr. Presiding officer, there is money in the government. My salary cannot be used to build Liberia, you go tell Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to give her salary,” he said as he walked out of the session."

So called Progressive Conmanny B. Wisseh (A CRONY OF ELLEN JOHNSON Sirleaf) also takes the same stand aginst any cut of his salary.

Culled from Frontpageafricaonline
Kandajaba Zoebohn Zoedjallah at 04:37AM, 2017/02/24.
Lana Paes
I'm a pity the problem of the world and the money, justice has to be done regardless of the money, justice what goes for 1 ticket for all
Lana Paes at 08:22AM, 2017/11/05.

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