“Liberia and every Liberian could prosper if public finance is managed in the most disciplined way,” Says IMF Christine Lagarde

By Martin K. N. Kollie
Contributor & Youth Activist


The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
May 10, 2017

                  



                                                         

Editor's Note: The Editorial Board of the Perspective Web Site contacted Mr. Martin Kollie to submit the budget documents to support his budgetary numbers after discovering that he understated the total amount of the six Spending entities of the 20176/2017 Liberian Budget. For example, the Office of the President is reported to have used $14,718,651.00 according page #10 of the 2016/2017 Liberian Budget and not the $3,943,340 million Mr. Kollie reported in the article. The General Allownce for the Office of the President is $881,629 as compared the $119,844 reported.

Also, the $2,431,003 million figure he reported for the Office of the Vice President is correct; however, he mistakenly stated that the Office of the Vice President used $215,688 as Special Allowance. The 2016/2017 Liberian Budget shows that the Office of the Vice President used $36,538 and $79,597 as Special Allowance and General Allowance respectively.  

The Editorial Board of the Perspective feels obliged to add this statement since Mr. Kollie has publically discussed these numbers and other Liberian local news media have carried this article without correcting the numbers.

In a period of 12 months (FY2016-2017), Liberia is spending over US$10.2 million on just six (6) public offices, namely: President, Vice President, Speaker, Senate Pro Tempore, Deputy Speaker and Chief Justice. The budget of these six offices far exceeds the two biggest referral hospitals in Liberia: JFK Medical Center (US$5.3 million) and Jackson F. Doe Hospital (US$2.9 million). Where does the interest of the people lie? The budget of these six offices in 12 months could pay 571 medical doctors per annum (a doctor currently receives US$18,000 per year in Liberia). Even though Liberia has a broken health sector with just 298 medical doctors to a population of 4.5 million people (1 doctor to 15,100 people in contrast to WHO’s doctor-patient ratio of 1 doctor to 5,000 patients), but the Ministry of Health said about 3 days ago that there is no money to employ more doctors. No money to employ more doctors, but there is money to pay for the medical bills of government officials abroad and increase their salaries and allowances annually. No money for doctors now, but there was money to spend US$55.3 million in just 7 years (FY2006 – 2013) on buying very expensive cars for government officials (LIPI 2013 Report).
This is a financial summary of THE BIG SIX for fiscal year 2016-2017:

  1. President – US$3,943,030
  2. Vice President – US$2,431,003
  3. Senate Pro Temp – US$1,369,423
  4. Speaker – US$1,000,370
  5. Deputy Speaker – US$930,132
  6. Chief Justice – US$616,374
  7. Total – US$10,290,332            

Liberia has a long way to go in so far managers of its resources care more about themselves than those they serve. A nation is doomed when self-interest suffices public interest. I agree with the International Monetary Fund through its Managing Director Christine Lagarde when she said in September 2015 “Liberia and every Liberian could prosper if public finance is managed in the most disciplined way.”

Officials of government in Liberia, especially higher-ups, continue to get lucrative salaries in the midst of extreme poverty and harsh economic conditions. Though the national budget of Liberia now is US$600.2 million with a Direct Foreign Investment of over US16.9 billion, but nothing really justifies these huge numbers. The fact of the matter is a handful of Liberians continue to live in luxury at the expense of the struggling masses that have the inherent POWER.

Having written two separate articles calling for at least 30% cuts in the astronomical salaries and benefits of senior government officials, I thought it would be important as well to focus briefly on the BIG SIX since they are in a better position to even effectuate this change. Change through appropriate cuts in astronomical salaries and benefits must begin with THE BIG SIX in our government. This cut-approach could curtail wasteful spending and save millions of dollars to improve the appalling condition of the ordinary people. This approach is working in countries like Tanzania, Ghana, Rwanda, Senegal, etc. Why is Liberia even spending over 80% of its national budget on recurrent expenditure? In fact, there are too many priorities/items repeating in the National Budget. For example, what is the difference between special project and special operation? Is Liberia really ready for CHANGE? The choice to CHANGE Liberia for good lies with every Liberian in October 2017.

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf

Beyond this analysis, it is patriotically sensitive and rational that the BIG SIX (President, Vice President, Speaker, Senate Pro Temp, Deputy Speaker and Chief Justice) willingly and collectively decide to cut their salaries and benefits. If this landmark and patriotic decision is taken, it could lead to cuts in the salaries and incentives of Lawmakers, Ministers, Managing Directors, Consultants, Board Members, Directors, etc. What a perfect example and way to go. The BIG SIX must lead by example. Until our leaders can begin to understand more practically that national leadership is about service and not self-enrichment, Liberia is on a journey to nowhere even after 170 years. The budget analysis below is excluding consumption of fixed capital and grant. Now, follow me as we reveal THE HARD FACTS.

OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT (US$3,943,030.00 IN 12 MONTHS)

  1. Basic Salary – US$75,000
  2. Special Allowance – US$90,000
  3. Foreign Travel – Means of Travel – US$276,000
  4. Foreign Travel Daily Subsistence Allowance – US$210,000
  5. Foreign Travel Incidental Allowance – US$105,000
  6. Domestic Travel Means of Travel – US$112,500
  7. Domestic Travel Incidental Allowance  - US$239,686
  8. Fuel and Lubricant – Vehicle – US$330,000
  9. Repairs and Maintenance – Vehicles – US$85,000
  10. Stationery – US$20,000
  11. Printing, Publication and Binding – US$60,000
  12. Consultancy –US$550,000
  13. Special Presidential Projects – US$650,000
  14. Special Operation Services – US$270,000
  15. General Allowance – US$119,844

We are spending US$550,300.00 just on consultancy for President Sirleaf's office in 12 months. This could pay 353 public school teachers per year in Liberia (US$130 is the average net wage per teacher in Liberia currently).

We are spending US$650,000.00 on Special Presidential Projects and US$270,000.00 on Special Operation Services. What is the difference between Special Presidential Projects and Special Operation Services? Why are we spending this huge sum of money when 3.7 million people lack access to sanitation in Liberia (WaterAid International 2016)?

We have challenged them to show us those special projects and operations, but to no avail up to now. So, this means that we are spending almost a million (US$920,000) just on presidential projects and operations. This could pay 361 nurses and 225 immigration officers per year.

Vice President Joseph N. Boakai

The annual budget of the office of President Sirleaf is US$3,943,030. This is even more than what the second largest referral hospital (Jackson F. Doe Hospital) in Liberia gets per annum (US$2,966,095). This justifies why our health sector is so weak and why over 4810 of our countrymen had to die from Ebola (May their soul rest in peace).

  1. OFFICE OF THE VICE PRESIDENT (US$2,431,003.00 IN 12 MONTHS)
  2. Basic Salary – US$109,188
  3. Special Allowance – US$215,688
  4. Foreign Travel – Means of Travel – US$113,000
  5. Foreign Travel Daily Subsistence Allowance – US$112,000
  6. Foreign Travel Incidental Allowance – US$50,000
  7. Domestic Travel – Daily Subsistence Allowance – US$512,116
  8. Telecoms, Internet, Postage and Courier – US$20,440
  9. Fuel and Lubricant – Vehicle – US$70,755
  10. Fuel and Lubricant – Generator – US$111,176
  11. Repairs and Maintenance – Civil – US$12,000
  12. Repairs and Maintenance – Vehicles – US$89,936
  13. Repairs and Maintenance, Machinery Equipment – US$2,900
  14. Stationery – US$35,120
  15. Consultancy Services – US$36,000
  16. Food and Catering Services – US$38,004
  17. Entertainment and Gifts – US$79,596
  18. Operational Expenses – US$133,032
  19. General Allowance – US$524,052

We are spending US$215,688.00 as special allowance alone on VP Joseph Boakai. This is even more than what AMEU (US$50,000), AMEZU (US$50,000), Stella Maris Polytechnic (US$40,000) and St. Clement University College (US$50,000) receive as subsidies.

Speaker
Emmanuel Nuquah

We are spending US$79,596.00 on entertainment and gifts for VP Boakai. This could pay the tuition of 1,380 students at the University of Liberia per semester. The annual budget of VP Joe Boakai’s office is US$2,431,003. This exceeds the budget of both the Liberia Coast Guard (US$240,000) and the Drug Enforcement Agency (US$1,845,518). No wonder why Liberia has too many illegal immigrants with drug abuse and mental illness on the increase

  1. OFFICE OF THE SPEAKER (US$1,000,370.00 IN 12 MONTHS)
  2. Basic Salary – US$65,210
  3. Special Allowance – US$285,303
  4.  Foreign Travel – Means of Travel – US$31,650
  5. Foreign Travel Daily Subsistence Allowance – US$33,417
  6. Foreign Travel Incidental Allowance – US$33,656
  7. Domestic Travel Means of Travel – US$12,000
  8. Telecoms, Internet, Postage and Courier – US$3,000 
  9. Residential Property Rental and Lease – US$6,000
  10. Fuel and Lubricant – Vehicle – US$117,960
  11. Fuel and Lubricant – Generator – US$47,256
  12. Repairs and Maintenance – Vehicles – US$10,000
  13. Stationery – US$15,000
  14. Printing, Publication and Binding – US$12,006
  15. Newspapers, Books and Periodical - US$6,000
  16. Other Specialized Material – US$30,000
  17. Local Scholarship – US$15,000
  18. Entertainment and Gifts – US$4,500
  19. Operational Expenses – US$15,000
  20. General Allowance - US$132,065

In 2015/2016 fiscal year, the special allowance of the Speaker was US$72,000. But it has increased this fiscal year (2016/2017) to US$285,303. This is 396.2% increment while education is a mess in Liberia. This could pay 151 police officers per annum. In a period of 12 months, we are spending US$1,000,370 on the office of the Speaker alone.

Pro temp Armah Z. Jallah  

The budget of the Speaker’s office goes beyond what we give to the National Commission on Disabilities (US$470,976) and Palace of Correction (US$380,982). We are spending this money on the Speaker’s office alone when 1.1 million of our people lack access to safe water (WaterAid International 2016) while 81.86% of our population remains poor (UNDP HDI 2015 Report).

  1. OFFICE OF THE SENATE PRO TEMPORE (US$1,369,423.00 IN 12 MONTHS)
  2. Basic Salary – US$105,227
  3. Special Allowance – US$362,000
  4. Foreign Travel – Means of Travel – US$29,849
  5. Foreign Travel Daily Subsistence Allowance – US$22,478
  6. Foreign Travel Incidential Allowance – US$2,415
  7. Domestic Travel Means of Travel – US$7,800
  8. Telecoms, Internet, Postage and Courier – US$3,360
  9. Residential Property Rental and Lease – US$3,358
  10. Fuel and Lubricant – Vehicle – US$84,850
  11. Fuel and Lubricant – Generator – US$33,408
  12. Stationery – US$15,000
  13. Printing, Publication and Binding – US$4,477
  14. Other Specialized Material – US$54,411
  15. Local Scholarship – US$6,028
  16. Entertainment and Gifts – US$22,943
  17. Operational Expenses – US$15,000
  18. Constituency Visit – US$33,589
  19. General Allowance – US$277,562

In 2015/2016 fiscal year, just the special allowance of the Senate Pro Tempore was US$78,000. But it has increased this fiscal year (2016/2017) to US$362,000. This is 464.1% increment when the salaries/wages of civil servants cannot even be increased by 5%. Can you imagine? Let the public judge!

Dep. Speaker Hans Barchue

The special allowance of our Senate Pro Tempore in 12 months is more than what we give to SD Cooper Hospital (US$50,000), ELWA Hospital (US$150,000) and St. Joseph Catholic Hospital (US$150,000) combined. The budget of the Office of the Pro Tempore in 12 months is US$1,369,423 when infant mortality rate in Liberia is 1,072 deaths to every 100,000 lives according to World Health Organization.

  1. OFFICE OF THE DEPUTY SPEAKER (US$930,132.00 IN 12 MONTHS)
  2. Basic Salary – US$64,740
  3. Special Allowance – US$244,057
  4. Foreign Travel – Means of Travel – US$14,400
  5. Foreign Travel Daily Subsistence Allowance – US$32,461
  6. Foreign Travel Incidential Allowance – US$14,400
  7. Domestic Travel Means of Travel – US$12,600
  8. Telecoms, Internet, Postage and Courier – US$7,000
  9. Residential Property Rental and Lease – US$6,000
  10. Fuel and Lubricant – Vehicle – US$100,056
  11. Fuel and Lubricant – Generator – US$41,004
  12. Repairs and Maintenance – Vehicles – US$8,250
  13. Stationery – US$6,000
  14. Printing, Publication and Binding – US$5,000
  15. Newspapers, Books and Periodicals – US$2,100
  16. Other Specialized Material – US$21,249
  17. Local Scholarship – US$10,000
  18. Entertainment and Gifts – US$3,750
  19. Operational Expenses – US$205,000
  20. General Allowance – US$132,065

In 2015/2016 fiscal year, the special allowance of the Deputy Speaker was US$60,000. But it has increased to US$244,057. This is 406.76% increment when a nurse is receiving US$150 per month while an immigration officer gets US$100. The special allowance (US$244,057) of the Deputy Speaker this fiscal year could pay 1627 nurses or 2440 immigration officers per month. It is pathetic that Liberia cannot boast of even 1000 immigration officers. No wonder why our borders remain porous.

  1. Chief Justice
    Francis Korkpor 

    OFFICE OF THE CHIEF JUSTICE (US$616,374.00 IN 12 MONTHS)
  2. Special Allowance – US$126,000
  3. Meal Reimbursement Allowance – US$15,600
  4. Residential Property Rental and Lease – US$12,500
  5. Foreign Travel Means of Travel – US$30,000
  6. Foreign Travel-Daily Subsistence Allowance – US$45,000
  7. Foreign Travel-Incidental Allowance – US$3,000
  8. Domestic Travel-Means of Travel – US$2,579
  9. Domestic Travel-Daily Subsistence Allowance – US$18,000
  10. Electricity – US$10,000
  11. Telecoms, Internet, Postage and Courier – US$7,440
  12. Fuel and Lubricants – Vehicles – US$52,435
  13. Fuel and Lubricants – Generator – US$38,100
  14. Repairs and Maintenance – Vehicles – US$9,405
  15. Repairs and Maintenance – Generators  - US$8,000
  16. Repairs and Maintenance, Machinery, Equipment – US$500
  17. Cleaning Materials and Services – US$1,500
  18. Stationery – US$4,000
  19. Printing, Binding and Publication Services – US$4,000
  20. Newspapers, Books and Periodicals – US$800
  21. Computer Supplies and ICT Services – US$3,500
  22. Uniforms and Special Cloth – US$1,500
  23. Vehicle Insurance – US$5,375
  24. General Allowance – US$217,140

The number of allowances in our budget for officials of government is too many. What is the rationale for all these allowances when the people are suffering? Must our nation be responsible to pay meal allowance too? Why are we paying US$10,000 for electricity for the office of the Chief Justice when there is a provision for electricity in the general budget of the Supreme Court, where the Chief Justice office is housed? Why are we paying for uniforms and special cloth along with cleaning materials/services?

Liberia has a long way to go if we cannot redefine our priorities as a nation. Public service has become a source of attraction in Liberia where people go and get rich easily. Greed is on the move. Patriotism has become a taboo. Accountability is forbidden. Corruption is a national priority. Integrity is outlawed. Poverty is a leading public policy. Such is the case of Africa’s oldest republic and the second black republic in the world.

Recommendations to curb wasteful spending, financial indiscipline and promote public interest:

    1. Set-up a technical committee of fiscal and monetary experts to review and identify areas of wasteful spending within the National Budget of Liberia.
    2. Carryout at least 30% cut in the salaries, allowances and benefits of high-ranking public officials in the Legislature, Executive and Judiciary Branches of Government.
    3. Pass into law a bill to set reasonable ‘salary standards’ for all public servants including elected officials and political appointees.
    4. Establish by law an Independent National Authority on Salaries and Wages.
    5. Hold mass public hearing and awareness every fiscal year in each of the 73 districts before the passage of the annual budget.
    6. Ensure an annual audit of every government functionary including the National Legislature.
    7. Set-up an anti-corruption Court to adjudicate cases of economic sabotage and corruption only.

It is no secret that officials of government in Liberia are becoming millionaires even though 81.86% of Liberians remain poor. It is no secret that Liberians are at war with poverty in the midst of millions and vast mineral resources. Change through appropriate cuts in astronomical salaries and benefits must begin with THE BIG SIX in our government. This cannot be overemphasized! Because we have made public service in Liberia too attractive, almost everyone wants to run for public office.

If we can cut-down some of these huge salaries and benefits of lawmakers, ministers, managing directors, consultants, directors, board members, commissioners, etc., we could bridge the gap of poverty and inequality before 2030. The Agenda for Transformation, Vision 2030, SDGs 2030 and AU Agenda 2063 would remain monumental instruments of failure in Liberia until public interest becomes an indispensable priority. Greed has done more harm than good to our nation.

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 a Liberian youth and student activist, a columnist and an emerging economist who hails from Bong County.  He currently studies Economics at the University of Liberia and is a Lux-in-Tenebris Scholar. Martin is a youth ambassador of the International Human Rights Commission and a loyal stalwart of the Student Unification Party (SUP).  He can be reached at: martinkerkula1989@yahoo.com

Sylvester moses
Although it wouldn't have made any difference, Christine Legarde should have told EJS just that as soon as she got the IMF job.

Ironically, in 2005, EJS campaigned on her competence as a Harvard - trained "economist", former finance minister, former IMF official, and ex UN under - secretary for failed states, whatever that signifies. Going forward, instead of a twenty - page resume, what Liberian voters must look for in a presidential candidate should include the following: integrity, reliability, empathy, accountability, decisiveness, effectiveness, and courageousness.
Sylvester moses at 02:44AM, 2017/05/11.
Efessayf
When you add the itemized statement of the Office of the President, you get a total $3,193,030; that's $750,000 short of $3,943,030, the total amount budgeted for the office. What'd that amount go?

You have a similar problem for all but two of the offices: a discrepancy of $166,000 for the office of Veep, $125,347 for the office of the Speaker, and $285,668 for the office of Senate Pro Tempore.

A total of $1,327,015 for which there is no accounting. How many doctors, teachers, student scholarships, etc. is that?
Efessayf at 06:40AM, 2017/05/12.
Abraham Benson

What a brilliant mind. I spent three and a half years teaching at the University of Liberia but never met this young man. I which him well.

One omission from his piece was the condition of the University of Liberia and the condition of the facilities and the students. I know this firsthand because I taught at the graduate school for about four years. No internet connection for students. No functioning or sanitary lavatories. The average age of a book or periodical in the so-called graduate library was about fifteen years and this is not an exaggeration.

Students lined up in the hallway to listen to lectures because the room could not accommodate the entire class or there were not enough chairs that cost average of $5 to assemble. I rather not mention the average salary of a professor because it is totally disgraceful. Despite my credentials (a graduate degree, a CPA certificate, enrolled to practice before the US Internal Revenue Service,over fifteen years of teaching experience in the US, my beginning salary paid in Liberian Dollars was about $500. Money was never a motivation for me but how can that university attract qualified instructors? The university is run no different from the Liberian Government. The administrators, who on average demonstrate little or no competence consume a disproportionate
share of the personnel budget. Present a fictitious P.H.D and have some connections and it will be a totally different story.

Regarding the the recommendation made in the piece, it will never happen. People are never motivated to act against there own self interest. That wasteful spending will continue. What will bring
fiscal discipline to Liberia are the external actors, i.e the EU, The World Bank or the US government. Withhold the funding and insist on reforms. The people themselves cannot bring change. Liberia is not a true democracy. How can you have a true democracy when 85 percent of the population is illiterate or functionally illiterate? when there is no respect for rule of law? When there are no established or
functioning institutions to aid the democracy. I may be wrong but this election will bring little or no change or may even make things worse but I hope I am wrong.


Abraham M. Benson, MA CPA EA
Affiliate Partner, Tax Defense Network



Abraham Benson at 09:58PM, 2017/05/13.

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