Briefing Notes On Government’s
Huge Spending And Practice Of National Neglect
(By the Foundation for Human Rights and Democracy (FOHRD), INC.)
June 22, 2004
1.0 AN OVERVIEW
Liberia’s socioeconomic and political landscape is laboriously undergoing trying times again. Conditions had been acutely worse in nearly twenty years in the aftermath of civil upheavals that intermittently cropped up and brought life to outright standstill and turned it into menace for the people. In addition to the massive destruction of life and property, the displacement and naked suffering of the people, the serial insurgencies launched in the country by self-styled liberators left the country’s natural resources and other income-generating channels vulnerable to a cabal of foreign and local economic pirates.
War barons and their Monrovia-based counterparts, transitional leaders, during the last 14 years under the cover of national paralysis copiously plundered and looted the nation’s diamond, gold, timber and taxes with impunity. After uprooting local authorities and citizens with their mortars and ruthlessness, warring factions usually seized control of various territories, which they administer as if they were their personal serfdoms. In their characteristic manners, they scrapped villages, towns and cities, and even harvest and export abroad reserves of the nation’s natural resources.
The people’s quagmires degenerated into unbearable proportions in 2003 when two insurgent groups, LURD and MODEL, sandwiched forces loyal to now exiled president Charles G. Taylor. The period between 1999 and 2003, which marked the war between the belligerent forces, saw the unbridled plundering of Liberia’s coffers. While the rebel LURD was freely mining mineral resources in the North and West of Liberia, and MODEL in the southeast, the Taylor Government was concurrently purloining state revenues in the name of defense.
The economic implication of the war is as devastating as the social and political cost. And before peace was finally brokered, the country was physically and economically ruined. The emergent transitional government met the coffers dry.
This conspiratorial asphyxiation of the Liberian populace by both the Taylor Government and rebel forces took place when millions of Liberians were barely eking out living, trapped in embattled disease-and-hunger infested displaced camps. Other citizens, though not in displaced and refugee camps, merely existed.
Interestingly, those who presided and feasted over the people’s nightmares professed that they were in war with each other in the cause of the people. As the rebels claimed that their actions against the Taylor regime was justified by the need to dethrone a despotic leadership and build a just and prosperous state for all, Taylor was on the other hand claiming a war against “terrorists” bent on destroying the common patrimony.
In order to put to rest, once and for all, the debilitating quagmire of the people, the international community brokered a peace deal in 2003, to which the warring factions and other stakeholders conceded.
The ECOWAS- and UN-backed peace plan was wide-ranging. Not only does it provide antidote to the long lasting peace, it also has put in place structures intended to ensure the socioeconomic viability of the state through transparency, accountability and, generally, good governance.
Most of these structures, if not all, are yet to take shape, and the government, headed by “business tycoon” and who was formerly seen as being politically obscure, Charles Gyude Bryant continues to have a field day of the meager revenues available. BUSINESS AS USUAL!!!.
These briefing notes attempts to analyze reports of huge government spending, state performances which amount to national neglect, public reactions and suggestive points on the way forward towards to greater accountability and transparency.
2.0 NTGL AND THE PEOPLE’S FAITH AND EXPECTATION
The National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL) is a product of 14 years of national political imbroglio which came to being as a result of struggles and wars justified on the need for a pluralistic, just and virtuous Liberian society.
The nation, since its independence some 157 years ago, has witnessed a deeply entrenched exclusionary policy in which the ruling class, its relations and praise-singers ascribe to themselves and assume the heir-ship of the state as if the country was bequeathed to them, and radically keep the rest of the people at the bare margin of things. They take the best jobs that give them free hand to loot and share state funds at will, and dictate their way upon the lives of the rest.
In the struggles for change over the years, various professed activists and militants, attempted to change standing political leadership and status quo in the hope of replacing it with a system which is often envisaged to be virtuous enough to improve the ever deteriorating living standards of the majority of Liberians.
Basic things, which the people of Liberia lack from time immemorial and that usually form the bone of contention for the self-styled liberators are good road network, electricity, pipe-born water, schools, hospitals/clinics, public transportation, afforded prices for the staple, rice, employment and better jobs, guaranteed monthly income, livable wage and other essential commodities, amongst others.
Providing the aforesaid services to all across the tiny country, has proved mulishly difficult for national leaders in spite of the fact that the country, however small in dimension, is exceedingly rich in a wide-variety of marketable natural resources.
The lack of political will to equitably dispense the wealth of the country across the board has formed the alibi upon which “nationalists” have rebelled against incumbent state authority. And since 1980, one “nationalist rebellion” has begot another, simply because hardly has one group distinguished itself in both words and deeds by breaking the cycle of insatiable and pitiless loot and plunder of the national coffers and the exploitation of the people.
Many Liberians have been hopeful that the National Transitional Government of Liberia would make a marked difference because it conglomerates all previous militants, activists and revolutionaries who for nearly three decades have kept the nation and its suffering people restless in the name of liberation or change for the better.
Remnants of the True Whig Party, which agitated against the Republican Party for the latter’s racial political policy is part of the NTGL as the National Democratic Party of Liberia, an offshoot of the People’s Redemption Council, which dethroned the TWP. A good number of progressives, cadres and militants of the 1970s, which fertilized the soil for the growth of the 1980 revolution, are also part of the NTGL. The National Patriotic Front of Liberia that metamorphosed into National Patriotic Party, the aggressors against NDPL, as well as LURD and MODEL, which came to “liberate” Liberians from NPP’s despotism, are part and parcel of the NTGL.
The configuration of the transitional government, coupled with Chairman Gyude Bryant’s inaugural address, surged with a bundle of pledges, vows and commitments toward good governance as well as the pledge to perform the magic no other leader before him had done, had given the long neglected people of Liberia hope and faith in the government.
3.0 THE NTGL’S FAILURES AND HUGE SPENDING
While anxiety amongst the people was still fresh, the government soon began to demonstrate otherwise.
Few weeks following the inauguration of Government, the Chairman’s first policy pronouncement began to bear fruits. He had promised that basic commodities, principally nation’s staple, rice, and petroleum products would be reduced. In a nation-wide address, Chairman Bryant accentuated the policy and announced its immediate execution. He ordered minted coins, which had been on shelves for years, distributed and used. And he instructed that transportation fares be radically slashed. The nation went gay. The people showered praises and adulations. Many assumed that the long-expected messiah leadership had truly come.
But the people were apparently mistaken. The euphoria short-lived. In less than two weeks change coins have disappeared. Transportation fares became obstinate. Rice prices which had tumbled to LD$5 had climbed to LD$10. Salary payment schedule which alternated between 25th and 29th from November to January climbs to the end of the next months since February. The pendulum of national reality had reverted to square one. The Government has failed.
Not only is Chairman Bryant unable to keep his inaugural vows. Not only is the conglomeration of nationalists and revolutionaries failed so far to deliver on their promises of enhanced living standard for the people. The ruling class of the day has also become to replicate the culture of corruption, extravagance, exclusion and exploitation, national neglect and human rights abuses for which they sacrificed so much lives and properties of the people of Liberia over the years.
Instead of paying off for the restoration of electricity, government is paying its top officials in huge allowances and “resettlement funds”. While clean drinking water is scarce and critical, foreign travels are a priority and gulping enormous offshore money. Notwithstanding the acute shortage of public transitions and amid the scramble for cars amongst students, health workers, civil servants marketers and ordinary citizens, expensive vehicles are being bought in their droves for top officials of the NTGL. Flashy cars, expensive buildings, unwarranted foreign travels and holidays in Western countries claim the attention of the government than pressing national issues. The misdirection of public funds intended for vital national services to support lavish lifestyle is a habit of our today’s national leaders.
It was reported in March 2004, that the NTGL spent more than US$3 million on official vehicles. While presiding over a very dark, thirsty and hungry country, the NTGL on January 29, 2004 paid US$625, 674.00 to the Alliance Motor Corporation owned by a suspected business ally of former president Charles Taylor. George Haddad was banned by the UN under the sanction regime. A full charge of US2,649,243.70 was made for 76 CHEROKEE jeeps. 10 GRAND CHEROKEE LIMITED 2.7l CRD reportedly cost the government US$375,750.00. Additional 66 CHEROKEE LAREDO 2.7l vehicles amounted to US2,273,498.70. Another 91 CHRYSLER vehicles were set aside for purchase at US$1,562,6658.50. The government was buying 41 pieces of NEON SE CHRYSLER 2.0l at a cost of US$655,323.50 sold by Alliance motor. Another 50 NEON LX Chrysler 2.0L PLCS41 at a total of US$907,345.00.
In addition to the uncontrolled spending on flashy cars, large sums are paid out to officials for vague purposes. Under the signature of Chairman Bryant, countless letters are written to the Minister of Finance to: “please provide US$88,225.00 to the National Security Agency to attend to urgent National Security matters”; “please make available to my communications Advisor, Mr. Lamini Waritay US$16,000.00”; “please provide to National Security Advisor US$22,000.00 to attend to matters relating to his office”, etc, etc. While huge sums are being spent on luxury for state officials, “pot-holes, sewage overflowing and offensively smelling streets provide a common scenario in the center of Monrovia, Liberia’s capital”, observed a local daily. Huge sum of money is reportedly being paid to spin doctors while mouth watering contracts are been awarded to businessmen of obscure financial past.
In the same month, it was discovered that amidst massive suffering, national leaders were living happily. One local daily summed it up: Suffering Masses, Happy Leaders: Government Officials benefit over US$2million in Allowances – Civil servants abandoned
Within a period of three months (3), the NTGL had used an alarming amount of US2 million dollars on foreign travel and per-diem alone, with the Chairman Gyude Bryant, House Speaker George Dweh topping the list. In some cases, it alleged that the trips were never madder and the money never returned.
A. The Issue of Allowance & Resettlement Benefit
Not sooner the Government fully took seat than it began to feast on the coffers of the nation. Thank to the nation’s maritime program - the all-season manna that keeps the lips of power holders greasy. While the vast majority of Liberians were still in acute destitution, many wallowing in displaced centers and other abodes of hunger and disease, as a result of years of bloodletting, Government officials commenced resettling themselves with huge sum of United States Dollars.
State expenditure records, which sections of the local media and other investigators managed to obtain, reveal that in less than two months of its seating, the National Transitional Government of Liberia amassed and dished out US$2m dollars or L$108m in allowance and resettlement.
Every Ministry and agency, every top government official,
both in the Executive and Legislature branches, was a beneficiary
of the pie. Documents available show that huge allowances are still
being paid to government officials without break, besides their statutory
Apparently, the payment of huge emoluments dubbed resettlement benefits and allowance for individuals in the echelon of government comes from the backdrop of years of devastating wars. Houses burnt or ransacked. Children had been out of school or denied the opportunity to attend better schools. Cloths worn out form overuse, etc., etc.
But the question that other Liberians, and probably foreign nationals, are asking is, What about the vast majority of Liberians who also or mainly were direct victims of the wars. The 76 Liberians who form the National Legislature, as records shows, got US$1m or L$54m. Most of these people were planners and executors of the war that brought the suffering and destruction upon the nation. Most of the 76 citizens were not in the country, and those who were here, they (warring leaders) and their families and properties were accorded maximum security. If they were given US7, 000 each in just two months, then what about ordinary Liberians who suffered the blunt of the wars?
The Executive Branch likewise accrued unto itself US$1m in the same time. It can hardly be said that the number of upper bracket governmental officials who benefited reached a hundred persons. They were resettled and are being constantly allowanced. What about the ordinary civil service who take-home salary is comparatively negligible -US$15.00 which never comes by for months? This is the question that many pensive Liberians are pondering.
B. The issue of Foreign Travels
From time to time, foreign travel in the Liberian bureaucratic setting is a great source of corruption and misuse of public funds in the country. It is a quick means by which presidents and their associates, as well as heads and managements of government apparatuses make bulks without notice. Once they discover that their personal cash runs low, they conceptualize a need for travel, process vouchers with the speed of light and there they fly near and far.
In fact, there are reports that some officials who receive money to travel never made such trips and short land in nearby countries only to come back pockets-full with thousands of U.S. Dollars.
Nobody thought that the foreign travel spree during this transitional government would be akin to past regimes, not merely because the government inherited a barren national coffer and therefore expected to be judicious in its spending, but also because the international goodwill for which those travels are intended is already with us on the ground.
Notwithstanding the logic of the aforesaid, the Bryant-led government has braved massive public suspicion by replicating and pestering the state-sponsored foreign travels phenomenon. With the space of three months (from November 2003 to January 2004) the Government committed huge sum of US$2m to foreign travels. The actual combined total cost of travels by the Executive and Legislature Branches of Government, unimpeachable available documents show, is US$2,160, 902.
Chairman Bryant’s office alone has accrued US$586,602 from the total. Since his ascendancy, he has become what folks say mobile chairman. Not only does an avalanche of entourage included on the Chairman’s trips, which a statistician put at thrice very single month, but also huge “incidental allowances” are put in.
Sometime in March 2004, Chairman Bryant dismissed a number of junior-level staffers at the Ministry of Finance for allegedly overstating the cost of air tickets and allowances for himself and his entourage. Returning the “excess” of the funds, which was reportedly in the tone of US$70,000, the Chairman dismissed the civil servants and warn against corruption.
What remains a question is whether it was the first time that such an overstatement of allotments for travel was made. Because before the Libyan trip which cut the head of the cat, the Chairman had made a dozen of trips, and records available put the cost of tickets and “incidental allowances” quite high. The average of the cost of travel to the dozens of travels, including nearly countries like Sierra Leone and Guinea, is US$20,000 excluding “incidental allowance”. Incidental allowance alone for a trip to Freetown was US$4,000; for January 16 next-door Conakry trip, his delegation was allotted some US$5,000. Did he remit excess money?
The fact of the matter is, the Chairman had no alternative because the realities were glaring and clear. The local press had been quite aggressive, and had uncovered and made public all shady deals of Government regarding foreign travels. The reports of the local media expose a scam of naked loot of the state coffers under the guise of foreign travels.
Even the National Legislature is not exempted. Between December and January, a short period indeed, the Transitional Legislative Assembly spent from state revenue US$478,782 on travels and per diem, with per diems alone netting US$190,289 of said amount.
The fact of the matter is that foreign trip for this government is shortcut to state coffers and amassment of personal wealth. The situation has reached competitive proportions, with an average of 10 foreign trips per week by Government officials.
C. This issue of Flashy Cars
While the national revenue is kept restless from foreign travels and resettlement benefits, the purchase of luxurious vans has been an added devastation. Officials of various branches of government are in competition to the purchase of cars that cost not less than US$60,000 each. Most shockingly, even severely cash-starved government agencies have joined the jamboree.
For instance, it was reported recently hat the Managing Director of the Liberian Telecommunication Corporation bought a van that cost over US$60,000, despite the fact that the corporation owes salaries and benefits to employees and the operation at ground zero due the “lack of money”.
Chairman Gyude Bryant has been leading the parade. His convoy which in October 2003 was hailed to be modest and untypical of his immediate predecessor’s flamboyant convoy has stretched significantly with a litany of flashy cars, which records put US$75,000 each.
The Legislature has joined in the fray. Recently, the Executive and Legislative Branches were at loggerheads over the procurement of 76 Cherokee cars at the sum total of US$2,689,000. The Executive claimed that the money was ordered by Speaker George Dweh from the national coffer with Chairman Bryant’s approval.
Reports are again filtering in that over 150 jeeps, each at the cost of over US$50,000, are lined up in a local garage ready for distribution amongst government officials. Had it not being for fears in official cycles about possible public protest, the fleet of flashy cars would have been in the streets of Monrovia.
4.0 THE AFTEREFFECTS OF GOVERNMENT’S HUGE SPENDING
While certain Liberians privileged to earn top government jobs are willfully and comfortably feasting over the meager national coffers, the rest of the people are concurrently undergoing tough times.
For instance, lower-ranked government employees or civil servants are earning less than US$15 on the average, and the wages hardly come by. They have been excluded from resettlement benefit program which their counterparts, the modicum of the population, in the high echelon of Government continue to gulp from the national coffers. The civil servants’ nearly 15-month arrears owed them by the erstwhile Taylor Government are yet to be settled, which has now prompted the impoverished Liberians to threaten and embark on go-slow actions recently.
The rest of Liberians who are in their millions - non-civil servants - with no access to employment, education, health, adequate food and housing are kept on the bare margin of things.
Social welfare services, which are conditions by which state coffers are spread out to all the people of a country, remain collapsed. There is no electricity. No pipe born water. Subsidies for public and private schools are not forthcoming. Medical services to the people are left at the whims of expatriate non-governmental organizations. The free movement and flow of people and goods continues to be a menace due to the collapse of public transportation.
Had international community, represented by a horde of international NGOs and their local partners, as well as the United Nations, not intervened with their various social services, Liberia would have gone on record as the world’s Stone Age community.
Because, as already stated, the National Transitional Government of Liberia, charged with the responsibility of recovering the country and its people from the scourge of impoverishment caused by long years of war and neglect, has engaged in a colossal misuse and amassment of public funds to aggrandize their personal wealth at the detriment of the country. In their act of corruption and exploitation, officials of the NTGL have turned blind eyes and deaf ears to the plights of the masses of the people and the litany of pressing national matters. They are preoccupied with developing vouchers of huge sums of United States Dollars that bring them personal wealth and satisfaction, while the silent majority wallow in squalor.
Analysts believe that monies used for official travel, fleet of flashy cars and allowances, when committed to concrete development efforts, could improve the social welfare conditions of the ordinary Liberian.
Nothing substantive the government is capable of doing
to improve the living standard of the impoverished majority because
all that is said and done is for personal flashy cars, foreign travels
and inflicted allowances for officials.
5.0 THE LOOMING EDUCATIONAL CRISES IN LIBERIA
It is an overstatement to mention the ruination of Liberia’s educational system in the aftermath of the serial civil upheavals the country suffered during the last 14 years. Destruction of academic infrastructures, coupled with the death or flight of instructional staffers, has brought the country’s educational system to its kneels.
The foregoing development, it’s needless to say, puts severe pressure on human resource development strategists. Obviously, the post-conflict reconstruction of Liberia in the wake of advanced technology requires solid and accelerated educational program if Liberia is ever to catch up with other countries in the comity of industrialized nations.
Notwithstanding the apparent need for robust educational policy, the transitional government has been virtually lethargic, if not indifferent. The government’s back-to-school, intended to attract war-traumatized youth of Liberia back to the classroom, has proven merely rhetorical and unmoving. Out of thousands of schools in the capital, not to mention the entire country, the program, backed by UNICEF, has benefited less than two thousand students from less than ten schools.
A. STATE NEGLECT OF THE UNIVERSITY OF LIBERIA
The University of Liberia is the country’s only public university. Since its establishment some sixty years ago, the University has been a major hub of national technocrats, who have made significant strides toward development and progress. In the wake of plans for national recovery, the University of Liberia stands to play a pivotal role in development and producing the needed human resource capabilities.
Practically, the transitional government is not awake to that salient fact; it is yet to give the university the level of attention, support and priority that it deserves. The government’s lack of interest in the University is eloquently evidenced by the fact that in spite of huge pending of state funds to satisfy personal egos during its nearly ten months of existence, the national highest institution of learning continues to remain closed.
The attention of the Government was only drawn when commotion flared up between students of the University and Chairman Bryant when the students invited the Chairman on the campus of the University to ascertain government’s plans to reopen the school.
Apparently infuriated over the students’ irking but necessary queries, the Chairman rained vituperations on the students and flatly announced government’s lack of funds and inability to reopen the school shortly. But persistent outcries and official embarrassment coerced the Chairman to donate a purse of US$400,000 for the opening of the University. The donation fell short of the US$1 million which is reportedly needed to ensure full resumption of academic activities of the University.
Evidentially, the University is yet to resume classes nearly over a month following the donation.
B. INCESSANT STUDENT PROTEST
Just as the University of Liberia crisis was plummeting to the $400,000, what appeared to be sustained mass actions by students of the Monrovia Consolidated School System (MCSS) flared up in the city. The students took to the streets intermittently for more than a month, demanding salary arrears which government owed their instructors.
Teachers of the MCSS were silently boycotting classes due to poor and irregular payment of their salaries by government. Many of the teachers contended that they were elbowed in government’s dispensation of allowances and “resettlement funds.” (Top government officials - ministers and their deputies and members of the unicameral legislature benefited from huge “resettlement benefits” and other allowances.)
Following weeks of protest actions by the students, government’s pledge to pay teachers’ salaries quelled the situation.
6.0 MASSIVE STRIKE ACTION AND NTGL INSENSITIVITY
What appears to be reactionary policy strategy by government continues to trigger mass actions in the country. In the case of the incidences of the University of Liberia and MCSS students, the NTGL greeted the mass actions with immediate donations or pledges. The signals from those gestures make the impression that we have a government that acts only under pressure.
This leads to the notion that the NTGL’s reaction rather than proactive policy is intentional, deliberate and calculative, intended not necessarily to test the resolve and intelligence of the Liberian public, but to keep national wealth to its chest, limited to a few persons and only dish out peanuts of anyone or group that agitates.
Whatever the intention, the strategy is attracting more and more mass protest actions from various strata of the public sector.
A. LTC WORKERS UNION STRIKE ACTION AND GOVERNMENT VIOLENT REACTION
The specter of protests and strikes are steadily spreading from one public parastratal to another. Workers of the Liberia Telecommunication Corporation recently embarked on a month-long strike action to demand payment of over fifteen month salary arrears and other benefits.
LTC is been virtually dormant since the last three battles for control of Monrovia. One wonders why the Government of Liberia would chose to ignore this very important sector of modernity and civilization. We are in an Information Age - an age of technology and communication. Naturally, communication is a fundamental line of difference between modern man and the lower animals. The industrialization and technological advancement which this nation seeks are utterly impossible when institutions like LTC are downplayed.
We therefore greet the appalling work condition at LTC with dismay, particularly in the wake of reports that top managers have bought flashy cars and others are opposing the privatization of the corporation. And sadly, while the poor workers were seeking ways to get their legitimate wages, there were reports that security forces manhandled some of their colleagues.
Even though the management and government have begun to dish out a few bags of rice and liquidate a month arrear and allowance to workers, these measures are insignificant as far as the mounting problems at the corporation are concerned. With equipment obsolete and wages sky high, it is only a matter of days before we hear about further labor hullabaloo.
B. TWO-DAY STAY-HOME ACTION BY CIVIL SERVANTS AND GOVERNMENT’S THREATS
The culture of mass action is gradually reaching blossoming proportion with civil servants’ two-day strike action this week. Though the government has strongly reacted to the civil servants action, we feel that is an evasion of a burning and potentially explosive matter.
Civil servants, the government says, are barred from instituting strike action under certain provision of the Labor Laws of Liberia. But laws, like those cited by Government, hardly deter a long denied and neglected people, who are usually out for nothing less than concrete and substantial appeasement.
Salary arrears for civil servants are in some cases netting 25 months. Though not incurred by the transitional government, Chairman Charles Bryant recently said government would pay one-month in July. Most civil servants equate the Bryant intervention to disclaiming responsibilities of a preceding government which they say is totally objectionable and untypical in statecraft.
The civil servants have ended their strike action, apparently not because the government reacted strongly, but understandably because they government workers had announced the duration of the action to be only two days.
While no citizen takes delight in any action that would cripple public machinery (and civil servants strike action is capable of doing just that), the signs on the wall are not promising. Firstly, government is not providing any useful solution to the situation, and second because the civil servants are planning even more crippling mass action strategies.
7.0 THE WAY FORWARD
Certainly, the course of events in Liberia points to continual acrimonies between the government and the rest of the people, particularly the civil servants. Indeed, the rebirth of mass action, particularly amongst a population that had endured the cruelties of war for over a decade, is just as unpromising for genuine peace as the war itself.
Nevertheless, it is not too late for any good government to get its house in order, rearrange its strategies and move on with a new sense of direction.
The problem with this government, which is no different from other failed regimes of this country, is that it hardly takes proactive stances in crucial state matters. It is reactive. It donates to those who take the loudest noise. That is a dangerous way to go, particularly at this time when there is so much anxiety as a result of years of deprivation and neglect.
In order to get back on track and regain its respect amongst the people of Liberia, the NTGL must do three major things.
First, the government must put the interest of the rest of Liberians over personal or group interest. And there is no better way this can be done than prioritizing social services - the resumption of basic social services, such as electricity, water, health, education and communication, guaranteed monthly income and livable wage.
While one recognizes and appreciates the prevailing economic plight facing government, it is however not true that whatever the situation it represents any cogent excuse for the government to flatly, continually ignore the welfare of the people.
The transitional government is nearly ten months old. How many people have access to wipe-born water? How many Monrovians, let alone Liberians, are benefiting from the vast advantages of electricity and telecommunication? The answer can be few - a minute few. And the few persons are largely top government officials - the Chairman and his cabinet ministers and their deputies; members of the legislature and Judiciary. These are people who regularly receive gas slips, allowances and other benefits and therefore capable of securing those essential social services.
The rest of the people wallop in darkness and drink from unsafe water sources. They rely on archaic communication means to relate to one another and merely turned into beggars if they wish to taste of such social services.
Are the few Liberians who enjoy such services complacent and contend with what they have therefore careless about the rest?
We cannot proceed like that. It could be very dangerous. All free governments, our Constitution says, are instituted by authority of the vast masses of the people and for their benefit - not the benefit of a modicum.
Social services being the sole variable for the equitable distribution of national wealth must top the priority agenda of this transitional government not only to take care of the evolving culture of mass action, but to set a capable model for any post-conflict democratically elected government.
The second thing that must be done by this government is to reinvigorate its public relation machinery, not for the purpose of propagating deceits and whitewashing its lewd tendencies as was done by many failed regimes, but to provide honest answers to doubts, fears and apprehensions that citizens might have.
Certainly because of the somewhat weak and ineffectual public relation of the NTGL, many citizens, and probably non-citizens, harbor mountains of questions, fears and doubts about the ability of the government to handle to task of transitions. Admittedly, every government has constraints; but except those constraints are communicated clearly and honestly, the people it serves are unlikely to understand and appreciate those constraints and therefore bound to despair.
The third way forward is for the government to institute transparency and good governance measures, which will ensure scrupulous management of meager funds, financially sanitize every public apparatus and attract public confidence and international support.
So far the transitional government has done virtually nothing to quell the reported waves of corruption and willful plundering of public coffers. Notwithstanding the massive reports of corruption in the public sector, no single person has been apprehended or put forward for questioning. This has given the impression that corruption as reported is condoned in high places of government.
While we don’t want to subscribe to any generalization, it is important for Government to draw a line between corrupt and indiscipline elements within its ranks and itself. That line can be drawn when individuals accused are thoroughly probed and the findings made public.
A. Recommendations to the Liberia National Transitional Government
1. Establish an Anti-Corruption Commission
2. Investigate reported instances of corruption and misuse of public funds in government and prosecute officials involved and publicize findings
3. Review and curtail unwarranted foreign travels by officials and reduce number of persons included on the entourage
4. Review and establish a standard foreign travel allowance system
5. Commission a national audit of the LNTGL and publish findings
6. Operate within national budgets and not by allocations
7. Increase spending on vital social services and prioritize education, health, etc.
8. Make salary payment current for civil servants
9. Develop a well though-out proactive policy and avoid responding to national problems with patronage interventions replica of past failed regimes.
10. Place an immediate halt to the purchase of very expensive vehicles state officials
11. Commission an investigation about foreign business and travel agencies who allegedly connived with state officials to inflated prices of vehicles and costs of air tickets.
12. Institute measures to strengthen the Liberian economy B. Recommendations to the International Community
1. Insist and demand sound financial policies and practices from the Bryant-Government as the basis for foreign aid
2. Lift the sanctions on Liberia only under an elected government that will demonstrated its ability, sincerity and honesty to emphasize service to the nation and not to personal pockets as well as the practice of good governance.
3. Send international financial experts to assist the NTGL C. Recommendations to the Civil Society
1. Play a vigorous watch dog role and monitor state machinery corruption
2. Demand accountability and transparency in the public sector
3. Raise advocacy against state machinery corruption and misuse of public finances
4. The Liberian media must remain resolute and vigilant in exposing corruption in the state bureaucracy
5. Civil Society must organize a working group against corruption and promote transparency and accountability in government