Open Letter To Honorable Amara Konneh
|Minister Of Finance & Development Planning, R. L.|
By Bai M. Gbala, Sr.
Dear Mr. Minister:
Our article in response to “Corruption At The Ministry of Finance?”, May 29, 2012”, held that “In the light of the profound, positive change in the salary/wage allowance and some employment benefits structure in the public sector (government) in which ministers, managing directors and deputies here in Monrovia, now, earn as much as US$8,000.00 (eight thousand US dollars per month, with automobiles, gasoline, housing expense, etc., there is NO reason for dishonesty (corruption)”.
“However”, we noted that “it has been reported that corruption has raised its ugly head at our nation’s collectory and depository, the proposed to-be-amalgamated, super Ministry of Finance & Development Planning, and to be headed by the Honorable Amara Konneh, now Minister of Finance. According to Mr. Alaskai Moore Johnson (the Daily Observer?), ‘A letter to Minister Konneh dated May 18, 2012, in the possession of the Daily Observer newspaper shows that the Auditor from Internal Audit Division (of the Ministry of Finance) had recommended certain measures against three (top) staffs for corrupt activities’. The names, positions, source of corrupt payments and the amounts are as follows”:
Name & Position Source of Payment Amount Paid
Technical Focal Point - Financial Training Mgmt. Program US$1,000.00
Office of the Deputy Minister, - Ministry of Foreign Affairs 468.64
Expenditure & Debt Management: - Min. of Finance, March & April 2012 7,000.00
Boom M. Wilson,
Account & Comptroller-General: - Comptroller-General, Ministry of Finance,
March 2012 US$1,129.85
Ministry of Planning & Econ Affairs,
For the same month, as Advisor 3,150.00
Deputy Minister of Finance for
Expenditure & Debt Management - Ministry of Finance, March 2012 US$1,804.85
Ministry of Foreign Affairs as
Director of Inspectorate 1,805.65
“Honorable Amara Konneh, the Minister of Finance, is fully aware of this reported action of the top staff of the Ministry and that such action is a violation of PFM Act of 2009 and Executive Order #38 on Code of Conduct for Public Officers. The problem here” we observed, “is that we wonder how long has this scheme been in operation. This is a violation of law with penalty of restitution plus a fine or imprisonment. It is very important that white collar violators are prosecuted, if guilty, punished as a deterrent”.
Then came the nation’s FY 2013-2014 Budget submitted to the Legislature for approval on June 29, 2013 with the following, proposed allocations:
Office of the Speaker, House of Representative US $766,357.00
Office of the Deputy Speaker 700,302.00
Office of the President Pro Tempore of the Senate 846,653.00 $2, 313, 312.00
In words, Two million, Three Hundred Thirteen Thousand, Three Hundred Twelve dollars allocated to three offices!! The concerns raised by these figures demand explanation; in that, our country that is reeling not only under the burden of socio-economic and political under-development, but also that with an overwhelming majority of its citizens shackled with abject poverty, un-information, illiteracy, disease and an alarming mortality rates, it is next to inhumanity to note that three offices/officials are allocated, almost, a million, US dollars each with no obligation to account.
In a shocked response, we wrote (“This is Corruption!!, July 3, 2013 ”) that “transparency, accountability and credibility demand that those who crafted this budget with these allocations will have to come forward with reasonable, credible explanations/rationalizations for the taxpayer and our foreign donors. If we agree, just for the sake of the argument, that the taxpayer and donors will go along with the three, unexplained and, therefore, questionable “allowances” – general, special and salary – why should and must the taxpayer foot the bill for the cost of personal expenses such as rent, electricity (generator & fuel), automobile insurance, newspaper purchase, automobile repairs and upkeep, including such dubious allocations as “special services, operation expense, transport equipment, etc.?”
During one of your appearances before the Legislature, you told the lawmakers, rightly, that you have the required, graduate-school, comprehensive, modern computerized training in finance and management; you assured the nation, also, that you are the “new sheriff in town” with “no non-sense” tax collection program, who will go after not only tax delinquents, but also the revenue-generating, state-owned enterprises (such as LPRC, NPA, NOCAL, LIBTel, etc) who earn incomes but refuse to surrender them, let alone their income tax liabilities, to the owner/government.
The tax collection program, being a component of the fiscal policy portfolio in support of demand-push aspect of the economy (feeds our excessive demand for imports), while planning of infrastructural development for supply-push aspect of the economy (development/establishment of organizations for production for exports) had been and is ignored.
Meanwhile, press reported rift and disagreement between the monetary policy makers (CBL) and the fiscal policy makers (MOF&DP) over policy (?) while the Liberian currency sinks to the great beyond with the nation’s economy in hot pursuit. Moreover, the rumor mill had been and is awashed with whispers that you – Hon. Amara Konneh and Hon. Dr. Mills Jones – were or are gunning for the presidency of the nation (some newspapers published pages of apparent campaign, colored photograph spreads of Dr. Jones in many parts of the country). While we applaud your courage, ambition, desire and grant you the right to seek the highest office of the land, you are, in our view, abdicating your solemn, sacred responsibility.
Topping it all is the fact that we are caught, by this tragedy of the Ebola Epidemic, with our pants down. Successive political leaderships/administrations, from 1847 to the present, ignored traditional management Thought and Practice of R & D – research, analysis, planning and development, the necessary preconditions to rational, management action.
Today, as the direct result, there is no safe, efficient/effective transport/communication system nationwide, such that much of the donated/contributed vehicles, medical, food and related, Ebola supplies are concentrated in the Monrovia and nearby areas; they cannot reach infected distant, remote towns and villages, because of the absence of safe, efficient/effective roads, during this rainy season. Those (especially, food supplies) that managed to get through the hazardous roads with corrupt, multiplicity of police and military “checkpoints” are credited to the “clever”, ever-present, “innovative schemes” of the Liberian Corruption, Inc., are sold on the public marked, as reported recently in Saclepea, Nimba County.
Now, in the wake of this gloomy condition and impact of the downturn spiral of the nation’s economy; press and public reports of a phenomenal increase of public dishonesty (corruption), including the Super-Ministry of the MOF&DP; and the prevailing controversy of charges, counter-charges regarding the where-about of the US $5 million, Ebola Fund, you, the nation’s Depository, Finance Management House – announced that “process has commenced for the selection of an independent ‘Fiduciary Agent’ to assist the government with the financial management of the Ebola Trust Fund (The New Dawn, October 3, 2014)”. The paper states that a release from the MOF&DP “says the decision to contract an independent financial management firm was intended to uphold government’s commitment to full transparency and accountability as announced by . . . Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Amara Konneh”.
Reasonably, however, the announcement raises more questions than it seeks to answer. By this announcement, the MOF&DP rules itself out publicly, a decision which tends to support, and is admission of, the rumor mills’ argument that the MOF&DP is the center or GURU of the nation’s public dishonesty, and that most of its regulatory sections/bureaus are, apparently, corruption points. Some of the critical questions, among others, include the following:
1. The MOF&DP has not answered the burning question of the where-about of the US $5 million, reportedly received.
2. Who makes the final decision of choosing the Fiduciary Firm - the “Lone Ranger”, Super Minister of MOF&DL, of course? That decision, in this Liberian, historical corruption context, will be, and is, discretionary with several equally-qualified, foreign associates (possible partners in disguise) as candidates. In that case, the choice of candidate will, highly likely, be purchased by the highest bidder, and on “sweet-heart”, long-term, “mango-mango” & “dee-deeba” attachment relationship – corruption. Indeed, this approach appears to be, and is, another “clever”, visionary scheme for the partners/government-paid, high-profiled executives to buy top-of-line, expensive Toyota and other SUVs, build mansions and join the nation’s increasing millionaires at the usual, public expense. Historical evidence abounds!!
3. The approach will, certainly, create another full-blown bureaucracy with sections/departments, high-priced, six-figure, salaried-managers, assistants of friends, relatives, socio-economic, political, religious and ethnic/tribal associates/supporters with all costs charged against the Fund, of course. We predicted, it is now planned, that at this initial “planning phase” of the scheme, there is bound to be, will be, the expected foreign travels, meetings, conferences, workshops, studies, analysis, etc., by per diem-paid and salary/wage/allowance-paid professionals, all decked out in Brooks Brothers, Botany 500, high fashion attire and far, far away from the local healthcare-delivery teams of the Ministry of Health and foreign, Ebola Specialists battling the deadly virus.
Finally, Mr. Minister, the intent of this Open Letter is a search for answer to the question, in the light of our turbulent past, where do we go from here, and how do we get there, face and confront the present and future, critical challenges?It is said that those who ignore the lessons of history - failures and successes – are likely to repeat them, especially, the failures.
As an elder, senior citizen, I have seen it all – from the village to the county capital, just 5 miles away, to far-away Monrovia, to distant, unfamiliar country, USA in search of “to know book and be quee”, to be an agent for change, given the socio-economic and political indignities to which my parents and people were subjected – that, indeed, “the emperor had been and is naked”. I have, also, learned, throughout my experience that the “problem with us is us” (Former VP Bennie Warner).
Now, it is, also, said, popularly, that the young people are the leaders of the future. Indeed, Mr. Minister, not only the future, but also the present of Liberia, our only and only country, rests in your hands - you and your generation, now.
You are your colleagues are young, energetic, highly-motivated and spirited, dedicated/committed, loyal and patriotic to the people and the Republic. You come highly-trained and equipped from the Ivy League, graduate schools, colleges and universities of the west, relevantly-prepared to take on, face and confront the critical challenges of today in preparation for the future of Liberia. You, Mr. Minister, had been chosen, anointed African Finance Minister of the Year, a selection which brought pride and honor not only to your person, but also to the nation. Now, it is about time, you will agree, to kick this disgraceful, morally-decadent habit, the vice of Corruption, with profound negative impact on our socio-economic and political development.
Bai M. Gbala, Sr.
Bai M. Gbala, Sr