Liberia: The New Meaning Of “Dismal”
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
From a thorough reading of the Report, it is immediately
clear that it is biased and one-sided in its assessment
and, despite it own details of positive accomplishments
by the Government, a deliberate attempt to cast negative
aspersions on the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Government is
Against worldwide, continental and national opinion, Front Page Africa declares that the first year of the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf administration was “dismal”.
Exactly how Front Page Africa reaches this conclusion is difficult, almost impossible, to see. Front Page Africa states that performance records on government Ministries, Agencies and Institutions are unavailable, and that these Ministries, Agencies and Institutions are “missing in action and cannot be measured and rated”.
Despite this, Front Page Africa goes on to give a detailed rating and assessment of thirty-eight Government entities that are supposedly “missing in action”, assigning each a grade.
Even more surprising is that Front Page Africa itself assigns passing marks to about thirty government entities that it says had a successful first year. Apparently, that the Government had a successful first year is a fact that the Front Page Africa itself is not morally able to deny.
Yet, Front Page Africa states that the government’s first year was “dismal”.
One is therefore, for the record, forced to outline some, only some, of the details of this dismality Front Page Africa refers to and to list here under some achievements of the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf led Government in 2006:
1. Established an inclusive and competent Government which included the repatriation of well established Liberian professionals;
2. Activated the GEMAP mechanism to enhance efficient resource management in the expenditure of government revenues;
3. Introduced goal setting in government operations through the establishment of the “deliverables” system;
4. Commenced the settlement of huge arrears inherited from previous governments to civil servants, Liberian Missions abroad, security personnel, former Legislators, State enterprises, etc.;
5. Remained current in payment of increased salary and wages, and increased pensions by an additional LD$1000 from levels as low as LD$200 with full settlement for the holiday season;
6. Launched the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and reorganized the Governance Reform Commission, the latter completing the process of ratification of the African Union (AU) and the United Nations Anti-Corruption Convention and the drafting of a National Anti Corruption Policy and Strategy, including drafting of legislation for a Code of Conduct for Public officials;
7. Issued and published regular fiscal reports on Government revenue and expenditure;
8. Established a system of accountability for foreign and domestic travel through travel Ordinances, including a requirement for travel expense reports;
9. Started the process of addressing corruption and accountability through due process by calling several authorities of the previous Government to respond to charges levied against them in several audit reports;
10. Cancelled all non-compliant forestry concession agreements leading to the passage of a new Forestry Law and the lifting of sanctions on the forestry sector;
11. Currently proceeding with the review of over 100 concession agreements and contracts to ensure that appropriate national interest is protected through cancellation or renegotiation;
12. Put Liberia back on a sound footing with the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the African Development Bank, concluding successfully with the IMF a Staff Monitoring Program and obtaining for the first time Pre-arrears settlement grants of US$70million from the World Bank and US$4million from the AFDB;
13. Restored some electricity and water to the Capital City for the first time in over 14 years and currently proceeding with plans for the expansion of power and water in Monrovia and the conduct of a feasibility study for the reconstruction of the Mount Coffee Hydroelectric Dam;
14. Commenced the restoration of destroyed infrastructure including road rehabilitation and public buildings, with rehabilitation of the Monrovia-Buchanan highway and the Monrovia Streets Rehabilitation Project programmed to commence shortly; also, repair of approximately 475 miles of cross-country highways with World Bank, UNMIL and EU assistance already undergoing;
15. Enforced the free and compulsory primary education system in Government Schools, with a result of 80 percent increase in enrollment at the primary school level;
16. Reinstituted the national local scholarship program with the payment of all arrears due high schools and higher institutions of education in the amount of LD$17,800,000.00; and the granting of approximately 1990 scholarships to students from all 15 counties for academic 2006/2007;
17. Restored services to over 350 Health Centers throughout the country in partnership with the World Bank and other NGO’s;
18. Obtained the first bilateral budgetary support of US$1.3million from the French Government;
19. Won support from the United States Congress and Administration for an additional US$50,000,000.00 in supplemental funding for continued assistance to ex-combatants, health, education, roads and electricity rehabilitation, the expenditure of which is ongoing;
20. Launched the Transfer of Knowledge Through Expatriate Nationals Program (TOKEN). This program will facilitate the recruitment of at least 20 expatriate national professionals and 15 local professionals to fill a range of critical technical posts required by the government over the next two years;
21. Arranged with the United States and Chinese Governments support to commence the relocation of the University of Liberia to its Fendell Campus;
22. Engaged with the Chinese Government the upgrading of the Liberian Broadcasting System;
23. Concluded through the United Sates-based African Development Foundation in collaboration with the National Investment Commission loans totaling US$1 million to eight Liberian businesses with another US$ 1million allocated for 2007;
24. Took measures that resulted in Liberia becoming eligible for the Africa Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) of the United States which will assist in promoting Liberian exports to the United States, attracting American Investors to Liberia and helping to promote employment;
25. Concluded renegotiations of a new US$1billion Mineral Development Agreement with Mittal Steel with substantially improved benefits to Liberia;
26. Mobilized resources from private sources resulting in over US$2.5million for girls’ education, school rehabilitation and literacy program to be undertaken throughout the country;
27. Commenced the process for mobilizing resources with some US$200,000 to date from private sources to support the improvement of markets throughout the country;
28. Following Presidential speaking engagements, engaged several Universities in the United States to provide scholarships and consider exchange programs with the University of Liberia;
29. Appointed an Auditor General through a European Commission competitive process and with EC funding under GEMAP arrangement to ensure independence and efficiency of the General Auditing Office.
On a personal note, during the year, the President:
- Received unprecedented international acclaim at her Inauguration which attracted African Presidents and Representations from other international institutions and governments including the First Lady and the Secretary of State of the United States.
- Received in Monrovia a large number of eminent persons including UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, former US President Bill Clinton, the World Bank and ADB Presidents and several African Presidents;
- delivered a widely acclaimed address to the Joint Session of the United States Congress, only the 4th African President to be granted this privilege.
- Returned approximately US$32,710.20 to Government coffers in respect of travel advances-US$800 in May, US$9, 328 in July, US$2,926 in July and in December US$19,656.20 for the last four trips.
- Introduced monthly media exchange with the people through “Conversation with the President”.
- Maintained overwhelming support of the Liberian people whom she engages continuously on the streets, in the communities and visits to the Counties.
Clearly, with the country coming out of so many years of war and destruction, the Government is not perfect and did not achieve all that it could or should have done and clearly the brouhaha with the media has been unfortunate. However, there is an improved relationship with the Media with the government and the Press Union of Liberia agreeing on setting new and improved standards for the media, including the granting of local and international scholarships to Journalists.
But if the performance in its first year of the Government as summarized above can be called “dismal”, then Front Page Africa needs to go back to the dictionary or the word may need to be redefined.