30 November 2012

Liberia: Budget Shortfalls-No Money Syndrome Hits Govt; Public Programs Icing

Liberian national budget, due to a combination of factors, have quadrupled since the last seven years. It grew from an abysmal US$80m to sumptuous US$566m, an impressive record that has added legendary feathers to President Sirleaf’s governance credential. But it seems the upward mobility of the national treasury is this year becoming a balloon filled with mere air. Payment vouchers long submitted by a cross-section of public entities to keep the wheels of government turning are stockpiled on the desk of the National Cash Committee and payments intermittently rationed due to “lack of money”, the new refrain in the corridors of Government. As The Analyst reports, many essential programs of Government, particularly of frontline agencies of health, education, etc., are on ice.  

Despite the passage of the fiscal year 2012/2013 National budget and subsequent approval by the 53rd National Legislature and the Chief Executive of the Republic of Liberia respectively, this paper understands that 95% of government ministries and agencies are yet to begin implementing their programs.

The result of a survey done by this paper shows that the Ministry of Finance (MOF) was slow on making appropriate allotments to requisite government functionaries, thus creating serious budgetary constraints.

Though, officials of MOF have dubbed the current budget, ‘Project budget,’ not a single project has been executed by any ministry or agency, as the fiscal year gradually elapses with barely seven months left.

The Ministries of Agriculture, Education and Health are reportedly feeling the pinch severely, only kept afloat by donor assistances.

As a result of the budgetary constraints, a number of hospitals and clinics, especially those in the rural areas, are completely out of drugs and are referring patients to Monrovia or nearby cities owing to the lack of medical supplies.

It was reported recently that at the Ministry of National Defense (MOD), soldiers are still wearing the one set of uniform issued them during the immediate past fiscal year. Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) personnel assigned at the Liberia, Cote D’ Ivoire borders are deserting post due to the lack of per-diems.

The Ministry of Public Works (MPW) had to fight teeth to tongue to access a minute allotment get its engineers embark on a vigorous road rehabilitation work across the country.

“Operation Safe the future” launched by the Ministry of Gender (MOGD) had to be halted and all of the prostitutes and children earlier taken from the streets released, as the Ministry is yet to receive appropriations included in the 2012/2013 budget for the program.

The Liberia Institute for Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS) dares not to embark upon a single statistical program, because a dime has not been released to it by the National Treasury.

“I think there is money in there [National Treasury], but there are unnecessary delays and bottlenecks only because somebody wants a share of particular project money; we will expose them at an appropriate time,” one minister who does not want to be named in print stated angrily.

At Liberia Agency for Community Empowerment (LACE), Liberia National Police (LNP), Bureau of Immigration (BIN), Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA), Liberia National Fire Service (LNFS), Ministry of Commerce (MOC), Ministry of Education (MOE), Ministry of Post and Telecommunication (MOP), Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and others, several projects are awaiting allotment.

During a recent tour of government functionaries, several civil servants were always seen in large numbers discussing none-office related issues, even at office hour, while others amused themselves at hatai and entertainment centers.

“We will go to our offices, sign in and get out and amuse ourselves or do other personal things, because government doesn’t want us to work. I mean my department and others in this building have been completely dormant since the budget was enacted into law,” a civil servant who spoke on unanimity averred.

Others civil servants attributed the situation to incompetency and lack of experience on the part of new staffers of the Finance Ministry.

“My brother, I just can’t understand what is going on at the Finance Ministry now a days. It is either you know somebody there, or you are ready to give them a portion of the amount you need before your voucher can be process,” a deputy minister told this paper.

When contacted, the Director of Media Services at the Ministry of Finance Mr. Sidiki Trawally promised to release an official response at a later date.

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