FrontPageAfrica (Monrovia)

Liberia: Security Disparity - Liberia's National Security Agency Allotted Millions for Doing Little

Post war Liberia is still enjoying the presence of a sizeable United Nations Mission troop, helping to beef up security in the country that has not experienced major security headache since emerging from war, besides a little scare created by the operations of militants along the border with neighboring Ivory Coast nearly two years ago, when Ivory coast was in turmoil over elections related chaos.

The country remains stable but the state allotting millions on security agencies some of which have no recent history of performance. Some of the budget line items under which millions are placed have no paper trail, placing the millions at the discretion of security czars. More importantly, many of those specific budget line items are not auditable based on covert security excuses paving the way for abuse.

For instance, the National Security Agency (NSA) with a proven record of its inability to gather evidence in line with the Best Evidence Rule, which provides that proper Chain of Custody be maintained for evidence from the point of gathering to the time it is admitted at trial has a huge allotment in the 2013-2014 National budget of Liberia with bulk of the entity's budget placed under covert security budget line items such as intelligence services and security operations.

Under the current regime, the NSA gathered evidence on which thousands were used to send its detectives to neighboring Ivory Coast but the evidence could not meet the substantive basis to be used during the trial of some Liberians accused for treason.

Video and audio recordings gathered by the NSA and presented in court by state lawyers during the trial of former Army General Charles Julu, Andrew Dorbor and others were blur, exposing the inability of the NSA in evidence gathering.

Charges brought against those Liberians could not be substantiated in court as evidence gathered by the National Security Agency were all faulty as the court acquitted the accused despite huge amount spent by the Government of Liberia on the trial.

Since the end of the Ivorian crisis, Liberia is relatively stable both internally and externally but millions are provided security agencies such as NSA, Executive Protection Services (EPS) for operations even surpassing that of the national army's operational budget. Under the current budget, bulk of the money allotted to the national army, the Armed Forces of Liberia goes for personnel but the operations budget is lesser than the NSA and EPS. Both the NSA and EPS have far more operational budget than the Bureau of Immigration and Nationalization (BIN), Drugs Enforcement Agency (DEA), amongst others least to mention the National Bureau of Investigation and the Ministry of National Security which have both been shut down based on their budgetary allotments.

With little security threat facing the country besides usual minor internal protests which are normally straightly handled by the police, these two security agencies(NSA and EPS) are amongst the highest recipients of huge budgetary allotments mainly for 'covert operations'.

Justice 'Intelligence' Budget Slashed

In the current budget, the Ministry of Justice with 10 separate areas all having their own budgets grouped under the Ministry has overall budget of US$31,751,174.

The Ministry of Justice's budget is broken down as follows-the Liberian National Police (US$15,955,148), the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization (US$4,874,099), the National Fire Service (US$1,728,746), the National Police Training Academy (US$1,275,062), the Drug Enforcement Agency (US$972,252), the Palace of Correction (US$389,920), Economic Affairs (US$88,696), Administration and Management (US$3,357,151), Rehabilitation(US$918,170), Codification (US$117,049) and prosecution(US$2,074,882), all summing the Ministry of Justice budget to US$31,751,174. Ironically, the MOJ's budget for intelligence gathering in the range of $300,000 was reportedly slashed while NSA enjoys US$1.5 million for intelligence.

The Ministry of National Security, the National Security Agency, National Bureau of Investigation, Executive Protection Services and the Ministry of National Defense all have separate budgets.

The Ministry of National Defense, comprising the Armed Forces of Liberia (US$12,532,864), Administration and Management (US$1,015,533) and Liberia Coast Guard (US$ 379,250) has a total budget of US$13,927,647 million. The National Security Agency has individual budget of US$5,129,797, same as the Executive Protection Service with US$5,692,341.

A candid look the budgetary allotments to these security agencies, it is noted that there exist vast discrepancies with some agencies having questionable figures embedded under some budget line items.

NSA whopping Operational Budget

The National Security Agency is one security agency with huge budgetary allotment with most of the money said to be spent on intelligence services.

The agency is allotted US$5,129,797 in the 2013-2014 fiscal budget and good portion of the budget is directed to intelligence services.

Besides US$622,533 allotted for basic salary for paramilt services, the NSA has US$4,507,264 for operations surpassing the operational budget of the state army.

The Armed Forces of Liberia has a total of US$12,532,864, out of which US$8,500,000 is budgeted for basic salary-Military services leaving an amount of US$4,032,864 for general allowance, local and international travels, repair and maintenance and other overall operations.

Personnel expenses are fixed throughout the budget year, making the state army to have only US$4,032,864 for operations excluding the US$ US$8,500,000 personnel expense as opposed to the NSA which has less number of personnel as reflected in the budgetary allotment for personnel salaries.

A payroll budget is auditable since personnel can be verified but for the NSA, besides the US$622,533 for basic salary, it has a whooping US$1,500,000 for Intelligence services and US$ 1,025,639 for security operations which are all budget line items difficult to trace since security agencies always justified that these funding are used for covert operations. Another US$250,000 is allotted in the NSA budget for consultant services.

The NSA has no history of operating regional offices or having its personnel assigned in other counties but its operational budget surpasses the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization, one security apparatuses with officers found at all border points and personnel assigned at check points across Liberia.

The BIN has a budget of US$4,874,099 out of which US$3,554,680 is allotted for basic salary paramilitary services leaving an amount of US$ 1,319,419 for general allowance, intelligence services and other expenditure compared to the Monrovia based NSA US$4,032,864 allotted for allowances and overall operational expenses.

As per the act creating the NSA, some of its operations should be done in public as it is stated that the agency gathers information through overt means.

The duties of the agency as indicated in the National Budget are as follows: "The duties and responsibilities of the National Security Agency, both domestically and abroad, are as follows: To collect analyze and disseminate overt political, economic, cultural and sociological intelligence for the Republic of Liberia, and provide all possible means for the adequate protection of the Government and the people of the Republic against subversion, espionage, sedition, adverse propaganda and sabotage. "

"To provide information pertaining to terrorist activities; narcotics production and trafficking; organized crime; and conduct activities to protect against other threats to the National Security of the Republic. The Agency is also by law, mandated to perform law Enforcement functions in view of the fact that its jurisdiction includes the internal security of the nation as enshrined in Section 2.52 of the 1974 Act of Legislature that give birth to the establishment of the Agency. "

"The Agency is mandated to perform such additional functions as circumstances may dictate for securing the safety of the State as may be directed by the Director, the Minister of Justice, or the President of the Republic."

Over the past three to four years, the NSA has had no history of gathering intelligence that saved Liberia from terrorist or major security upheavals yet still the budget of the entity has increased overtime.

Only US$10,000 is allotted for training in the NSA budget, raising further doubts as to how equipped are the security personnel at the agency in combating emerging security issues with such miniature funding for training. Furthermore, the agency has fewer employees with US$622,533 apportioned for basic salary yet the fewer employees have a little over US$2.5 million to be used in intelligence gathering and security operations.

Besides general allowance which is allotted US$137,771 an amount of US$320,000 is allotted for special allowance, which is accordingly paid to selected few at the agency.

The NSA is headed by a son to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Fombah Sirleaf who has occupied the post for the entire regime of his mother. Accountability by security agencies is a major problem as these agencies expend fund under the guise of covert operations which has no trace of documents to acquit expenditure.

Critics believe that since security agencies operations are difficult to audit, they could serve as the conduit for placing millions that might be diverted to different use.

Budget shuts down NBI, Ministry of National Security

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Ministry of National Security are nearly nonexistent as security agencies as indicated by the budgetary allotments to these entities.

In the current budget, the NBI is allotted a mere US$12,060 which is only intended for administration and management, an indication that the NBI is no longer involved with investigation and other operations as provided for in the act creating the Bureau.

As per the legal instrument that established the Bureau, it is stated "the National Bureau of Investigation was reactivated by an act of the National Legislature approved on February 20, 1999 and became operational; on July 1, 1999. "

"The Bureau is charged with the responsibility to investigate crimes, keeping and maintaining accurate records on known criminals within the Country, compiling and publishing of annual reports containing criminal statistics. Also to fight crimes to deter criminal activities through the Special Services Division".

According to the budget narrative in the 2011-2012 national budget, the Bureau has performed some vital role in the security arena in the past such as investigating cases such as Theft of Property Involving Postal Affairs RL and Employee and counterfeiting involving a Liberian, Theft of property involving Ecobank Liberia Employees etc.

The NBI is linked to major strategic plan of the Government of Liberia including the Poverty reduction strategy. It is indicated in the 2011-2012 budget narrative " as per the nature of work prescribed for the Bureau, its link to PRS includes the stable security environment in all sectors of the country; track down criminals; investigate financial cases and create avenues for possible restitution of funds missing which will deter who may carry on financial Malpractices in Government Functionaries; the collection of Intelligence is useful in that it provides vital information about individuals/criminals within and out of the country; all of these will eventually help to support the creation of the peace and security which is a vital part of the PRS".

Shutting down the NBI through the current 2013-2014 budgetary allotment means the already failed PRS has no room for the bureau. The Ministry of National Security also has a budgetary allotment of US$51,600 which is solely for administration and management.

As per the legal tool that established the Ministry, it is stated that the Ministry of National Security was established by at act of National Legislature on September 6, 1979 and mandated to provide information, gathering and coordinate with all security apparatuses for safety and security.

It further states "The Ministry of National Security procure is for intelligence gathering as well as counter espionage for the security services. It is to monitor and give guidance to the operational activities of security apparatus"

This implies that the NBI and the Ministry of National Security have no significance since they have no budgetary allotments for operations, investigations, and others activities.

EPS nets US$5.6 Million

The presidential elite guard, Executive Protection Services is allotted US$5,692,341 million in the national budget out of which it also has US$150,000 for intelligence services and US$50,000 for special operations services.

Based mainly in Monrovia, the EPS only provides security for senior government officials including the President, Vice President and few senior government officials but its budget is far more than several other security agencies of Government including the BIN, NBI, DEA, the Ministry of National Security and others.

Observers believe that huge budgetary allotments to security areas such as the NSA and EPS is intended to enrich a few individuals close to the power that be since these allotments are mainly placed under budget line items that cannot be audited to ensure transparency and accountability in the use of such funding allotted.

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