8 February 2014

Liberia Contractors Claiming Four Months Arrears By Finance Ministry

Monrovia — Reports emanating from the Ministry of Finance reveal that contractors and senior consultants have not been paid for the past four months. Credible sources within the ministry told FrontPageAfrica that the ministry has been in arrears with the contractual workers since October of 2013.

Some of the contract workers who spoke to FrontPageAfrica on condition of anonymity, said that the Deputy Minister for Administration Mr. Jordan Sulonteh has held a series of meetings with them but there has been no concrete action taken to address the situation.

"We have met the DMA on several occasions, but he has only made empty promises he has not been unable to keep," said one of the contractors who did not want to be named.

"Since last November he has been promising to pay us. He keeps lying to us. We too have our families that depend on us, how does he expect us to survive? This is a ministry that has boasted of helping to alleviate the suffering of the ordinary Liberian through its interventions in the economy. Now we continue to go uncompensated."

In a letter to the contractors dated August 13, 2013, the ministry renewed the contracts of its contractors and consultants for the period 2013/2014 and promised to settle arrears after the passage of the FY 2013/2014 budget but the contractors contend that since then the ministry has reneged on settling its financial obligation to them.

The letter, signed by deputy minister Solunteh reads: "The Department of Administration is pleased to inform you that your performance and evaluation has been reviewed and accepted for provisional contract renewal pending the passage of the 2013/2014 national budget and availability of funds."

Please note that the terms and conditions of the provisional renewal are consistent with the provisions, clauses, terms and conditions of the current contract. We congratulate and encourage you to continue the same spirit of excellent performance, commitment, dedication and positive attitude towards your work."

The contractors have threatened to go slow if the ministry refuses to settle them for the arrears and are accusing Deputy Minister Sulonteh of deliberately stalling their payment process.

"Jordan Sulonteh is the problem we have here, he has been telling us since November that he has already raised the voucher, so why can't he pay us? Why can't the ministry pay us? We cannot continue to work without pay; we need our money," said another contractor in the ministry.

Payment wahala not new

It can be recalled that a few months ago FrontPageAfrica reported that employees of the government entity had not been paid for three months due to inconsistency on the part of the Deputy minister Sulonteh.

But responding to an FPA inquiry on the matter Mr. Sulonteh termed the reports as misleading and fabricated intended to paint a bad image of the ministry to the public.

"The information that employees have not taken pay for three months is not correct. Our payroll is up-to-date in keeping with the minister's mandate to pay employees, including civil servants and normal employees' salaries between the 5th and 10th of December," he said.

Continued Sulonteh: "We are very much on target; we paid our employees for the month of November and we are currently working on the December pay, hopefully this next week the pay will be out. "

"These people what they are doing, I call that negative propaganda to undermine what we are doing because some of them now are not getting what they used to get because we have closed loopholes".

Sulonteh's justification at the time was that the said ministry's payroll team was working around the clock to make the current payroll and that the ministry was in the process of payroll validation exercise.

He said as a result of this validation process the ministry was able to establish who was actually working and who's just draining the government coffers, taking pay and not showing up for work.

The Deputy Dinister for an Administration that is responsible for payroll and other administrative matters when contacted by FrontPageAfrica on Saturday blamed the delay on budgetary issues, but said payment has resumed.

"We started paying contractors on Saturday; the ministry was faced with some funding and policy issues. There were budgetary constraints, which we've dealt with and we are taking care of it as we speak. In fact, we do not owe for four months, we are currently settling the January and February arrears," he said.

"We have a lot of Volunteers and interns, which the ministry has to also cater to but the checks have already started going to banks and on Monday most of them will receive their payments."

But some contractors when contacted Saturday following Minister's Sulonteh statement told FPA that the deputy minister is trying to cover-up the issue with one who refused to be named adding: "It is a black lie. No contractor has been paid yet, all Friday we were in the Ministry waiting to hear some good news but again we left disappointed."

The contractors have alleged that the ministry is struggling to settle arrears owed them because the number has swelled from 175-200, because individuals who have been retired or downsized by the government have found their way back into the ministry as contractors or consultants.

"We want the minister of finance to intervene so we can get our money, we are tired of hearing Jordan's stories," said our source.

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