Liberia's Foreign Missions in U.S.$500K Rental Arrears

-Minister Findley explains at budget hearing

Of the number of Liberians assigned at various foreign missions, are ambassadors that have endured 'serious embarrassment' due to the lack of rental payment for the month of June 2019 and beyond.

Foreign Affairs Minister Gbehzohngar Findley told members of the Joint Committee on Ways, Means, Finance and Development Planning and Public Accounts and Expenditure during Wednesday's Expenditure Budget Hearing that rental payment for the month of June (and beyond) as well as operational funds for the months of April-June are yet to be paid. Currently, the rent payment has amounted to about US$500.000.

"This is a serious embarrassment for our foreign service officers," Minister Findley said.

He told the Budget Committee that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs received an allotment in favor of the foreign missions and home office but, despite the allotment, which was processed through the voucher system, the final payment for the 2018/2019 Budget in the amount of US$981,048.68, comprising 16%, was not paid.

"This is a challenge to foreign missions and our vendors," Findley said.

Besides the lack of payment for the amount of US$981,048.68, Minister Findley said the US$14.7 million is "grossly inadequate" to enable the ministry to perform its bilateral and multi-lateral mandates.

He said that foreign missions are given the responsibility to conduct Liberia's foreign relations with other countries, international organizations and to protect as well as advance the nation's economic, political and commercial interests abroad. In order to do this, he added, they must be able to meet payment of rental fees.

Findley: "This is a serious embarrassment for our foreign service officers, because they render services to Liberians in the diaspora and foreigners who want to travel to Liberia through diplomatic missions. The allocated amount is small, because the budget does not adequately address the pressing demands of the Foreign Missions and the Home Office. In an effort to improve the well-being of our employees and to accommodate new ones, the ministry will need additional spending."

However, the Joint Budget Committee, chaired by Montserrado County District #2 Representative Thomas Fallah, has put Findley's request under consideration.

The Budget Committee has, however, requested from the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) to provide documentation on the unapproved US$11 million added on her 2018/2019 allotment of US$60.3 million after the Legislature had approved US$49.6 million.

Members of the Joint Committee said the decision of Finance Ministry was trilateral and was to meet the Legislature's approval if funds were transferred from another agency to its allocations.

The budget hearing of the Legislature has also put under consideration the request of Liberia Statistics Geo-Service Information (LISGIS) for an increment of its allotment from US$1 million to US$4 million, in order for the country to contribute to the pending national census.

Also, the Liberia Revenue Authority's (LRA) appeal for additional funding from US$17.4 million to US$19 million is also under consideration.

Legislature begins public hearing on 2019/2020 budget

Meanwhile, during the formal opening of the Expenditure Hearing, Rep. Fallah urged all government spending ministries and agencies to cooperate with the Joint Committee during the period of the budget hearing.

According to him, the Legislature is about to take its legislative break as required by the Constitution, and so there is a need for the two branches of government to collaborate in order to have the Fiscal Year 2019/2020 Draft Budget passed.

The expenditure hearings, according to Fallah, will be conducted for a period of ten days. He cautioned invited ministries and agencies to act promptly due to the limited time.

Those spending entities that are expected to appear are Liberia Petroleum Refinery Corporation (LPRC), Liberia Maritime Authority (LMA), Liberia Telecommunication Authority (LTA), Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME) as well as Transport, beginning at 10 a.m.

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