Liberia: U.S. Half a Million Gone?

There are some level of silence of the Liberian government over the where about of US$500.000 half a million given to the government of Liberia by the government of Norway to settle about 34 employees who were retired from the Forestry Development Authority.

They were retired in 2018 by the Forestry Development Authority-FDA. Seeing the need to settle the former workers, the government of Norway made available the amount to settlement. But as of date, the Ministry of Finance is yet to give account of the money. The money was expected to be given to the Forestry Development Authority for disbursement but nothing has been heard.

According to the retired employees, they have not seen any sign of payment and have written to the president of Liberia to help trace the money.

The aggrieved retirees maintain that having exercised the apex of patience through several means with no desired result, they have no other alternative but to seek President Weah's kind intervention to settle this matter so that they can feel a sense of belonging in the society. The letter addressed to the President, copy of which is in the possession of this paper states: "We herewith extend our compliments and request your timely intervention, Mr. President to ensure that we the retired employees at the FDA receive their just benefits."

They noted that the Norwegian Government in 2017 donated the amount of USD$1.2m to the FDA intended to retire employees who have met the criteria.

It is reported that during the statistical and careful analysis to select the number of employees who qualified for the program, the Management of the FDA produced a list of sixty-six (66) employees to receive their benefits and be honorably retired.

The complaint maintains that at this point, the FDA authority issued letters to the sixty-six (66) employees whereby it enclosed the package of each employee to commensurate with the tenure of service and salary scheme.

"Though the 1.2m (United States Dollars) was available to settle everyone without discrimination; the Management opted to settle only 32 employees and deferred payments for 34 others who equally received the letters to an indefinite time. The thirty-two (32) were reportedly honored at an elaborate program held on December 21, 2018 on the compounds of the Forestry Development Authority at 11:00 A.M."

It's reported that the Agreement of Release and Waiver between the employees and the Management of the Forestry Development Authority considered the followings to wit:

That our employment will be honorably severed on August 31, 2018 after the tenure of service (differs per employee) to the Forestry Development Authority.

That in consideration of the acceptance of this Agreement, the FDA will pay us (employees) a one-time pension payment (severance) to commensurate with the requisite salary of each of us within seven (7) business days after the effective date of this Agreement as defined in paragraph 5 below. This severance pay will be in addition to our earned salary and other benefits for the month of August, 2018 to which we are entitled.

We were required to return all FDA properties within our possession on or prior to August 31, 2018.

That by signing this Agreement, we waive and release any and all claims we have or might have against FDA.

That we acknowledge that we were given notice to consider and accept the terms of this Agreement before signing it. To accept the Agreement, we should date and sign this letter and return it to the Managing Director (Hon. C. Mike Doryen). Once we do so/ we will have two additional days from the date we sign to revoke our acceptance (revocation period). If we do not revoke during the two-day revocation period, this Agreement will take effect on the third (3rd) day after the date we sign the Agreement. (ATTACHED IS A COPY OF ONE OF THE AGREEMENT FOR YOUR PERUSAL).

The complaint signed by the Chairman of the group Stephen T. Seleweyan, co-chairman Emmanuel S. Nmah, Secretary Cyril T. K. Brown and advisor Philip K. Joekolo further states: "Mr. President, it may interest you to note that as of August 7, 2018 when this Agreement was signed, the Management (FDA) has done absolutely nothing to implement the terms of the Agreement for the last thirty-four (34) employees.

The complaint furthered that the personnel policy of the FDA, as well as the Labor Law of Liberia; which states that before any employee can be retired; a notice of three (3) months should be given along with the requisite salary. This they said was blatantly neglected.

They claimed that the calculation of the benefits for retirement should be at the rate of one and a half (1.5) months per year. "Hence, this does not apply to our letters of Release and Waiver-a complete violation of our rights."

The letter continues. "As if this was not enough, Management perpetually dropped our names from the payroll without notice. Some names were deleted over a year with no communication to us. This prompted the affected employees to write the Management (FDA) a letter of reminder concerning the Agreement of Release and Waiver on August 27, 2020."

The letter further continues: "In response to our letter of reminder, the Management (FDA) acknowledged receipt of the communication on September 24, 2020 informing us that they have written the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning requesting them (Finance) to release funds for the settlement of our benefits in order to fulfill Management (FDA) portion of the Agreement of Release and Waiver."

"Months elapsed without any redress and then the affected employees decided to ask the Board of Directors of the FDA to intervene. As it stands, the Board of Directors never responded to us. Similarly, we complained to the Committee on Agriculture and Forestry at the House of Representatives, still no redress. Due to the delay and denial, we are left with no alternative but to turn to you as Father of us all to intervene and ensure the payment of our severance benefits.

"Mr. President, we have spent all our youthful and most useful days sacrificially serving our Country (Liberia). Most of us are old. Our children are not in schools. We cannot provide healthcare nor provide food for our families. We are like people who did not achieve anything in life. We lost our hard earned respects. In fact our people are continuously dying without benefits.

"The treatment being meted against us is alarming and unbearable. Hence, the urge for your intervention cannot be overemphasized. You are our last hope to alleviate our sufferings for which we overwhelmingly voted you into the Office of President," the letter concludes.

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