By Amin Modad (June 27th 2005)
"... every branch of his [Mr Gyude Bryant's] government, including the heads, have been implicated in uncontrolled corruption, fiscal unaccountability, and plain insensitivity to the plight of the people. His administration is comprised mainly of dysfunctional occupation misfits who are in positions that they are not qualified to manage..."
It is imperative that the entire Transitional Government be audited and held accountable before the inauguration of the next Government. Pandemic malfeasance and misfeasance within the government appear to have escalated in the last year and continues largely unabated, despite numerous calls for audits and reform. This administration has received the most financial, moral, and logistical support any other has since the inception of the Liberian crisis. Yet, its short span has been characterized by rampant corruption, very inefficient governance, and poor overall accomplishments.
If we are to establish a society and foment a system of good governance based on financial as well as performance accountability, it is crucial that this administration be audited. Audits are important elements of financial and performance management. An independent foreign led financial audit will primarily establish the true financial state in which the new administration will acquire the leadership and set the precedence that corruption and malfeasance will not be addressed with impunity. This will also give investors the assurance that the government and people of Liberia will welcome them without demands for under the table cutbacks and bribes. The practice of conducting independent annual and term audits should be adopted and enacted into law. To further maintain accountability, the government should make available to the public a detailed annual financial and performance report; every citizen should be given the right to know how the government is performing.
From the performance perspective, the audit should also aim to address:
- Internal controls; the influence of legislative bodies, other branches of government, and audit committees on the control process;
Scandals involving the misuse of public funds have put the efficiency of the entire financial control system in question. I, like many other public opinions, criticize the control mechanisms for not being able to prevent major corruption in the government. In particular, I have issues as to why institutions like the Supreme Court, the Legislature, and the audit bureau have been unable to prevent or alarm the political system about corruptive practices. The Legislative branch, which should be the voice of the people, has proven to be no better than the Executive is and the Judicial branch is weakened by an all too powerful Executive branch.
- the integrity and ethical values of those elected and appointed to government positions;
- the government structure and methods of appointing/designating officials and responsibilities;
- the competence and reliability of people elected and appointed to government positions;
- the influence of external entities on the governing and financial processes, such as other governments as well as non-governmental and business institutions.
In cases where the internal structure fail to implement efficient control processes, nongovernmental institutions outside the political and for-profit systems can play a pivotal role in strengthening the control environment by raising the consciousness of the government regarding their fiduciary responsibilities to the people, the internal control system, and the way the system functions.
In his inauguration speech, Mr. Gyude Bryant stated that his administration was there to lay the foundation for a transition from the practice of pursuing personal interest in government at the expense of the people to a new attitude of promoting and seeking their general welfare and from opportunism for a few members of the ruling elite, to equal access to opportunities for all of our people. Yet, every branch of his government, including the heads, have been implicated in uncontrolled corruption, fiscal unaccountability, and plain insensitivity to the plight of the people. His administration is comprised mainly of dysfunctional occupation misfits who are in positions that they are not qualified to manage seem to be out to get the most they can before the elections.
To name a few:
The Speaker of the House and three other colleagues were accused of embezzling $92,000.
The Bureau of Maritime was implicated in a scandal on the misdirection of US$800,000.00 of an account belonging to the International Maritime Satellite, Limited (INMARSAT).
The U.N. Expert Panel on Liberia reported that Mr. Bryant is spending 15 percent of the budget on security (which includes the purchasing of 2 armored vehicles for him at US$366,000.00) .
The Commerce Minister, Samuel Wlue, was accused of uncontrollably hiking prices of essential commodities such as rice and fuel for receiving compensation from the relevant businesses. The word in some quarters is that Mr. Bryant himself is a cohort. Whether the situation was due to corruption or mere incompetence on the part of Mr. Wlue, the government did not do enough to address the situation.
Public contracts and investment opportunities are being awarded to a selected few. As I had stated in a previous article “ Encouraging Competitive Bidding For Public Contracts” ,corruption comes in many forms. Examples of the petty bureaucratic variety are corruption in police and the judiciary, corruption in the election process, and the appointment of individuals to key positions without merit. But probably none is more pervasive or has higher costs to a nation and people than corruption related to procurement: government buying of goods, works, and services. The reasons are simple. If one sets aside government salaries and social benefits, procurement typically accounts for the largest share of public expenditures at all levels of government. Members of this administration have been accused of receiving bribes and cutbacks for the allotment of public contracts with out implementing proper bidding processes. In most cases, we see conflict of interest between the roles of these individuals in the government and with business institutions.
Examples are the purchase of 76 Cherokee jeeps through Mr. George Haddad for the outrageous cost of US$2,649,243.70. That averaged down to approximately USD $ 34,850 per vehicle. That was an extreme overprice because at that time the invoice price for a (full optioned) 2004 Grand Cherokee Laredo was US $25,820 fob. That amounted to almost $ 10,000 in excess per vehicle and approximately $760,000 in total.
The government also awarded what it called a 10-year de-facto monopoly in Liberia 's diamond producing regions to the West African Mining Corporation, (WAMCO). Doesn’t it make you wonder about the competence of our so-called leaders?
These arbitrary allotments of deals and contracts are indicative of possible common interests between the business entities and some members of the government showing that the purchase acquisition methods provide a profit bonanza to these individuals rather than benefiting the country.
In his inaugural speech, he also stated that his administration would lay the foundation for a transition from a centralized, Monrovia-centered government, to a decentralized government wherein the people are empowered to assume responsibility for the transformation of their communities. What has the administration done relevant to this commitment? Other than the little activities generated in collaboration with and by the presence of local and international Non-governmental Institutions in the rural areas, the government has not implemented any sustainable community development project. Monrovia itself is in the filthiest state since the crisis; it has become more like a large ghetto or slum. Though transportation is an essential part of socio-economic development, roads are yet to be cleaned let alone renovated. Farmers and traders from the rural areas are unable to transport their goods and produce efficiently. Public schools are still substandard; this is not because the teachers are not making the effort but because the educational system lacks the support and resources from the government.
At the 59th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in September of 2004, Chairman Gyude Bryant mentioned that his administration’s recovery agenda has as its focus the improvement of the wellbeing of the people by the creation of employment opportunities to put returnees and ex-combatants to work. What have they done?
The World Bank and other donors rightfully want to see improved accountability and governance by the government before putting in more funds. In addition to the foreign funds, the Government also stands accused of misappropriating the national revenue. Trades have increased substantially since hostility had ended. In fact, import and export revenues are at their highest since the war; some manufacturing sectors have also been reactivated. Yet, the roads in central Monrovia are still dilapidated while some major arteries (like the Jallah Town road) are inaccessible. The utility infrastructures are still inactive; there are no electricity, water, and effective sewage & waste disposal systems. In one of his addresses to the nation, he boasted that the government for the first time since the war shows a positive revenue. Considering the economic and social inputs being made by the presence of UNMIL and other foreign institutions it makes me wonder what is the government doing with the revenue? Mind you, government salaries are still in arrears and both the health delivery and educational systems are not being appropriately subsidized by the government.
Another issue to be discussed in my next article has to do with how the US $350 million dollars provided by donors have been spent. Though we are grateful for the presence of UNMIL and other International NGO’s, we are concerned that these institutions did not adequately address the challenges of globalization and the human resource & reintegration aspects of the development process. We do not see enough community and socio-economic development to commensurate the exhaustion of $ 350M. This boils down to perspective and priorities. Most of the moneys have been exhausted on supporting a huge foreign workforce and unnecessary bureaucracies while skilled and educated Liberians remain left out. Many of the key positions with the international organizations charged with the responsibility of implementing the funds are being occupied by foreign expatriates. Are there no educated or experienced Liberians?
One would have assumed that in order to promote the repatriation & reintegration process, develop the human resource environment, and foster socio-economic activities, the international community would have encouraged competent Liberians to key positions within the non-governmental sector. It can also be noticed that other than drivers, even lower skilled positions such as cooks and maintenance personnel are occupied by imported staff. With the presence of such adequate military force, it would also have been prudent to invest less in a huge police force; they should have brought in a smaller efficient one to form and train an effective Liberian force. Wouldn’t that have given more to the people? A key factor in community development and the empowerment of the people is their participation in the process. I guess scrutiny and investigation should be done on the subject.