Liberia: Donors Caution Govt of Repercussions for ‘Irregular Withdrawals’ of Project Funds for Unapproved Expenditures
Monrovia – President George Weah’s rapport with Liberia’s major international friends has come under scrutiny yet again, evident by a communication signed by diplomatic missions, expressing concerns over how senior government officials are managing donor funds.
Report by Alpha Daffae Senkpeni, [email protected]
The government has been mum on the letter which was leaked on Facebook Wednesday afternoon.
Several calls placed to the Deputy Presidential Press Secretary, Mr. Smith Toby and the Minister of Information, Lenn Eugene Nagbe, for comments on the letter did not materialize. Min. Nagbe also failed to reply to an inquiry sent to him via WhatsApp.
However, President Weah on Wednesday issued an Executive Memorandum directing all Ministers, Deputies and Assistant Ministers, and Heads of Agencies and Commissions, and their deputies to refrain from making public comments on policy issues of national concern on both conventional and social media without first seeking authorization from the appropriate authorities.
The President’s Executive Memorandum through the Director General of the Cabinet, Jordan Solunteh, also instructs all government Ministries and Agencies to direct their communications on public policy matters to the Minister of Information or his designee. The Memorandum further indicates that there would be grave consequences for any member of the Executive Branch of Government found in violation of the directive. The President therefore cautions all members of the Executive Branch to take heed and govern themselves accordingly.
Signed by the ambassadors of United States, Sweden, France, Northern Ireland, the United Kingdom, Japan, and European Union, the letter sends a caveat to President Weah, who is already struggling to remedy the country’s dismally performing economy.
When the letter surfaced on social media during the early evening of Wednesday, it generated contrasting debates about its validity but a diplomatic source confirmed the authenticity of the communication to FrontPageAfrica.
Earlier, the letter had swamped Facebook, renewing concerns about the Weah-led government’s handling of funding contributed by the country’s major international development partners intended for specific development purposes.
And the letter further caution, informing the President of the repercussions of “greater scale of irregular withdrawals” that will have “potential negative impact” on the country.
The diplomats stressed that they are “apprehensive about the potential negative impact that such conduct may have on assistance level to Liberia overall.”
“We regret to bring to your attention our receipt of a copy of the attached letter, which was sent by members of your government to the Central Bank of Liberia designating funding to be removed temporarily from a variety of accounts associated with donor programs. While some partners have been aware of particular accounts from which funding had been removed for purposes other than those that were intended and agreed, and have been addressing the issue, the letter indicates a greater scale of irregular withdrawals than was previously and collectively known.”
The letter continues: “In light of this finding, the donor partners are obligated to consider the integrity of the funding that our governments have allocated for Liberian assistance programs and ways to protect it going forward. The so-called ‘borrowing initiative’ damages donor confidence in your government’s use of donor resources and in its ability to serve as an effective partner on development programs. We are apprehensive about the potential negative impact that such conduct may have on assistance levels to Liberia overall.”
In the letter, the partners stressed that they are open to discussing the issue with the President but then demand “prompt action to ensure that any funding that has been removed from donor accounts for expenditures outside of agreed uses is restored without delay and such unacceptable practices cease immediately”.
The government is already struggling to source funding for traditional partners including the IMF and the World Bank to fund is Pro-Poor agenda.
And with the Eton and Ebomaf loan deals having crashed due to controversies, losing the confidence of the eight major foreign partners would be detrimental.
The letter comes two weeks after the United Nations had also expressed concern about the mismanagement of aid monies provided to several government ministries and agencies.
“Several [UN] agencies have experienced challenges in getting timely and accurate reports from their Government counterparts thereby delaying implementation of essential services and advisory support to the people of Liberia,” the UN said its April 25 letter addressed to Nathaniel McGill, Minister of State.
Nothing was heard in the media about the government’s response to the UN’s concerns despite public outburst, but sources privy to the chain of communications between the world body and the Liberian government told FPA that the government has been taciturn.
Weah-Senate Meeting Highlights UN’s Fund Concern
The delay in employing a strategy to mitigate the UN’s concern prompted the Liberian Senate to request President Weah to take action when he held a closed-door meeting with the lawmakers on Tuesday.
Minutes of the talks between President George Weah and the Liberian Senate obtained by FrontPageAfrica signal the magnitude of concern Senators expressed over the mismanagement of aid funds provided by UN agencies in the country.
Suggested the Senators: “The UN’s letter regarding the management of the funds for development has alarmed the Liberian people; it accentuates the concern of the Liberian people that management of the finances of the country is pervasive.
“If Government officials use aid funds for purpose for which such funds were not intended, can’t make these funds available for us for the intended purpose, and can’t account for these funds, which situation has necessitated this letter from the UN, it scares the Liberian people that funds owned by the Liberian government itself is grossly mismanaged and can’t be properly accounted for.”
Meanwhile, the Liberian Senate said “it is imperative that President Weah shows that he too is concerned about the mismanagement of donor funds as feared by the UN agencies.
Stressed the Senators: “President Weah’s concern should also be manifested by his own reform process to ensure: that implementing partners do not use donor funds for purpose for which they are not intended; that implementing partners keep good accounting records for donor funds and sanctions should be imposed on persons employed with these implementing partners who mismanage or can’t otherwise account for the donor funds. Otherwise, donor fatigue will plague Liberia in the not-too-distance future.”
Tuesday’s talks between the President and the Senate took political center stage as the much-talk-about June 7 protest lurks amid a drastic devaluation of the Liberian dollar and growing economic hardship in the country.
The planned June 7 protest, the economy, probe into the use of the US$25 million, the performance of government officials and the UN’s letter regarding the management of funds for development purposes were key amongst several other major issues discussed during the closed-door meeting.