Liberia: Foreign Mission Workers Risk Eviction Due to Delayed Rental Payment by Government
MONROVIA – Several Liberians working at foreign missions risk eviction by their landlords as the Liberian government has failed to pay their salaries since April this year, neither have they received their rental payment.
Report by Lennart Dodoo, [email protected]
“We haven’t received salaries, rental payment and operational fund to run the mission since April. The landlords are at our offices every day and it is embarrassing because rental payment contract is to be paid every three months, which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has the copy of the lease agreement,” said a Liberian diplomat who asked for anonymity.
Many foreign mission workers who can no longer cope with the cost of sustaining themselves and their families are now contemplating sending their families back to Liberia so that they can be aided by other relatives.
“Schools are about to reopen and we have no means of keeping our children in school here. How are we going to afford the school fees and their daily sustenance here? Being on a foreign mission seems to no longer be a job or honor rather one of pity and self-regrets,” the diplomat said.
He added, “It is not just with us here in (name of country withheld), all our colleagues in other countries are complaining. Some of them have not received salaries and rentals since May. We understand that the money was ready but the Ministry of Finance diverted it to another use.”
FrontPageAfrica has not been able to independently verify if the Finance Ministry diverted fund for Foreign Mission to another government project.
Some missions that have been fortunate to have been receiving their salaries received salary for June the second week in August.
According to this diplomat, the Mission has been operating on the fees collected from the issuance of laissez passer and other vital services required of the Mission.
In the midst of the delayed salaries, the Liberian diplomats have expressed concern over the government’s pay harmonization program, hoping that it would not affect their delayed salaries.
“The Foreign Service officers of Liberia do not know what the new budget year harmonization process brings for them because salaries for July and August have not been received. The month of September has now come. Interestingly for this, the government has not sent salaries for its diplomats for the months of June, July, August, and now this is September,” a Foreign Ministry source told FrontPage Africa.
He noted that foreign mission workers’ salary is very inadequate and does not commensurate with their expenditures in the foreign land. “We are hearing that the government wants to harmonize our already meager salary. The money is already small and cannot even take us for three weeks, so, it would be very frustrating if there is a deduction. That will kill our morale and commitment on the job.”
The Foreign Affairs Ministry source further informed FPA that the Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone Missions are the most affected when it comes to government’s delinquency in paying their salaries and rentals.
“The heads of these missions have written the Ministry on so many occasions explaining their plights but no concrete action has been taken to resolve the matter,” the source alleged.
At a budget hearing in August, Foreign Minister Gbehzohngar Findley told members of the Joint Committee on Ways, Means, Finance and Development Planning and Public Accounts and Expenditure 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.
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.”
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.
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.