BudgIT Liberia hosts a one-hour radio show on OK FM 99.5 every Tuesday from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. The BudgIT hour show informs and educates citizens about the public budget in Liberia and encourages them to engage their representatives for accountability and to ensure service delivery.
Recently, on the 8th of November, the show hosted Mr. Aromenia Zinneh Cooper, the Quality Control Service Manager at the Legislative Information Service-LIS, to discuss the current situation of the Liberian economy and the violation of the revised Public Financial Management Law of 2021 by President George Weah. Speaking on the show, as projected in the 2022 budget, Mr. Cooper shared that the government is expected to generate over eight hundred million dollars (US$800,000,000) in revenue; however it does not commensurate with the living conditions of Liberians. He alleged that public resources are often siphoned off by corrupt public officials.
He also shared that the government’s efforts to reduce salaries and wages will weaken the economy and bring further hardship to the citizens. The salary harmonization scheme and gross increment of taxes imposed on its citizens and other international business partners have left the economically disadvantaged in a more difficult position to meet their daily needs. Mr. Cooper condemned the scheme and shared that the decision also impacts small businesses in the country.
Over the last two years, Liberia has experienced market shortages of the local currency (LD) and several misunderstandings between small traders and customers, which have occasionally resulted in violence or fights. Earlier this year, the five (5), ten (10), twenty (20), and fifty (50) Liberian dollar banknotes were nonexistent in the local markets, and the few that were available were mutilated, rendering them useless. Street vendors and several petty traders in Bong County voiced their frustrations about the shortage of denominations on the local market. Many traders lament that the shortage of smaller denominations has led to a loss of money as they have had to forfeit their change to customers or lose the transaction.
According to section 11.1 of the revised 2021 Public Financial Management Act of Liberia, ‘the president shall submit the proposed budget and accompanying documents to the legislature no later than two months before the start of the fiscal year.’
Commenting on the matter, Mr. Cooper cited instances of such violations of the PFM Act dated from the submission of the 2022 national budget, which was submitted on November 16, 2021, sixteen days after the stipulated time frame of its official date of submission. Another gross violation is the upcoming fiscal year 2023 draft national budget to be submitted to the national legislature for deliberation and subsequent passage into law, which should have been on October 31, 2022. However, the President has again written a communication to the national legislature requesting an additional 22 days before the nation’s financial instrument submission.
MR Cooper encouraged every citizen to be a part of the governance process of Liberia because they are critical players in helping to transform Liberia from its current state to a more improved one.
Below are some of the comments made by listeners who called to contribute to the BudgIT Hour discussion.
Moses Johnson, “I believe the government is not acting in our interest because we have not heard anything about the national budget. We want to appreciate BudgIT Liberia for the eye opener and the continuous education on transparency and accountability.”
George Flomo said, “If the government cannot settle and increase our salary cut by Minister Tweh, we will protest at the ballot box come 2023. All those lawmakers that signed that document must be replaced.”
Mary Johnson, “I do petty trading in the market, but the lack of small denominations is really giving us a hard time. We are forced to leave our change with customers, and this affects our profit margin. We beg the government to bring the smaller denominations back.”
Samueline Kromah, “I think the President is delaying submitting the draft budget to the legislature because he doesn’t want the document to be properly reviewed because of the dubious lines they have kept in the budget. Thanks guys for the education, and I think we Liberians are now taking an interest in the governance process of our country.”
Tourance Brown, I am a man approaching 60; look, there have been corruption issues in Liberia before this regime, but the difference is, those past regimes tried to prosecute public criminals, even if it did not end well, unlike this regime, where people are celebrating criminals. Let me tell you something, with the level of education this show is providing for citizens. A day will come when all of us will take to the streets to protest against corruption in this country.
You can join the following conversation by calling the hotline numbers below (0777700995, 0555995995) or follow us on BudgIT Liberia’s Facebook page.