Anti-Corruption Fight Remains Paramount -Weah Reports On Concrete Actions Taken So Far

MONROVIA – No doubt it is widely posited that corruption, from time immemorial, is pervasive in Liberia, and much of the blame is attributed to public servants, mainly leaders. It is also true that because of the foregoing, perception rather than truth about corruption pervasive. Thus, the current administration run into the Liberian public psyche about corruption and has got grown the lake of perception. However, the Government concurrently continues to fight back, asking those making allegation of corruption to show proof. The head of the administration, President George Manneh Weah, doesn’t to buy in the perception phenomenon which sweeping indicts him and his government as covering up and doing nothing to tackle it. While delivering his State of the National Address Monday, January 30, the Liberian leader reiterated his determination to fight the supposed menace, stating that fighting it remains his utmost priority.

Monday this week, President George Manneh Weah appeared before the National Legislature in fulfilment of Article 58 of the Liberian Constitution, which requires him to report to the people of Liberia, through that august on the state of affairs of the Nation. 

Amongst many issues the President reported on was what he has done since his election in 2018 to fight corruption, which is considered a near-invincible enemy crippling the growth and development of the country.

Like many other governments before his, President Weah’s government has been a subject of censure and reproach on its stance against corruption, though unlike most of his precedence the empirical evidence level is acutely low.

Besides, it seems the 24th president of the Republic stands out in concrete actions he and his administration have taken to in the fight against the corruption pandemic, even though his detractors believe he is doing little or nothing about it.

It was not a surprise therefore that the President took some time during the delivery of his Annual Message to report to the nation on substantive things he has been doing to curb corruption.

The Chief Executive said his administration’s fight against corruption and financial crimes remains paramount, as applauded the National Legislature for passage of bills seeking to strengthen our integrity institutions.

Some of the practical actions demonstrated by him in the fight against corruption include the submission and subsequent ratification of the Amended Central Bank of Liberia Act, the Financial Intelligence Agency Act, the Anti-money Laundering Terrorist Financing, Preventive Measures, And Proceeds of Crime Act, 2021, the new Internal Audit Agency Act, and the Amended and Restated Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission Act.

Together, the President said of his handiworks, “these laws will strengthen our anti-graft institutions and minimize the vices associated with corruption and financial crimes in our country.”

He said they would also further strengthen Government’s financial sector and make it consistent with international best practices, and will also ensure secure financial transactions in support of our monetary and fiscal policies.

Dr. Weah further said his government is set out to improve our fiscal balances, domestic debt management, and strengthen the fight against corruption.

“Together, we have worked together to improve governance and to strengthen the fight against corruption and public accountability,” in further commendation of the National Legislature. “You recently passed a new Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission Act that gives the LACC the prosecutorial power it has lacked, and also giving it greater independence from interference. 

“For example, none of the seven LACC Commissioners under this new law can be removed or dismissed by any President, including me. I have made sure that this provision was enshrined in the law because I wanted to make it very clear that my Government has nothing to hide and we are committed to fighting corruption. You have also passed the Witness Protection Act and whistle-blower laws.”

Still enumerating concrete things manifesting his political will in the fight against corruption, the President his Government placed new leadership at the Internal Audit Agency.

He noted that the Government is working to place the IAA at the center of the fight against corruption, since it is the first anti-graft institution that can prevent corruption before it happens.

“We will increase the level of funding to the IAA in this 2023 budget, and we now challenge the new management of IAA to find innovative ways to protect public resources,” the President said further.

Impressive Revenue Outlook

President Weah also used is constitutional address to the nation to report on an impressive work his administration has done in stabilizing the economy and improving national revenue intake.

“Let me now turn to the fulfillment of my constitutional responsibility to report to you that which obtained with the Nation’s finances in the last fiscal year,” he said, adding: “Revenue collection for 2022, including grants, was $740 million U.S. dollars, compared to $646 million U.S. dollars in 2021. A large part of this difference is attributable to an increase in domestic revenue mobilization for the calendar year 2022.”

He said the government’s revenue performance was driven by higher receipts of tax and non-tax revenues, especially taxes on international trade and taxes on income and profits. Of the reported amount, he said, domestic taxes was $605 million U.S. dollars and external resources received from our Development Partners was $135 million U.S. dollars.

He continued: “On the other hand, total cash expenditure for the same period under review was $774 million U.S. dollars. The excess of expenditure over revenue collection, amounting to $34 million U.S. dollars, is attributed to the use of treasury instruments.

“Of the total cash expenditure, $286.38 million, or 37% percent, was spent on compensation of Government employees; $258.93 million, or 33.45% percent, was spent on goods and services, including grants and subsidies; $89.37 million, or 11.46% percent, was spent on domestic and international debt; and $139.32 million, or18% percent, was spent on public sector investment programs.”

According to the President, the past fiscal year recorded the highest level of domestic revenue performance since the end of the civil conflict.

This is clear evidence of economic recovery and macroeconomic stability, he bragged. “We continue to show strong improvements in mobilizing domestic revenue, which are due to key reforms under the domestic revenue mobilization strategy of the Liberian Revenue Authority.

“These mainly include expanding the tax base, minimizing revenue loss through raising the tax effort, building public confidence in the tax system, and implementing greater effectiveness and efficiency in tax administration through innovation and technology.”
The Chief Magistrate of the nation noted that sustaining domestic revenue performance is the only way the country can guarantee the funding of public sector investment programs, which will then enable government to address critical infrastructure and social sector challenges, such as roads, electricity, healthcare, and education.

“It is also the only means to diversify the Liberian economy,” he stressed, and called on all national stakeholders to support these reform efforts.

“I would like to also encourage all Liberians and businesses operating within Liberia to pay your taxes fairly and timeously as is required by law,” he said.

He also recalled that last year his government spent $139.32 million U.S. dollars on public sector investments.

“To support public sector investment for the 2023 fiscal year, in support of our Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD), we have proposed to spend about $154 million US dollars, which is 19.8% percent of the proposed national budget for the 2023 fiscal year,” President Weah further said.

He reported: “Major public expenditure items include: $46 million US dollars, mainly for the transmission of electricity from La Côte d’Ivoire through the CSLG transmission lines, and to expand our electricity distribution; about $44 million US dollars for road infrastructure; $23 million US dollars through the National Road Fund, $21 million US dollars through direct national budget; and about $36 million US dollars for the holding of the 2023 presidential and legislative elections.

“Thus, Mr. Speaker, electricity, roads and elections will consume about $126 million US dollars in 2023, demonstrating my Government’s commitment to put the Liberian peoples’ money where it matters the most.”

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