MONROVIA: Outgoing United States Ambassador to Liberia, Michael A. McCarthy, has called on the Liberian media to vigorously exercise due diligence in probing how taxpayers’ funds are spent because the money doesn’t belong to the national revenue collectorate (LRA), the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP), the Weah administration or the National Legislature; rather the taxes collected belong to the people of Liberia who seem not benefit from their tax dividends.
“The Liberians who work for me at the Residence and at the Embassy continue to be unhappy. They are now paying income tax, but they don’t see where the money is going. Which brings me to something we’ve discussed before – your role in following the money. Never hesitate to ask what is happening with taxpayer funds – that is YOUR money! It doesn’t belong to the LRA, it doesn’t belong to the Ministry of Finance and Development, it doesn’t belong to the Administration, AND, it doesn’t belong to Parliament. It belongs to the people!” Ambassador McCarthy said when he addressed the media during his last press conference marking the end of this tour of duty in Liberia.
Ambassador McCarthy further used the occasion to challenge journalists to go beyond the ordinary call of duty and ask those hard questions of duty bearers that will inform the citizenry on how their taxes are being utilized to their wellbeing.
“Just as Senators and Congressmen should be serving the people when they appropriate revenue, you (the media) represent the people when you probe and research how taxpayer funds are spent. Don’t forget that! You have a right to know, and a duty to ask questions.
“It isn’t necessarily a game of “gotcha,” it is also part of a healthy continuous debate on how funds can be spent most effectively.
“Now, off the record. I want to take this time to thank you all for your dedicated and excellent reporting. Thank you for asking the tough questions, and I encourage you to never stop! Your work is crucial to public awareness. Interacting with Liberian media has been one of the many highlights of my time here. Keep up the good work. Thank you,” Ambassador McCarthy enthused.
Controversial statement on Legislative spending
Speaking further, Ambassador McCarthy disclosed how his last projection on what the Legislature spent on itself fell below the mark that he had stated in one of his latest press conferences had ruffled the feathers of legislators, many of whom had accused McCarthy of falsely overstating what they had not earned.
“I discovered that I used the wrong figure in my press release after my last trip to the Southeast. I wrote that Parliament had spent $65 million on itself in Fiscal Year 2022. That was the wrong figure. From the unaudited Statement of Consolidated Fund Account of the Calendar Year 2022, released by the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, we can now see that the correct figure was $90.8 million for Parliament in FY22, out of a total budget of $811.6 million, or 11 percent of the total budget,” McCarthy said.
Speaking further on the Magnitsky sanctions that saw a trio of Weah government officials hooked for acts of corruption that undermined the wellbeing of the Liberian people, the US Ambassador frowned on what he said was the laissez faire attitude of political parties who readily field sanctioned officials on their party tickets; and the government’s outright weak prosecutorial stance on those accused officials, something that the Ambassador described as “extremely disappointing”.
“Next, I would like to address the false reports that the U.S. Embassy was “asked” about nominating sanctioned individuals for office and that the Embassy replied that this was “alright.” The Embassy is NOT “okay” with it, and we find it disappointing that political parties are nonchalant about the Global Magnitsky sanctions. The U.S. Department of the Treasury spends many hours and other significant resources to research and approve sanctions on individuals. Though the Embassy is separate from the Treasury Department, we fully trust and respect the validity of these designations.
“The fact is that no Liberian Government entity has even formally taken up our accusations to initiate an investigation to determine the veracity of USG “allegations.” This is extremely disappointing and discouraging. That said, if the voters of Liberia wish to elevate to public office individuals who have been sanctioned, that is their prerogative. This should also prompt the listener to ask if anything else from the same source is suspect,” Ambassador McCarthy averred.