“We are struggling at MICAT” -Min. Rennie says MICAT operational budget only USD17.5K

MONROVIA – The Ministry of Information under any dispensation exists to facilitate free flow of adequate, timely and reliable information and feedback between government and the public for the enlightenment of the people on the various policies and programs of the government and enhance democratic citizenship. It is a key organ of the government and therefore it is expected that the government places high premium on its activities with enough budgetary support. However, the case could just be the opposite in Liberia as the Minister of Information, Culture Affairs and Tourism Ledgerhood J. Rennie has come up publicly to state that the government has not taken MICAT seriously evidenced by the paltry $17,500 allocated in the 2022 fiscal period for its operations, thus rendering this important government institution to be struggling for survival. The Analyst Reports.

It was quite a shocking revelation which appeared unbelievable to the public when the Minister of Information, Culture Affairs and Tourism, Ledgerhood J. Rennie openly said on public radio yesterday Thursday that despite the critical role and the huge burden placed on his institution to provide robust information to the public on government’s policies and programs over the period, and what it still intends to do in the future, it was unfortunate that MICAT is not getting the much needed budgetary support it should have.

Minister Rennie further lamented that in the current fiscal year 2022, only a minute amount of Seventeen Thousand, five hundred United States dollars (USD17,500.00) has been approved and even at that, since July 2022, not a dime has been provided to the Ministry.

“Well, the Ministry is there. Let me put it this way that we are struggling. I like to be clear but we have not given up hope. Once there is life there is hope. We will continue to do what we can do to carry out our mandate.

“What is expected of us to do has not been fulfilled. Let me say this, I am not trying to throw anybody under the bus but trying to look at some of the criticisms we receive that come from the fact we are able to do what the people expect us to do,” he said.

Appearing on OK FM’s Morning Ride Talk show on Thursday, December 22, 2022, Rennie said for what is expected the Ministry to do in terms of proper information dissemination especially now that the country is approaching the crucial 2023 general elections, an average of USD60k is needed annually for just few radio appearances and if other channels of communication are added, the budget should be upped to appreciably produce results; but unfortunately, nothing meaningful is coming the side of the government.

“But do you know how much is budgeted for MICAT? For the fiscal period January 1, 2022 to December 31, 2022, it is USD17,500.00. “I have been lambasted, I have been bruised, my reputation has been hurt directly. And let me say again, as to date, since July this year, not a dime has come from the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning to operate the Ministry”, he said.

When asked why is he being blunt to the point of highlight the funding gap from the government, and why he’s not trying to hide the information from the public, Rennie said he has always been a man of truth, despite occupying a political position as Minister of Information, where people expect him to bend facts to suit the prevailing circumstances.

“In the public space, trust is very important and the voice that speaks to the people should be a trusted voice, must be a credible word, so I try to do the best under the circumstances.

“The messenger is key. When the messenger is not trusted, the message will not be properly received. It is difficult now because of the supply we are not getting. It is an easy job to do once you get the support you want”, he said.

 When asked why the government has not been able to fund the ministry properly despite what it should be doing, Rennie said it was difficult for him to understand, yet there is an insinuation out there that the Ministry should be all over the place providing information that the public needs to know without understanding the many challenges that have to do with funding the institution.

“It is a public perception and I don’t have a problem with it; that the Ministry should be trumpeting, that is coming on the radio all the time, defending the government on issues that are important.     That is fair enough. “But where is the budget that supports it? Breeze!!”

Rennie who had earlier said as Director General of the Liberia Broadcasting System (LBS) before being elevated as Minister of Information said, there is more to communication than holding a regular press conference or issuing press releases, and if there should be seriousness from any government to manage and execute its information dissemination mechanism, there must be a proper platform to achieve tangible results.

“There has to be a strategic intentional approach by the government to support communication. Communication is an expensive venture. It is not an activity, like calling the press people. It is part and parcel of the government that deals with strategizing and putting out information to the people of Liberia and by what the government is doing, the intention of doing so and how it intends to achieve results”, he said.

The Minister expanded on his assertion for a strategic approach to development using communication by referencing the Master Plan launched by former President Samuel Kanyon Doe, called Community Development Through Communication from a USAID funding which according to him saw the emergence of rural radio stations situated in Zwedru, Gbarnga and Voinjama as well as the expansion of radio and television into rural Liberia purposely to address development issues and raise the awareness of the citizens on the programs and policies of the national government.

Using the adage, “put your money where your mouth is” he said the government needs to be intentional about what it expects from the Ministry as a way of fulfilling its mandate by investing in its programs to arrive at the target set for it. “If you appoint a coach and you set a target for him to qualify the team, for instance, the African Nations Cup, you have to support him with all the support otherwise you will be setting him up to fail”, he said.

The minister said while the government sets a target for the ministry to reach and there is a rising expectation from the public to step up to the task of defending and promoting the government and its policies, the present circumstance does not match with what the Ministry should be doing or ought to be doing, illustrating that even with all the medals the renowned world swimmer Michael Phelps has, if the necessary safeguards are not provided, he can be drowned in Cestos River, which implies no matter that assignment given the Ministry if the necessary support is not given, it will not achieve anything.

Responding to a question whether he intends to resign from the government for not getting the necessary support his ministry needs, Rennie ruled out any thought in the direction, saying he remains loyal to President George Manneh Weah and that he has come to admire him as a leader who has a lot of good intentions for the country.

“I say this much, that I have great admiration, respect and loyalty to the President and there is no doubt about it. Even if I am fired today or leave this position, I remain loyal to the President because he has done a great deal for the country and has good intentions for the country. I am not one of those people, who once you lose your position, you become so negative. God will not bless me.

“But the truth is in governance, there are political juxtapositions. People don’t necessarily hate you but they have a personal feeling about you, they see you differently. So, they do everything to bring you down so that they can shine.

“And some of us are not those who go about yelling, shouting, fighting, making noise. I try to do my work in a modest and intelligent way. I like to engage people who I believe when they lend their ears, they will reason with you,” he said.

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