“We’ll Intensify Anti-Corruption Fight” -Pres. Weah Vows in Annual Message

With public perception remains high amongst Liberians about the rate of graft and corruption in the country for decades and the George Weah administration is getting its own giant share of the perceptive theory. Though the perceptions are yet to be expressed in empirical studies and reports, some citizens think unsettled issues of the L$16b printed by the previous administration and US$25m used to mob up excess liquidity from the Liberian money market leave an odd mark on the regime and many are not assure if the Government is any longer on track with the President’s inaugural vows to fight corruption. But while giving his Annual Message yesterday, President George Manneh Weah also touched on the subject and renewed vows to fight corruption as decisively as possible. The Analyst reports.

With multiple assurances to better the Liberian economy and improve the living standards of Liberians, the President of the Republic has redeclared war against corruption.

During his third Annual Message to the Legislature on Monday, January 27, 2020, the President said: “My Administration will continue to intensify the fight against corruption, which remains prevalent in our society and continues to negatively impact growth and development. Many believe this to be an unchangeable way of life here in Liberia. I think otherwise.”

He assured Liberians that his administration “will succeed in our fight against corruption and will bring to justice relevant individuals and corporations who have and continue to defraud Liberia.”
To this end, the President said, his administration has hired the expertise of a world-renowned Asset Recovery firm to assist our local team to carry out a professional exercise to recover Liberia’s wealth stolen over many decades.

“Additionally, we will continue to show political will in the fight against waste and abuse of our national resources, as we have shown in recent times when a managing director and other high profile officials were dismissed, arrested and sent to court to vindicate themselves from accusations of corruption,” the President asserted further. “There will be no sacred cows as we take stronger measures to end this societal menace.”

The President averred that his government would introduce new legislation to amend the law creating the Liberia Anti-corruption Commission in order to give it more prosecutorial powers, and we are working to improve our anti-money-laundering framework.

To help spur the business climate this year, the Liberian Chief Magistrat noted that his administration would also support and re-launch the National Judiciary Conference under the leadership of His Honor the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

The aim of this conference is to allow the judiciary to play a significant role in business climate reforms, he said, adding: “This can be done by reforming rules and legal processes and procedures that can increase the confidence of potential investors and the existing business community, as well as improve the ease of doing business in Liberia.”

Passage of Credible Budget & Wage Harmonization

As apparent additional stand against corruption, the President he much is being done to clean payrolls and ensure that the national budget is credible and transparent.

He thanked the National Legislature for its collaboration with the Executive Branch to pass a credible national budget at US$526 million.

“This budget brings public spending closest to the revenue received in the 2018/19 national budget,” he said. “In executing this budget, we have taken steps to control spending so that we significantly reduce the deficit by the end of the fiscal year.”

According to him, for the very first time in Liberia’s entire legislative history, “you showed the courage, wisdom, and determination to trim the Government’s wage bill, and we applaud you for that.”

The President noted that reducing the public wage bill is a long-standing, politically-sensitive problem, that prior administrations were afraid to touch, “but we had the courage to do so because we believe it will make everyone better off in the long run.”

The President said his administration takes no pleasure in reducing salaries for government employees through the harmonization process.

He stressed: “We fully understand the pain and hardship that this has caused.  We want to thank all civil servants and government workers for their patience and understanding. You are not alone, as I was the one who first started the process.  You will recall that my first announcement as President was the reduction of my salary by 25%; and I want you to know that even after I did that, my salary was subsequently further reduced during the harmonization exercise.

“This is how it should be, because as leaders, we should at all times bear the highest burden, and lead by example. We should be the first to make the cuts and sacrifices, since we are elected to SERVE the people, and their interest should always come first.  The harmonization exercise was necessary to ensure that the government lives within its means.”

The President reported that during this process, “we discovered that more than 25,000 public workers were being paid from a General Allowance that had no particular grading system.  For example, a secretary in one ministry or agency could be paid $400 dollars while another secretary with the same level of skill or education in another ministry would be paid $1,500.”

“We have now eliminated the General Allowance system and have ensured that all public workers have one standardized and harmonized pay. One of the outcomes of this process is that it increased the income of almost 15,000 public workers, among them teachers and security personnel.”

These reforms, he said, are by no means complete, “and we will continue our efforts to perfect the wage system.

“We are also continuing to remove ghost names from the public payroll.  And we intend to have all Government workers identified with biometric national identification numbers by next budget year. We are also working to remove from the public payroll those who have reached retirement age.”

President Weah said his Government is committed to improving governance and improving the business climate to spur investment.

“Last year we launched a Twenty-seven Million United States dollar (US$27 million) Public Financial Management Project supported by the World Bank, the European Union and the Government of Sweden,” he said. “This project supports better procurement though e-procurement, stronger revenue collection, and better delivery of public goods through higher governance standards.”

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