“WFP Must Account, COVID-19 Funds Belong to the People” -Deputy Min. Fahngon Blasts “No Audit” Response from GAC, WFP
As a new and deadlier COVID-19 strain threatens global health, medical pundits have cautioned governments to pool resources both internally and externally to prevent spread of the virus and save lives of the infected. Liberia, whose citizens already suffered economic deprivation at the highest level since of the end of the civil conflict in 2003, had their hopes raised in 2020 during the Coronavirus outbreak when the International Community through the Bank approved the disbursement of US$25 million to the Liberian government as stimulus assistance to the citizenry. A year later, after much contentions from the Liberian people through the Legislature which cited relevant government officials responsible to coordinate the COVID-19 Household Food Support Program (COHFSP), following which the Legislature recently directed its queries to the nation’s highest Audit Institution, the General Audit Commission (GAC), Liberians were dumbfounded upon learning from the GAC that the implementing agency of the food stimulus distribution, the World Food Program (WFP) is above audit, in accordance with a Memorandum of Understanding signed a while ago, which means absolutely nothing will come out of any audit of the COVID-19 stimulus funds. The response has left a bitter taste in the mouths of many Liberians, including one of President Weah’s diehard policy defenders, Deputy Information Minister Eugene Fahngon, who has described the WFP’s remarks through the GAC to the Legislature’s query as a bluff.
“WFP has to account for the money because it is public money. The money is not President Weah’s money, it is the people’s money. You signed for it. You expended it,” stated Minister Fahngon in one of his regular “Facts vs Fiction” podcasts.
Mr. Fahngon said he was recently taken aback when he read in a local daily that the WFP said it is above audit. “And I said, ‘who’s talking that kind of nonsense? You heard what the law says. The President took the people’s money, public money and said he wants to do stimulus with it. The legislature gave him the go-ahead. Senator Dillon and others raised contention that President Weah’s government is too corrupt, thereby they shouldn’t touch that money. The $25 million was then given to WFP, including another US$5 million. But what does the law say? The law says it is public money. So once you receive it and through expenditure, use it, the Constitution of Liberia, referencing Article 34 D says the spending entity has to account. That’s the law,” fumed Minister Fahngon.
In a very incensed tone, Minister Fahngon called on members of his ruling party to challenge the WFP because their silence on the matter makes it seem as if they support the statement from the UN body. He intoned that opposition members in the Legislature such as Senator Abraham Darius Dillon always capitalize on these loopholes and score political points, making it to seem as if the Weah government does not condone accountability and fiscal transparency.
According to Article 34 Section D of the Liberian Constitution, the Legislature shall have the power to levy taxes, duties, imports, exercise and other revenues, to borrow money, issue currency, mint coins, and to make appropriations for the fiscal governance of the Republic, subject to the following qualifications: (that) all revenue bills, whether subsidies, charges, imports, duties or taxes, and other financial bills, shall originate in the House of Representatives, but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments as on other bills. No other financial charge shall be established, fixed, laid or levied on any individual, community or locality under any pretext whatsoever except by the expressed consent of the individual, community or locality. In all such cases, a true and correct account of funds collected shall be made to the community or locality.
Article 34 Section D also states that no monies shall be drawn from the treasure except in consequence of appropriations made by legislative enactment and upon warrant of the President; and no coin shall be minted or national currency issued except by the expressed authority of the Legislature. An annual statement and account of the expenditure of all public monies shall be submitted by the office of the President to the Legislature and published once a year; and that no loans shall be raised by the Government on behalf of the Republic or guarantees given for any public institutions or authority otherwise than by or under the authority of a legislative enactment.