The Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Presidential Center for Women and Development (EJS Center) has distanced itself from a purported US$1.5 million that surfaced in the 2022 national budget as a line item under the Ministry of Gender and Social Protection.
Responding to a Daily Observer inquiry, the EJS Center disclosed that it “has not received any money from the Government of Liberia. On the contrary, the staff of the EJS Center pays taxes to the GOL under the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) withholdings system from funds provided by institutions outside Liberia.”
But on Page 279 of the 2022 National Budget, under the “Subsidy” sub-category for the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, there are two line items attributed to the EJS Center. The first line item (255105), “Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Women Foundation” shows an allotment of US$1 million for FY2022. The other line item (256105), “Amujae Initiative”, which is the EJS Center’s flagship program, shows an allotment of US$200,000.
“On the budget allocation issue, the EJS Center was not informed and only learned of this from the report in Frontpage Africa,” the EJS Center maintains.
The Frontpage Africa published a story in its December 9 edition, captioned, “US$1.5m Allocated to EJS Foundation Found in Gender Ministry FY 2020/2021 Budget; Minister Says She’s Unaware of Said Expenditure.” But this is not the first budgetary allocation for the EJS Center, the Daily Observer has learned, prompting questions as to what is happening to the allotted funds.
In the 2020/2021 National Budget, the “Amujae Initiative” was allotted US$200,000. According to the Frontpage Africa report, the amount was discovered by the Budget Committee of the Legislature. Upon discovery, Gender Minister Wilhemina Piso-Saydee Tarr was immediately summoned where she disclosed that she was not aware of the money.
The EJS Center was launched on International Women’s Day, March 8, 2020, with a vision to shift the landscape for women in public leadership in Africa, moving from a culture of tokenism to one that truly values women leaders. Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf disclosed to the Daily Observer that President George Manneh Weah, during his remarks at the launch of the EJS Center that year, pledged the Liberian government’s support to the Center.
“But that was in March 2020, so I could not hold him to that statement,” Madame Sirleaf told the Observer last week.
The 2020/2021 budget was passed by the Legislature with the US$200,000 allotment for the Amujae Initiative intact. The disclosure by Madame Sirleaf, suggests that neither she nor her organization was made aware of the 2020-2021 budgetary allocation. Did President Weah live up to his commitment after all, unbeknownst to the EJS Center?
If the Gender Minister does not know who added the EJS Center as subsidy beneficiaries to her ministry’s budget account, then who does? Now that the EJS Center is aware of its US$1 million subsidy allotment in the 2022 national budget, the question remains whether or not the Center will accept the money.
“I don’t know if I will act on it because I don’t know the purpose of the money,” Madame Sirleaf said.