Liberia: U.S. Amb. Michael McCarthy Accused of “Lying” about 54th Legislature Budget

Flashback: US Ambassador Michael McCarthy speaks at an event at the US Embassy in Monrovia

 

“Your judgment is not only unfair but highly misleading in some areas,” Rep. Rustolyn Dennis said in response to the US envoy’s April 24 statement, in which he accused lawmakers of ‘buttering their own bread’ with a fatty budget.

US Ambassador Michael McCarthy has been accused of misleading the public that members of the 54th Legislature have been “feathering their nests” with huge budgetary allocations while hospitals are left to “wither on the vine.”

McCarthy's accusation, according to Representative Dennis, was highly misleading and came as a result of what she described as his misunderstanding of how the Legislature's budgets work.

The Montserrado County lawmaker noted that the ambassador's allegation was excruciating and painful and has caused confusion among Liberians instead of alerting them about the issues of bad governance. 

“Imagine how excruciating and painful it is for you to have a blanketed statement over the entire legislature,” the Montserrado County District #4 lawmaker  said in response to McCarthy's April 24 statement, which laments Liberia’s misplaced priorities. 

“Your judgment is not only unfair but highly misleading in some areas. You have confused the citizens more than alerting them. Let me state unequivocally herein, our budget we passed is never US$65m.”

 “Next the 40m [plus] that is passed is not for 30 Senators and 73 Representatives, rather it’s for the over four thousand workers in central administration and all the legislative staffers for each member.   Your failure to analyze those funds led to your blanket categorization of the legislature.” 

However, the Montserrado County lawmaker's claim that the Legislature's budget "has never reached US$65m" is untrue as the 2022 budget was 65.6 million.

In 2021, it was US$39.6 million and now, US$42.7 million for this year, according to the 2023 budget document. The monies were allocated for compensation of employees, and use of goods and services. 

READ: Amb. McCarthy's Statement 

Dennis, who is notable for speaking out against bad governance, is the first lawmaker to reply to McCarthy's April 24 statement, which accused members of the 54th Legislature of  “buttering their own bread” with fat budget allocation for salaries and operations for years.

The US envoy noted that while the Legislature was allocating US$65 million for salaries and operations in 2022, all major public hospitals in the country were given US$7.1 million, even though allocation of the funds does not mean that they “reached their intended destinations.”

Strikingly, McCarthy accused the Legislature of being part of a syndicate, which involves the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Internal Affairs — that has led to the blocking of resources for county hospitals and county service centers.

“I [am] startled and deeply troubled to encounter multiple county hospitals that did not receive any portion of the US$100,000 or more appropriated by the legislature for them to operate in the 2022 budget,” McCarthy wrote. “The blocking of resources is so complete that it must be institutional: and the lack of any alarm being raised indicates a syndicate involving players at the legislature, the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs.”

“I am quite sure [that the people] have not been told that the legislature has spent more every year for the past three years buttering their own bread, allocating over US$65 million in 2022 for salaries and operations while hospitals went without, and service centers withered on the vine.

Dennis disagreed with McCarthy’s position that the legislature was involved in blocking allotment means for public health facilities, while budgeting US$65 million just for salaries and operations.

The 54th Legislature, according to her, never had a budget of USUS$65 million. As such, the ambassador's accusation, which she claims is a lie, proves  that he was frustrated and bitter about the state of governance in the country.

“It is not a 19th Century era when a US Ambassador used to talk and it became law and Gospel,” Dennis told the Daily Observer.  “It is disappointing for the Ambassador to make a blanket statement against all the Lawmakers that there has been no alarm raised.”

“To have mentioned that lack of alarm being raised indicates a syndicate involving players at the legislature, [and] to have even mentioned that 30 senators and 73 lawmakers spent US$65 million feathering their own nests proves the agony and bitterness really took hold of you.”

Dennis claims that the US$40 million budget for the Legislature is not just for its 103 members but includes salaries of thousand workers, legislative staff and those that work  in central administration of both houses.

According to the lawmaker, members of the legislature received operation funds just as members of the US Congress and, as such, it is not cruel to receive  money legally.

“Don’t get it twisted; there are totally bad and corrupt people in the legislature and equally so there are members who do not support corruption, misappropriation of public funds, and poor implementation of legislative allotments," she said, still addressing the ambassador.

"In your case, you have destroyed those who raised these alarms in the legislature, decried corruption and malpractices, and looked up to you for help when those alarms were raised,” the lawmaker said. She did not mention the names of those allegedly “destroyed” by the Ambassador.

Meanwhile, Montserrado County Senator Abe Darius Dillon has expressed his support for McCarthy's comments on the governance process of Liberia, specifically the three branches of government, with emphasis on the legislature's appropriation powers. 

This stands in contrast to Dennis' accusations against the Ambassador, including misleading the public about the legislature's budget. 

“I can understand and do appreciate the general aspersions cast on the entire Legislature in your statement over the poor governance in our country. Your very blunt statement issued today could not have come at a better time, and I stand with you,” Dillion said in his  Facebook statement.

Montserrado County Senator Abe Darius Dillon has expressed his support for McCarthy's comments on the governance process of Liberia, specifically the three branches of government, with emphasis on the legislature's appropriation powers. 

This stands in contrast to Dennis' accusations against the Ambassador, including misleading the public about the legislature's budget. 

“I can understand and do appreciate the general aspersions cast on the entire Legislature in your statement over the poor governance in our country. Your very blunt statement issued today could not have come at a better time, and I stand with you,” Frontpage Africa quotes Dillion.

Editor's Note: The headline of this story has been altered to improve its clarity. Furthermore, additional input from Senator Dillion has been included.

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