Liberia: US$10M LACE Budget Increment Angers UP

Former Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai and political leader of the Unity Party 

The opposition Unity Party has expressed deep concerns about the astronomical increase in the amount allocated in the draft budget to the Liberia Agency for Community Empowerment (LACE) for the fiscal year 2022.

“The CDC Government has allocated more than US$12,186, million to LACE for 2022, an increase of over 859% when in 2020/21, the budget was US$1.27 million. A deep dive in the LACE budget shows that this huge increase is explained by an allocation of a whopping US$10 million for projects promised by President George Weah during his county tour,” the UP said in a release.

The allocation, the UP said, is vague and opaque and leaves significant room for corruption and diversion of funds by the President George Weah administration as the budget line is not only suspicious and troublesome.

The UP then alleged that the LACE budgetary allocation raises eyebrows for a couple of reasons as the entity is being run with little or no oversight and has therefore become an attractive channel for high-level graft and abuse. 

“It is not difficult to deduce that the ulterior motive behind the huge allocation is to foster President George Weah’s partisan political agenda and cater to his insatiable craving for self-glorification,” the release said.

“It borders on callous insensitivity for the Weah-led government to allocate such huge amount to the “Weah’s County Tour” and it is even more unacceptable when compared to the US$150,000 allocated to all cities across Liberia for 2022, as well as the reduction of the allocation for the University of Liberia from US$18.325 million in FY 2020/21 to US$18 million in 2022," UP added. 

The former ruling party noted that the allocation for Weah’s County Tour also comes against the backdrop of a drastic reduction in the budget of the Liberia Industries Transparency Initiative (LEITI) from an FY 2020/21 of US$1.296 million to US$490,849 for 2022, and a very negligible increases in the budget to the overall education and health systems.

The UP then alleged that the asymmetrical allocations prove that the Weah-led government has very little interest in practicalizing the concepts of decentralized development where counties and sub-structures of the state are empowered to carry out development.

“The CDC Government is, unfortunately, gravitating the country toward a situation where what county and district stakeholders and their legislators want for their respective counties and districts do not matter much, but what matters is what the praise-craving President wants for a particular county or district,” the UP release alleged. “

UP noted that it is sad that the administration of President Weah complains about the lack of money to fund development priorities advocated by other branches and substructures of government, but can easily find an abundance of resources for activities and projects that can be credited to “the Weah project.”

“Finally, considering the very loose accountability and governance systems at LACE, the Unity Party calls on the General Auditing Commission (GAC) to conduct audits of all projects undertaken by LACE to ensure full accountability of public funds. In this regard, the Unity Party assures the Liberian people and friends of Liberia that the audit of LACE will be among the top priorities of the future Liberian government,” the statement added.

 Meanwhile,  the UP has strongly called on the Legislature to reallocate the bulk of the US$10 million allocated for President Weah’s County tour in 2022 to help fund the critically needed increase in the County Development Fund for the 15 counties and the allocation for cities across the country. 

The reallocated funds, the UP said could also help address the funding gaps at the University of Liberia and other critical institutions of Government including the Judiciary where judges have been left with no option but to the take the CDC Government to Court for slicing their salaries and allowances in breach of Article 72 (A) of the Liberian Constitution.