“Dig Hole, Cover Hole” -Nagbe Defends Gov’t Misuse of Donor Project Funds

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Minister Nagbe: "That's just the method of dig hole, cover hole..."

By Robin Dopoe and Hannah Geterminah

Eugene Lenn Nagbe, the Minister of Information, Cultural Affairs, and Tourism, has admitted receiving the diplomatic note that has gone viral on social media, which accuses the government of irregular withdrawals of donors’ project monies from the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) and used outside of their intended purposes.

The letter in question was signed by nine foreign diplomats, including the head of the European Delegation to Liberia and ambassadors from the United States of America, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

They are Hélène Cavé, EU Head of the Delegation; Ambassador of France, Terence Wills; Ambassador of Ireland, Catherine Campbell; Ambassador of Sweden, Ingrid Wetterqvist; Ambassador of the United Kingdom, David Belgrove; Chargé d’Affaires of  Germany, Günter Plambeck; and United States Ambassador Christine Elder.

In the communication, the diplomats demanded prompt action to ensure that, any funding that has been removed from the donors’ accounts for expenditures outside of agreed use, be restored without delay, and such unacceptable practices cease immediately.

The letter, which has been referred to as an “informal diplomatic note to the Government of Liberia,” was not conveyed on official letterhead and was not shown with a date.  In an effort to authenticate the document, a spokesperson at the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia told the Daily Observer, “We do not comment on government-to-government communications.”

The diplomatic letter said that “the so-called ‘borrowing initiative’ damages donor confidence in your government’s use of donor resources and in its ability to serve as an effective partner on development programs. We are apprehensive about the potential negative impact that such conduct may have on assistance levels to Liberia overall.”

Min. Nagbe said the use of donor funds by the government, against intended purposes, in Liberia is something that has been going on for a very long time.

According to him, the practice was introduced during the regime of former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, and is nothing new. This pre-supposes the Liberian song, which the lyric says: “Dig hole, cover hole, that’s the whole hustle.”

“I challenge anyone of the development partners to come out and say that they have never raised the issue before with the past government,” Nagbe said.

He added the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning moves money at CBL from donors’ accounts into government coffers to handle its expenditures when the need arises.

“This has been an age-old problem, so it is nothing new. However, when your cash position improves, because of the improvement in revenue generation, you re-capitalize the accounts, “its dig hole, cover hole,” Minster Nagbe admitted amid public outcry.

He further said the issue of withdrawing donors’ project monies is an accounting administrative issue, which occurs when the government has problem and wants to solve it by accessing donor-funded projects funds to the government consolidated account to handle expenditures, particularly wage bills.

“The move of donors’ fund is not illegal, and it does not mean that someone has stolen money,” Min. Nagbe defended, noting, “The only problem here is that the donors do not like the way it is done since the process is against international best practices. Itdoes not mean the government is corrupt; it is just administrative and technical issues.”

Meanwhile, Minister Nagbe said when the CDC-government took power a year and a half ago, it paid back the US$2.2 million of donor funds, which the government of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf had withdrawn.

“As a matter of fact, the government has been engaging the donor partners in setting up the proper perimeter to comprehensively deal with the situation comprehensively, and has mandated the Finance Minister and CBL Executive Governor to put a ring-fence over donors’ account, and only allow the use of domestic funds for other development projects,” Mr. Nagbe added.

In a related development, the diplomatic note came two weeks after the United Nations had also expressed concern about lack of accountability for aid monies provided to several government ministries and agencies.

“Several [UN] agencies have experienced challenges in getting timely and accurate reports from their Government counterparts, thereby delaying implementation of essential services and advisory support to the people of Liberia. The delay of the reports would in the long-term lead to withholding of fund for UN programs in Liberia and other adverse consequences,” the UN said its April 25 letter addressed to Nathaniel McGill, Minister of State.

16 COMMENTS

  1. A wise person once said, “Those who cannot control themselves cannot control others.”

    My recent trip to Tanzania and Rwanda left me speechless to see how fast these two countries are progressing under the leadership of these two dynamic and progressive leaders: Pres. Magufuli of Tanzania and Pres. Kagame of Rwanda.

    Liberia’s problem is more than just financial mismanagement and corruption! Not until Liberian leaders realize that Liberia’s backwardness are mostly intrinsic (deep-rooted, ingrained) then, no amount of goodwill from international donors would magically fix Liberia’s systemic problems.

    Liberia has deep systemic problems that are cancerous to the development of Liberia.

    Here are few systematic problems of Liberia: corruption; tribalism/ethnocentrism (creates subtle form of ethnic discrimination); economic marginalization (haves: 1% government officials vs. have-not:99% ordinary Liberians); wasteful and lavish spending without productivity; national disunity; infighting; decline in moral values; wickedness and retribution; mob violence; ritualistic killings;

    More systemic problem: lack of security; disregard for the rule of law; high level of promiscuity and drug abuse among youths and some government officials; stagnated and dysfunctional centralized government: over-bloated bureaucratic government; overpaid government officials but poorly functioning government system; mass incarceration of the poor without fair trial; lack of equal opportunity; the imperial presidency syndrome;

    More systemic problems of Liberia: unrealistic and outdated constitution ( ridiculously long Congressional and Presidential term in office; lack of sensible dual citizenship, lack of regional voting power for county superintendents); blind party loyalists for economic gain and political expediency; abuse of power by government officials and legislative job seekers for the sole purpose to get rich quickly;

    More systemic problems of Liberia: lack of national self-sufficiency plan to cut down of importation of basic necessities and boost employment; not prioritizing teaching valued added Liberian tragic history in schools and education like STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math); lack of capital incentives for private business to flourish and etc., etc.

    If these systemic problems are not urgency dealt with, then, these unproductive government officials will continue get away with bad behavior and justify their incompetency through the corrupt lens of the past administration.

    Therefore, these corrupt practices and flimsy excuses of why donor funds were misappropriated by Min. Eugene Nagbe only makes it more difficult for these international donors to continue supporting Liberia with their hard earned tax dollars.

    Remember Mr. President, “Leadership involves remembering past mistakes, doing analysis of today’s achievements, and having a well-grounded imagination in visualizing the problems of the future” as the wise person would say.

    There are too many bad captains on your “sinking ship” Mr. President!!!!

    • Aalpha Corneh, you are a FOOL. Economic problems faced by a new government IN NO WAY ENTAIL OR MEAN “a sinking ship” as you perceive in your ignorance, chronic ptetense, and stupidity. More so when the economic problems were inherited from the LEADER ‘s predecessor. You always write foolishness and ignorance. A leader inheriting economic problems cannot be blamed . You are the only stupid man who is not KNOWLEDGEABLE of this reality.

      • When a so called learned person tells another he is stupid base on shared opinions, it becomes obvious that that so called learned person is ACTUALLY THE BIGGEST FOOL.

        An truly intellectual man doesn’t raise his voice to stress his point….only a half learned puppet does.

        NB: The funny thing about your attitude is that Alpha did mention it: LACK OF MORAL VALUES.

        It’s a SHAME that most of you have come to get involved into national discourse because of the WWW.

  2. Thanks to the minister for providing clarity to those who don’t understand how government sometimes handle donors funds when there’s casualties somewhere that need to be handled. As a person who has been in Liberia for a very long time, I have understood that for the government to carryout massive development, the issue of dig-hole cover-hole will be the order of the day. The reason is that close to 95% of our national budget goes towards recurrent expenditure. The only way we will not be susceptible to donors dis-redpectfulness (letter without head and date) is when we try to narrow down the salaries and benefits of lawmakers that will serve as trikerdown effect on huge salaries and benefits expenditure of all Senior government officials.

    Liberia must now try to focus on creating avenue to save funds for development.

      • Are you this silly Mr. Concerned Liberian? It could only be a theft if or when the funds are diverted to personal or private usage! Considering the context, what the government has done or does is widely done by governments , businesses, banks, ETC.etc. across the globe! You are not only silly. You are ignorant of this subject matter.

        • Of course the funds were diverted to personal use…this is why the Weah government has not made any quarterly report to the donor countries as required for how these funds are being managed…if these funds were used for related projects and can be verified by the donor countries, we’ll not be having this public discussion..it could just be a warning from the donor countries to the government to stick with what the money was intended for…..but the Weah government can not account for the donor money, this is why they are demanding the Finance Minister to return our $3 million dollars.

  3. Liberia will never develop from donor’s Monies; please understand this? Donor’s monies are just for emergencies times; they just want to help us?

    Development areas are very cash intensive (health, roads, education, etc)? We need our industries (steel factories, rubber factories, manufacturing sectors, etc) to support these areas.
    Atleast 90% of Liberian grow potatoes greens, cassava, etc. You can not collect taxes form such products or cash crops to build the nation; it will never work?

    We need industries to do this; which should be started by Liberian with the KnowHow, Skillsets. Most of you talking about the problem of Liberia do NOT talk about ” we are NOT making and exporting anything”? Instead everybody wants to manage; manage what?

    We must first make things before we can manage them. We must first make or produce goods before we can become Economist (Industrial Economists); not the other way around?i
    We are NOT orderly in doing most things? Nothing is actually setup properly. No rules? Ellen should have set most of those up. This current Face should have been rebuilding the country by Skilled People but the people of Liberia were NOT interested in people with the KnowHows; now we find ourselves in confusion?

    Note: Liberia still needs to be setup; no other way around it.
    Liberia in God we Trust.

  4. However, when your cash position improves, because of the improvement in revenue generation , you re-capitalize the accounts , its dig hole, cover hole ” . Free money in the form of international assistance to that country for safe drinking water, better health care, education , roads, training of the security apparatus, expansion of electricity, that taxes paid for by citizens can not easily meet these demands, and government will used out donor’s resources meant to help the nation and then used it to entertain its political pleasures ? And the silly Minister is speaking about improve” revenues generation” to cover dig hole ? And asking the citizens to pay additional taxes for the free international funds given to the nation ? When parents as citizens can not find resources for education for their children. When parents as citizens are finding it difficult to find food and clothing for themselves and children ? Parents as citizens are having difficulties in securing medical services for themselves and children, while government top officials are going abroad for medical treatments , and the Minister is speaking about improve revenues through additional taxes on the backs of citizens to cover the dig hole concerning the free international funding giving to the regime ? What parents out there that have that kind of cash on hand to keep paying back through taxes free money that was given as international assistance ? Take a look at those parents crossing the borders in what is a border trade and expecting them to pay additional taxes for free money ? And he speaks of ” improve revenues ” to cover the dig hole. And then he posted a challenge to the donor’s nations to inform the nation that the used of the free money is just occurring under this rogue regime. How silly can he get ?

  5. In Mr. Nagbe’s words, “The only problem here is that the donors do not like the way it is done since the process is against international best practices.

    But if the process is against international best practices, then why must it be allowed to continue?
    Moreover, is Mr. Nagbe inferring that because past administrations had involved themselves in inappropriate financial practices, therefore Weah’s government must continue the same course without repercussions? Wasn’t it one of the reasons that the people ushered in a new administration because they needed change, and so they felt that the CDC leadership could deliver it?

    When will this administration be able to stand on its own feet, make its own decision, and set its own benchmark by creating and measuring its own performance against a backdrop of failures and successes without attempting to shift its blame on past administrations?

    And so from what I gather from Mr. Nagbe, is that Liberians should brace themselves because like the saying goes, “They are in for the long haul.” And as far as this administration is concerned, nothing will change in Liberia substantively; developments under Weah will be characterized by a continuation of more social vices.

    However, these negative trends may not continue inconsequentially as donor organizations could revert to the imposition of sanctions and embargoes on Liberia; and, if this becomes the case, I wonder what the fate of the poor huddled masses will be.

  6. Can this roguish government give accounting of the money they took…..what was the money used for…can they tell us where the money went…..

    • Now you know why they are asking for higher taxes and salaries cut . Just as the Minister said to improve revenues in order to cover the dig hole. Higher taxes, 25 percent salaries cut of government employees , and not forgetting the taxes to be paid on their small salaries. All that to cover the dig hole of stolen free international fundings meant for safe drinking water , electricity, roads, health care and education. The stealing of 16 billion in local currency was not enough. The stealing of 25 million US dollars was not enough. Now it had to go to the International Aid Partners were providing to the regime. Best advice to the regime, instead of cutting salaries of the low government employees, why sell those alleged multimillion dollars complex ? Why not sell the jet plane ? Why not sell others related properties that were illegally gotten through state funds ? Why not do that for love of country ? And love for the so-called Mighty CDC?

  7. This government blames everything on the Ellen’s administration, if you don’t accept that you have a problem, you cannot change or make progress. They gave Ellen administration a free pass and refused to investigate her administration for economy crimes. For them, after 6 or 12 years it will not be business as usual, they will be held accountable for every penny.

  8. Eugene Nagbe is reckless and irresponsible and is becoming known for frequently talking rubbish. Where in the world is such a theft acceptable. CDC is represented by a band of thieves.

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