In the presence of over 75 comptrollers and human resource officers drawn from ministries and agencies of government, the Interagency Payroll Clean-up Task Force, comprising the Civil Service Agency (CSA), the Ministry of Finance & Development Planning (MFDP), the Internal Audit Agency (IAA), and the National Identification Registry (NIR), has told civil servants and political appointees on government’s payroll to obtain their biometric ID card or risk forfeiting salaries beginning this August.
Although the government is financially challenged and as a result owes civil servants and other associates several months of salary arrears, overloaded payroll containing names of the deceased and those outside of the country not working but receiving salaries remains a major challenge, and the National Payroll Clean-up Task Force has been set up to thoroughly audit and extract names that are not necessary to be on the payroll.
In order to implement this task to know who all remain, one of the strategies designed by the task force is to have all civil servants and political appointees registered at the National Identification Registry to obtain their valid biometric national biometric ID Cards make it impossible to duplicate names across government payroll, as has been the case before.
“The National ID Card is the first and foremost requirement for civil servants and all those on government’s payroll to obtain to guarantee them for salaries now because, instead of having an automated payroll and the main civil servant payroll, we are congesting both into one payroll that will contain the names of everybody,” says J. Tiah Nagbe, Executive Director of NIR.
On July 31, 2020 in the conference room of the Ministerial Complex, where he made the statement, Mr. Nagbe further noted: “The identification card has features that make it difficult to be duplicated, and it will help to curtail all the mixed information people had given to beat the system to have more than one name to receive salaries at different ministries and agencies.”
Another member of the task force, Del-Francis Wreh, who serves as the chairperson of the Interagency Payroll Clean-up Task Force, added that of the 70,000 people on the payroll in the country, 19,205 are without the national biometric ID Card and, if they do not begin enrolling by Monday, August 4 up to the 15th of the month, they will find it difficult to receive salaries.
On the optimism of the team to succeed, Mr. Wreh said they are very optimistic of meeting their goal because, unlike in the past administration, where the individual agency was left with the task to clean-up the payroll and compromises were made, they are working as a team with no connection with any specific ministry or agencies that will influence their decision to compromise.
Mr. E. Barten Nyeswa, Director General of the Internal Audit Agency, also clarified that the national identification card sets the basis for a refined audit since an individual’s first information given will be stored and will always be the information from birth to death. According to him, people change information over time with more than one name attached to the same individual and different dates of birth just to defraud the system.
“Our work has shown that people change names and dates of birth over time for reasons they know best, but with this new process, your name and age will always be your name. All those who go to the ‘World Trade Center’ on Gurley Street to falsify document should know that when we come across it at this time, just to have two or three salaries in more than one agency of government, you will find it difficult to get even one,” said Nyeswa.
Since Liberia transitioned to civil governance in 2006 after years of civil unrest, recurrent expenditure has overshadowed the country’s budget; something that past and present administrations had said can be solved by concentrating on the development of the private sector.
This solution, however, has not been realized as mainly Liberian entrepreneurs struggle to develop their businesses, especially due to the lack of credit opportunities and harsh taxation at ports of entry. These, therefore, grossly contribute to the capacity of the private sector to have the potential to employ more people, thus leaving the citizens to align with political parties and politicians for job opportunities.
On the other hand, banking institutions over the years have encountered insincerity and dishonesty on the part of many Liberian businesspeople, where they take loans using different names and identities to defraud the bank.
It may be recalled that in 2013 the Chief Executive Officer of the United Bank for Africa Liberia Limited (UBA), Chioma Mang, said that commercial banks in Liberia have excess money than other countries in the West African region because Liberian businesses and entrepreneurs default on paying back loans and do not have crafted business plans and implementation mechanisms.
This same act reportedly contributed to the downfall of the First International Bank (FIB). This situation also builds mistrust in banking institutions to give out loans to Liberians as they risk losing their money in the end.