At least 30 hired workers (24 from Land Coordination Centers and 6 from the technical secretariat) whose contracts with the Land Commission (LC) ended on 30 September, 2015 will be paid their salary arrears once the Commission receives the final portion of the total of funds from UN-Habitat.
A statement issued by the Land Commission in Monrovia last Friday said those affected were hired on a contractual basis under the SIDA and PBF projects. It said the contractors were laid off because they ended their contracts.
“This necessitated the need to terminate the services of some of the contractual employees as a prudent management practice,” the statement said. “Notwithstanding these layoffs, the Commission has been working with the government of Liberia and donors to secure funding to have the doors of the LLC remain open for the next six months until government can address the situation during the next budget cycle.”
The statement further noted that a few of its critical staff workers, mainly in its technical secretariat, were retained to undertake duties for the Commission’s transition into the new management under a new land agency.
“It’s one of the reasons for the extension of the Commission’s mandate to January 9, 2016, per Executive Order 66 issued by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on January 7, 2015,” the statement said.
It said the Commission is currently exploring funding sources for the salary payments of the retained staff of both the Technical Secretariat and the Land Coordination Centers who are contributing to the achievement of the transition and other deliverables under Executive Order 66.
On its financial situation, the statement said despite repeated efforts to engage the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning and others responsible for preparation and passage of the National Budget to ensure that adequate budgetary allocation is provided for the Commission, the government has consistently given less than what is minimally required to operate the Commission.
The statement noted that the government of Liberia’s (GoL) funding to the Land Commission covers compensation for its commissioners and administrative staff.
“However, payment of salaries of employees under GoL funding is current but funds left after compensation for commissioners and administrative staff cannot take care of operating expenditures such as fuel, rent of office space, repairs and maintenance, stationery and supplies, to name a few essentials,” it added.
The statement said the core support provided the Commission is funding provided by the government of Sweden through the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), which ended in June 2015.
“The core support component was programmed to cover the salary payment of professional and technical staff for the five year tenure of the Commission and not for the extended tenure of the Commission,” it said.
It noted that the core support under the first phase (2011 to 2013) and second phase (2014 to June 2015) of the SIDA projects provided payment of salaries of about 30 Liberian professionals recruited to work in its Technical Secretariat.
“These include the director, financial comptroller, a senior program officer, internal auditor, accountant, seven program officers, and six program assistants. SIDA also provided support to the Land Commission to undertake a number of projects, including the Urban Land Inventory project implemented by the UN-Habitat and the Tribal Certificate Inventory Program implemented by the Land Commission. Both projects have been completed and the employment contracts of staff hired under these programs terminated,” it said.
The statement refuted reports that the Commission is “on the verge of collapse due to a serious financial crisis that has led to several of its staff being laid off and normal operations grounded.”
Refuting reports that the Land Commission has not been audited and its management has failed to comply with auditors from the General Auditing Commission (GAC), the statement said that the Commission has been audited eight different times by four reputable independent external auditors, including one international auditing firm, as required by its donors.
“The GAC set up a four-member team to audit the procurement process of the Commission, which exercise took longer than expected. While the GAC auditing was going on, the Land Commission was also expecting an international auditing firm to conduct a comprehensive audit of the financial records of funds provided by donors.
“The disbursement of the last tranche of funds due the Land Commission was contingent on the commissioning and conclusion of this audit, hence, the Land Commission was emphatic in requesting the GAC to speed up the process to enable the international auditing firm to commence its work, which did occur and the auditors concluded their work,” read the statement.