Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan has never been this clear and direct about his political ambition since he resigned his post as Liberia’s Foreign Minister in October 2015. But in an exclusive interview with the Daily Observer Tuesday, May 17, he declared: “I am running for President come 2017…”
With this open pronouncement, everyone now formally knows where the former Foreign Minister, who was also Dean of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s Cabinet, is now headed. For the last several months, he had been saying that his next plans would “be known soon,” after resigning from the Unity Party-led government last October 2015.
“I have called you here today to announce that I am running for the Presidency come 2017. My decision stems from the fact that I possess all of the necessary qualities and capabilities to lead Liberia to prosperity,” Mr. Ngafuan stated.
He told the Daily Observer that he had long stated before he resigned from government that in the coming general elections, he wouldn’t be “inactive,” without clarifying what he meant.
People began to speculate that he intends to run for president or vice president or some other senior political office/position.
He said most of today’s world leaders are people who had served their countries by managing their nations’ economies and or foreign policies.
Mr. Ngafuan stated that he has served in both capacities with distinction.
At the Liberian Cabinet level, he has sat down on both the immediate right and left hands of the President of Liberia.
“I have sat with presidents in meetings, where very critical decisions are made for the world. During Ebola, when President Sirleaf grounded herself for seven months and decided not to leave Liberia, she sent me around the world to meet with world leaders, including President Barack
Obama. From those meetings, there were positive outcomes for Liberia,” he detailed.
He served the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf government for 10 consecutive years in various capacities: first as Director of the Budget, then as Finance Minister and finally as Foreign Minister, before he resigned.
Ngafuan, who managed the nation’s economy from 2008 to 2012, indicated that the economy would be the main focus during his presidency. According to him, by having a good economy, everything else will fall in line.
During his tenure managing the nation’s finances, there were incremental sequences in the nation’s annual budget. As Minister of Finance, he successfully spearheaded Liberia’s march to the HIPC completion point, paving the way for full relief of Liberia’s external debt of nearly US$5 billion.
The 46 year-old ‘Ngaf’, as he is affectionately called by his peers, is also credited for making the government’s budget process a truly public process; taking the budget to the people by ensuring openness and transparency, refusing to shroud its review in secrecy.
He presided over the development and passage of Liberia’s Public Financial Management Law, the first in Liberia’s history, and the adoption for the first time, of the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS), which seeks to ensure timely public publication of government’s financial statements and the automation of its financial management systems. On the revenue side, Mr. Ngafuan introduced the Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA) system, which financial experts say has brought efficiency and improvement in government’s controls at major custom collectorates.
Among many other reforms, in July 2011, he introduced the Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS), and the rollout in 2008 of a Direct Deposit Payment scheme. As an IT system, IFMIS has automated the entire budget process, drastically cutting back on mounting transaction time and related costs, while embedding in the system basic controls to facilitate timely reporting and audits. The Direct Deposit Payment scheme for its part has helped curb the longstanding problem of “ghost names” on government payrolls, and facilitated the access to loans by civil servants to build houses and acquire other assets using their deposit accounts as collaterals.
Mr. Ngafuan, in his capacity as Governor of Liberia at the African Development Bank, was one of three African Finance Ministers selected by the Bank’s former president Donald Kaberuka to participate in consultative meetings for the 12th Replenishment of Resources of the African Development Fund (AFD-12).
He was criticized for resigning from his Foreign Ministerial position on foreign soil, especially at the time when he and the President were attending the United Nations General Assembly in New York. His response has been once the President had addressed the UNGA, his job was basically over, and that the President had accepted his resignation in “good faith.”
Some also linked him to alleged mismanagement of the Japanese Fund at the Foreign Ministry, but he has neither been called in for questioning nor indicted in connection with the fund.
“I left government as a clean man. When I managed the nation’s economy and as Foreign Minister, I drew a line between my salary and nation’s coffers and other funds; I will do the same during the Ngafuan Presidency,” he assured.