Our beloved nation – Liberia, the one-time beacon of hope on the African continent is at a critical junction in its national history. The fourteen-year bloody upheaval has since ended and the nation is currently experimenting democracy at all levels across the country; but the perennial problem of corruption is impeding development and growth in the country.
People who are greedy for money and have weak allegiance to the State consider the Senate not as a place to render due service to their various counties but as a place of rapid personal enrichment, while the majority of the population lives in miserable poverty.
Just envisage, in the midst of hopeless, hardship and destitution in the country where the greater part of the population lives on handouts and the mercy of God, the top officials at the leadership of the First branch of Government – the National Legislature – including House Speaker Alex Tyler, President Pro tempore Gbehzohngar Findley and Deputy Speaker Hans Barchue have allotted over US$3.5 million to their offices in the 2014-2015 draft budget. Speaker Tyler has allotted over US$1,054,372 million to his office of which US$345,664 is allotted for compensation of employees in his office, while civil service employees at the same office get US$62,810.
Those working in the Speaker’s office serve at his will and pleasure; he determines their monthly salary and benefits. In the 2013-2014 approved budget, Speaker Tyler’s office received the amount of US$1.174 million excluding other benefits. The draft budget fellow shows US$210,854 as general allowance for the speaker of which US$72,000 is appropriated for special allowance, while US$497,854 allotted for goods and services for the office of the speaker. Such a huge allotment is nothing like service but a personal enrichment and has the propensity to keep our people in poverty and increase their destitution.
The President Pro Tempore of the Liberian Senate, Gbehzohngar Findley, who is facing difficulties for his re-election in Grand Bassa County office, is allotted over US$1.341 million in the draft budget for 2014-2015. Perhaps Senator Findley is allotted more amount than Speaker Tyler to help strengthen his financial power for re-election in the October 2014 Senatorial polls. It has also been uncovered that compensation of employees in Findley’s office accounts for US$397,433 while civil servants employees in the same office are allotted US$97,133. Those working in the Pro Temp’s office serve at his will and pleasure; he determines their monthly salary and benefits. Senator Findley’s office gets US$228,300 for general allowance and US$72,000 for special allowance for the same office while goods and services the office of Senator Findley is allotted US$386,254, respectively.
Besides, the Draft Budget for 2014-2015 also appropriated US$742,387 for the office of Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives Hans Barchue while US$236,297 is allotted as compensation for employees in the Deputy Speaker’s office. Also, US$64,740 goes towards civil service in the office while goods and services amounts take US$499,090. Those working in the Deputy Speaker’s office serve at his will and pleasure; he determines their monthly salary and benefits.
Despite these huge allotments and benefits that go toward these state bureaucrats and capitalists, their leaderships are persistently being accused of rampant corruption. The transparency International 2013 report leveled the First Branch of government – the Liberian Legislature – as the most corrupt public institution in Liberia. It has been reported that all cabinet nominees must make available ‘cold water’ before they can be confirmed while no concession agreement is passed without giving members of the legislature ‘cold water’. I have no doubt why they are normally referred to as ‘cold water’ legislators.
However, in less than seven months’ time, we will be at the polls to elect 15 new Senators who are expected to institute good laws in the interest of the masses and those greedy individuals who only care for their pockets will be booted out of the capitol. There is no doubt that the October 11, 2014 Senatorial Midterm Election is to decide whether or not to entrust the leadership of this nation to a new group of self centered political elites or the old corrupt guards who are enriching themselves at the detriment of the impoverished masses.
This decisive and cardinal decision rests in our hands and let nothing cause us to make a bad choice. Some of these corrupt old guards have turned overnight to humanitarians – to the extent that, even if they heard that their neighbor’s dog die, they are ready to sympathize with that neighbor.
If we truly love our country and we want Liberia to rise again as a unified nation and people, and regain her once ruffled status amongst the comity of nations, then let us not repeat those same old mistakes to entrust our future to those corrupt bureaucrats and those who lack vision for this nation. These 2014 Senatorial Elections must be a point at which all Liberians of age 18 or above can speak with one voice to make a sound decision to elect people who love and cherish this nation and its people, and not those self-centered individuals who would want to enrich themselves at the detriment of the suffering masses.
This is another opportunity to decide whether we want a senator that subscribes to good governance, human rights, rule of law, social justice and sound economic policies and who would unite and build a strong and prosperous nation bordered on the country of laws and not of one-track-minded men; a country free to and for all wherein all of us can be participants in the wealth and enjoy the luxury of peace, joy and happiness. Our country needs good senators with exemplary leadership and sound policymakers who have genuine love for the masses and concern for peace, stability, and national development.
The time has come for us to make sure that those who violate the trust of the people, lack leadership ability and misuse the nation’s wealth and human resources to promote their own interest are shown the ‘red card’ and never again put in positions of trust to repeat their crimes.
The final decision rests in our hands and not the international community. It is time that we make the best decision by electing people of trust and not greedy, corrupt, unproductive, failed politicians to the Senate. Let me repeatedly emphasize that the time has come to carefully select the sheep from among the corrupt goats, come October 11, 2014, or we will bleed this country to death for another long nine or more years.