The attention of the Daily Observer is drawn to a story carried in its May 10, 2019 edition headlined, “Dig Hole, Cover Hole” -Nagbe Defends Gov’t Misuse of Donor Project Funds”.
According to the story written by Daily Observer reporters Robin Dopoe and Hannah Geterminah, Information Minister Eugene Nagbe reacting to expressed donor concerns about the ferreting of funds from donor accounts to other uses than the intended use has told journalists that the Ministry of Finance “moves money at the CBL from donor accounts into government coffers when the need arises”.
Further, according to him, it is an age-old problem adding that those accounts can be recapitalized when revenue performance improves. In his own words, it is “dig hole, cover hole”, meaning perpetual indebtedness.
“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. It does not mean the government is corrupt; it is just administrative and technical issues.”
The Daily Observer however wishes to remind Minister Nagbe that the issues raised by the donor community are serious and not just administrative and technical issues. Truth be told, Liberians do not deserve to be fed such blatant lies for it is common knowledge that this government is plagued by the scourge of corruption.
Individuals who yesterday were scrounging on the margins of society are today top-heavy officials sporting the latest SUVs and purchasing or building luxurious homes with money acquired not through diligent effort and toil but rather through illegal and corrupt means. Some of these officials have the gall to liken themselves to angelic characters — the Angels Gabriel and Michael through whose influence individuals can have access to God — keepers of the gate, so to speak.
The public is not unaware, for example, that President Weah has been a frequent traveler since his inauguration and often with large delegations such as the delegation that accompanied him on an official visit to China and other places. More besides, the ostentatious display of wealth and grandeur by his officials have only served to engrain the impression that government officials are virtually plundering the national coffers.
And it appears that they are doing so in apparent disregard for the consequences of their action. For example, Finance Minister Tweh, whose remit is limited to fiscal policy, has instead ascribed to himself responsibility for monetary policy. The US$25 million intended for the mop-up exercise was handled by the Minister himself, who told journalists that he opted to use money changers rather than the commercial banks to mop-up excess liquidity.
Results of the probe conducted by the Presidential Investigation Team (PIT) showed discrepancies in accounts provided by the Finance Minister. These discrepancies according to the PIT report bordered on criminality and probably this can explain why Central Bank (CBL) authorities blatantly refused to allow investigators into the Bank’s vault to do verification checks.
Then of course is the unresolved question of the whereabouts of the billions of printed Liberian dollar banknotes (L$16 billion) into whose mysterious disappearance President Weah ordered a probe. The results of the initial probe proved inconclusive and as a result, an official GAC audit was commissioned to determine the actual situation. The nation still awaits the results of that audit.
According to Information Minister Nagbe, the government has been engaging donors with the view to, as he put it, “ring-fence donor accounts”. But the problem is the stables have already been open and the horses have all gone astray. The question, therefore, is of what import will such a ring-fence have when the funds have already been stolen?
From information available to the Daily Observer, the commercial banks are experiencing severe liquidity problems. According to a local banker (name withheld), the CBL has so far been unable to repay funds it has taken from the reserve requirement deposited by local banks.
Moreover, reliable sources have informed this newspaper that the problem of the illegal ferreting of funds may be more severe than it appears. Sources further say that the accounts of parastatals have been virtually depleted under the watch of this government, although this is strenuously denied.
As it appears, the GOL is faced with severe financial crisis to the point where it has proposed to cut salaries and impose new taxes. In the face of such crippling conditions currently affecting the economy with rising prices of goods and services, President Weah, despite repeated warnings by this newspaper as well as the business community, has so far refused to rescind the imposed Cargo Tracking Note(CTN). The effects are already being felt with increased prices and sharper decline of the Liberian dollar.
In the opinion of this newspaper, GOL needs to tread carefully as it seeks to impose new taxes to raise revenue to “cover hole”. Extra-budgetary spending, as is well known, is the chief culprit here and if President Weah actually means business, he will begin by making public his asset declaration and ensure or compel the compliance of his officials. Also, frequent travels with large delegations should stop and the private jet believed to have been purchased by state funds must be sold off and the proceeds remitted to government coffers.
Further, the Daily Observer calls on President Weah to reconsider the imposition of new taxes to raise money to “cover hole”. As this newspaper has reiterated time and again, dogged insistence on the imposition of a new tax scheme will serve to undermine and erode the legitimacy of this government.
President Weah must come to grips with the problems affecting this nation and he must do this sooner than later. He should remember his song “Monkey na able to bust the rock o but Baboon able”.
Baboon must bust this rock now!