Chairman Jerome Korkoya of the National Elections Commission (NEC) last Tuesday made a rendezvous with a body that has not only been on his mind, but one which has lately inflicted upon him very serious headaches.
These headaches hail not just from the Senate, though that is the body that, if nothing is done to remedy a most critical situation, would provoke a constitutional crisis in Liberia.
The headaches hail not from the First branch of government, but from the Second, the Executive that collects all the taxes in Liberia and, therefore, is responsible to pay all the Republic’s bills. These bills include not only the Senators’ monthly wages and logistical support mechanisms, but also the very process that gets them where they are—the senatorial elections.
Without elections, there can be no senators, or even members of the House of Representatives—the two bodies that comprise the First Branch of government. We cannot have a government without them!
But there is a problem: Senatorial elections to replace exactly half of the Senate chamber of 30 Senators are due to be held this October (2020). It is this problem that drove NEC Chairman Korkoya to the Senate last Tuesday morning, when he told that body that NEC had not received a dime for the scheduled October Senatorial elections.
We are now at February’s end. That means we have seven months before we reach October, when the Senatorial elections are due. With government crying no money everywhere, not even for the most vulnerable segments of society — schools and hospitals — where will the GOL find US$17 million to give the NEC for these elections?
Everyone knows that the Liberian government under President George Weah is facing the worst financial crisis in recent history — why? The government started out at its very onset in 2018 making the wrong decisions. First we heard that L$16 billion of government money allegedly went missing! Next, we heard that another US$25 million, intended to “mop-up excess liquidity of Liberian dollars”, was spent without proper accountability! No one — not President Weah, not Finance Minister Samuel Tweah, nor even then CBL Governor Nathaniel Patray could provide any explanation as to what happened to all that money. What did that tell the Liberian people — the first people who should know what happened to their money? What did that tell Liberia’s development partners, upon whom we have always depended to bail us out of financial straits?
Remember what happened in the first year of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s administration? Liberia was owing international debts of US$4 billion. It took credible people like then Finance Minister Antoinette Sayeh and her successor Augustine Ngafuan, backed by the great international reputation of President Sirleaf, to steer us quickly through that major financial hurdle and soon, Liberia’s international partners cleared us of the US$4 billion debt!
Do any of us remember what happened two days ago? It was this same Antoinette Sayeh, who after little over two years as former President Sirleaf’s Finance Minister, returned to her job as at the World Bank, is now being tipped for the exalted post of Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF)!
Will we, Liberians, ever learn anything from this? Will this compel us, at long last, to take Jesus seriously when he asked, “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and lose his soul (his integrity)?” In all of her decades as an employee at the World Bank and the IMF, Antoinette Sayeh never lost her soul! That is why she continues to climb up and up and up in the international arena.
Young people of Liberia, we urge you TODAY to learn from this your dear mother, aunt and sister, Dr. Antoinette Sayeh. Nothing can ever be more important to you than your INTEGRITY!
Liberia today is in deep financial trouble. Who can help us out of this crisis? But before we answer that question, we must consider a far more fundamental one: Who in the current the Liberian government can the international community (IC) trust to spend efficiently and honestly any bail-out funds the IC might be willing to offer?
Remember, the world and the Liberian people have yet to know what happened to the L$16 billion and the US$25 million of our own money — money which, despite all our pleas and patience, no one still can answer — not President Weah, not Finance Minister Tweah, not either the former nor the current CBL Governor.
The only thing we know is that many top Liberian government officials, including President Weah, have been very busy building sprawling real estate projects — all within the first few months of the Weah administration.
Now, with civil servants in months of salary arrears, the University of Liberia and other government educational institutions crying for money and public hospitals, clinics and other institutions without money for survival, we wonder, just as the NEC Chair and his fellow Commissioners, how will government come up with the US$17 million for the scheduled Senatorial elections?
Let us all pray that the good Lord will help our government find a way out. But first, our government must ever remember this Proverbial admonition: “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold.”