The Buck Begins and Ends Right at Your Doorsteps, Mr. President!

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The attention of the Daily Observer is drawn to a lead story carried in its April 30 edition headlined “UN Wants Gov’t Provide Financial Reports on Resources Used”.

According to the story written by Daily Observer business reporter, Alvin Worzi, Assistant UN Secretary-General and Resident Coordinator of the United Nations in Liberia, Yacoub El Hillo, has called on the Government of Liberia to account for funds provided for project implementation under its National Implementation Modality (NIM).

According to official UN policy, “Under National Implementation, government rules and rules and procedures, where they are consistent with internationally recognized practices, apply as a matter of principle. Or, in other words: “Where the financial governance of an executing entity or, under the harmonized operational modalities, implementing partner, does no harmonized operational modalities, implementing partner, does not provide the required guidance to ensure best value for money, fairness, integrity, transparency and effective international competition, that of UNDP shall apply.” (Source: FRR, Regulation 16.05.b)

What the Special Representative of the Secretary-General is saying is in fact nothing new, but a restatement of long-standing policy(quoted above) intended to safeguard the integrity of donor funds entrusted to their care and supervision. Moreover, possibilities for a shift to the Direct Implementation Modality remain high given what is seen as the erosion of integrity in public sector financial management.

It must not be lost on Liberians that the UN has played key and critical roles in Liberia especially during the periods of conflict. It can be recalled that during the reign of Charles Taylor, the UN remained the country’s single largest development partner, especially given the pariah status of the Taylor government. In 1996 during the April 6 fighting in Monrovia, UN offices became targets and were looted extensively of everything including office equipment, vehicles and anything salvageable. Over 200 vehicles were looted and sold across the borders into Ivory Coast and Guinea.

And throughout the 12-year reign of President Sirleaf, the UN remained a key and indispensable partner in the country’s national development efforts. This level of commitment extended to the Weah-led government, based on evidence gathered by this newspaper. But it however now appears that trust is beginning to wane not due to any fault on the part of the UN but due to the failure of officials to make timely and accurate report on funds spent on projects. And make no mistake about this — the public is fully aware that these lapses are due to corruption.

President Weah has time and again reiterated his commitment to the successful achievement of his Pro-Poor Agenda for Transformation and this newspaper does not question his declared good intentions in this regard. However, it will be remiss on the part of the Daily Observer to not warn the President of the dangers posed to the achievement of his Pro-Poor Agenda by the scourge of runaway corruption.

The President and his team should not lose sight of the fact that the UN official is actually the medium through which the sentiments and concerns of governments of member/donor countries are expressed. All said and done, it is their money.

Donor governments have embassies here that keep their respective governments up to speed on developments and if government officials, in the discharge of their duties, fail to meet required integrity standards, which could lead to loss and waste of their (donor countries’) tax payer funds, they will of course unfailingly report.

This newspaper is rightly concerned about these developments because they have an impact on everyone. Should development projects become stalled because officials fail to properly and accurately account for donor funds, we shall all feel the impact. Money spent on projects here contribute to the enhancement of economic activities and, if that source should go dry, then “fish will really eat fish”.

Why? Because the Government of Liberia is in dire economic straits with an expenditure bill that exceeds actual income amid high unemployment, falling real wages occasioned by the rapid decline of the Liberian dollar against the US dollar and profligate spending by public officials.

This situation portends real trouble for Liberia if left unchecked. This newspaper has received overwhelming complaints that self-styled and self-proclaimed leader of Liberia, by his own utterances, State Minister, Nathaniel McGill, appears to be leading the country downhill and President Weah should be made aware of this if he is not already.

Until the UN letter leaked, no one would have been sure whether it was going to come to the attention of the President. Now it undoubtedly has, thanks to the media especially, social media. The contents of this letter are now being widely discussed according to observations gathered by the Daily Observer. But there is another side to this issue and that is the negative perception created in the donor and foreign diplomatic community suggesting that this government cannot be trusted.

The Daily Observer is convinced that such is not the kind of perception this President would like to convey to the outside world. There are just too many cooks (centers of authority) in the mix and as we all know, “too many cooks spoil the broth”.

Hence, Mr. President, it behooves that you come to grips with reality, keeping in mind that the buck begins and ends right at your doorsteps!

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