Liberian People’s Party Demands Refund of US$518K Disbursed to Senate, Citing Breach of Public Financial Management Law

Liberian People’s Party Demands Refund of US8K Disbursed to Senate, Citing Breach of Public Financial Management Law

MONROVIA — The opposition Liberian People’s Party (LPP) is demanding the immediate repayment of $518,000 given to the Liberian Senate by the Ministry of Finance for its recent retreat held in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County. The LPP said the disbursement was made without adequate evidence of incurred expenses or services rendered for the specified periods.

By Selma Lomax

This expenditure has raised serious concerns, particularly in light of the unpaid allowances owed to teachers, nurses, and other essential workers across the country.

Senator Amara Konneh of Gbarpolu, who is also a former minister of finance, has defended the Senate, stating that the ministry issued two checks totaling $565,000 to the Senate’s operations account at the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) on June 5, 2024. 

According to Senator Konneh, the first check, amounting to $290,000, was intended for “constituency visits” throughout the year, while the second check, amounting to $275,000, was for “committee engagement” and the Senate retreat. 

However, the LPP in a July 10 press statement, said the demand is based on “serious” discrepancies and violations observed in the disbursement of funds allocated for Senate activities in 2024. 

“Fiscal discipline and accountability are crucial for good governance, addressing these issues can significantly improve trust in the government and ensure sustainable development,” the party said.

The party, in the statement issued through its national chairman, Yanqui Zaza, said the government’s disbursal of fund appropriated for 12 months but disbursed in bulk on June 5, 2024 was in contravention of the Public Financial Management Law P.8 (2), which states “No payment shall be made before it is due.”

The Public Financial Management Laws enacted in 2009, which guides expenditure and disbursement, states in P.4, “Control of commitment against Procurement Plan, Section (6), states that, “…Payment to suppliers can only be made on the basis of a purchase order carrying an authorized commitment control signature and stamp of the Ministry.”

“And P.8 Section 2 states that, “No payment shall be made before it is due, for the purpose of utilizing an anticipated saving on a program.”

The LPP said these funds were approved expenditures in the 2024 budget. “While the LPP does not challenge the constitutionality or authority of lawmakers to utilize the $565,000 appropriation for engaging constituents over the year, it does question whether the lawmakers actually visited their constituents between January and May 2024 and whether there are documented plans to receive goods and services for the remainder of the year.”

The LPP contends that the Boakai administration violated several provisions of the Public Financial Management (PFM) Law by disbursing $565,000 without adhering to proper procurement procedures. 

“Our concerns are as follows: January to May 2024 Expenses: Lawmakers did not incur $235,000 worth of expenses between January 1, 2024, and May 31, 2024, and did not submit procurement documents for these activities. This raises questions about the use and allocation of these funds during this period. July to December 2024 Anticipated Expenses: Lawmakers do not have documentation to support anticipated expenses of US$282,000 (US$47,000 multiplied by six months) for July through December 2024,” the party added.

The LPP and its presidential candidate, renowned human rights lawyer Cllr. Tiawan Gongloe supported the Unity Party in the 2023 presidential runoff elections. However, it has not shy away from criticizing the Unity Party-led government over key national issues.

In its latest criticism of the government, the LPP said the lack of forward-looking financial planning and documentation cast doubt on the legitimacy of future expenditures. “Legal Basis Lack of Compliance with Procurement Procedures (Section P.4, Number 5): The Public Financial Management (PFM) Law clearly mandates that all expenditures on goods and services requiring local purchase orders must follow a regulated procurement process.”

However, it added, the disbursement of $565,000 to the Senate in June 2024 lacked transparency and proper bidding procedures, as required by law. “This raises concerns about procedural integrity and fair competition in government spending. Insufficient Documentation for Payments (Section P.4, Number 6): According to the PFM Law, payments must be supported by original documents such as contracts, purchase orders, goods received notes, and appropriate certifications. It has come to light that the Senate did not submit these essential documents for expenditures incurred between January and May 2024.”

The LPP noted that the lack of documentation undermines accountability and transparency in financial transactions. “Violation of Payment Voucher Requirements (Section P.12): The PFM Law stipulates that payment vouchers must be endorsed by authorized personnel who can verify the accuracy and receipt of goods or services. However, there is a notable absence of such endorsements for anticipated expenses from July to December 2024.”

It added that the failure to comply with financial management standards casts doubt on the legitimacy of future expenditures and accountability practices. “Prohibition of Early Payments (Section P.8, Number 2): Early payments are strictly prohibited under the PFM Law unless justified by immediate need or anticipated program savings. Despite these provisions.”

“This contravenes financial management principles aimed at preventing misuse and ensuring fiscal discipline. Additionally, the PFM Law and standard financial management principles discourage giving large sums of cash directly to individuals without strict controls and proper documentation. Funds intended for government activities, including those of lawmakers, should be disbursed through institutional channels with clear accountability measures to ensure that all expenditures are properly recorded, justified, and audited.”

The LPP believes that lawmakers and officials should have ensured that all expenditures were documented and justified. Therefore, the LPP demands that the $518,000 be reimbursed to the government to uphold transparency and accountability. 

“It is imperative that public funds are managed in a manner that ensures they are used effectively and responsibly for the benefit of all Liberians. Impact on Public Services The misallocation and potential mismanagement of public funds not only violate legal standards but also jeopardize essential public services.”

“Funds intended for critical sectors such as healthcare, education, and infrastructure development must be managed with utmost diligence to benefit all Liberian citizens equitably. The LPP asserts its commitment to holding the government accountable for its financial management practices. We demand immediate action to rectify these discrepancies and ensure full compliance with the PFM Law.”

The LPP added it is imperative that public funds are managed transparently and responsibly, reflecting the highest standards of governance and integrity.

“The Liberian People’s Party urges the Executive and Legislative Branches to promptly reimburse the US$518,000 to restore public trust and uphold the principles of accountability and transparency in financial governance. We call upon all citizens to join us in advocating for ethical leadership and effective management of public resources for the collective benefit of Liberia. Government is a place to serve, not to steal.”

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