Presidential hopeful and standard bearer of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) Senator George Weah has for the second time conspicuously evaded crucial national debate here with rival candidates on issues affecting Liberians as the country goes to elections on October 10th .
Organized by the Deepening Democracy Coalition or DDC, a conglomeration of five Liberian media organizations, including the Press Union of Liberia, the debate is sponsored by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa, OSIWA.
The issues centered around six thematic areas: economy, youth empowerment, peace and reconciliation, rule of law and security, corruption, education and health.
The first debate was held on Thursday, 17 August among the first six top candidates in the race at the Paynesville Town Hall outside Monrovia. All but two of the six candidates were present.
Candidates in attendance were the standard bearer of the governing Unity Party(UP), Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai, Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine of the Liberty Party (LP), businessman Benoni Urey of the All Liberian Party (ALP) and corporate executive Alexander B. Cummings of the Alternative National Congress (ANC).
Candidates George Weah of the CDC and Dr. Joseph Mills Jones of the Movement for Economic Empowerment were conspicuously absent at the debate. Senator Weah is reportedly visiting the Ivory Coast, while Dr. Jones is said to have gone on a campaign spree in Western Liberia.
But the organizer says all candidates were formally written and informed about the debate. “All of them were invited and they all committed to come”, says Malcom Jospeh, a member of the DDC.
The DDC stresses that the exercise provides an opportunity for Liberians to question and evaluate those vying to become their next leaders what they say they would do and how they intend to achieve those.
In 2005, the CDC presidential candidate Weah similarly dodged a debate among candidates for the presidency both at the Centennial Pavilion and the Monrovia City Hall. Weah has always avoided sitting with rival candidates to publicly debate the issues that confront Liberia’s governing process. Even at the Liberian Senate, where he was elected in 2014, he has been publicly rated for poor performance when it comes to debating issues brought on the floor.
Analysts say, Weah would have to live with this weakness for long in his public service career unless he musters enough courage to be able to articulate clearly his dreams and aspiration for the people and country that he wants to lead now or in the future.
-Story by Jonathan Browne
Vice President Joseph Boakai, who is vying for the presidency comes October, attributes consisting budget deficit in government in the past several years to lack of fiscal discipline, stressing, “We need to spend our money wisely.”
Vice President Boakai is on record for his public admission that most of the opportunities that came to the country during the nearly 12 years tenure of the Sirleaf administration in which he serves, were squandered.
Participating in a national presidential debate at the Paynesville Town Hall outside Monrovia on Thursday, 17 August organized by Deepening Democracy Coalition or DCC with support from Open Society Initiative for West African or OSIWA, he says raising taxes is not solution to the country’s fiscal challenges, but operating a balanced budget.
He is asking Liberians to elect him in October as the next President of Liberia, with an analogy that a racing car that is packed in the garage would have to be tested in order to determine its strength.
But Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine of the Liberty Party disagrees, countering that the Vice President cannot receive salaries and incentives for the past 12 years and yet claims he has not been tested for leadership.
Brumskine vows to reduce his own salary and salaries of top government officials, including members of the Liberian Legislature if elected President, in order to redirect those funds to improving salaries of civil servants, teachers, police and other apparatus.
The debate was attended by four of the six top candidates that were formally invited, including the governing Unity Party standard bearer, Vice President Boakai, Cllr. Charles Brumskine of the Liberty Party, corporate executive Alexander B. Cummings of the Alternative National Congress (ANC) and businessman Benoni Urey of the All Liberian Party (ALP).
For the second time since 2005, George Weah, senator and standard bearer of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) was conspicuously absent at the debate hall. Dr. Joseph Mills Jones of the Movement for Economic Empowerment (MOVEE) also did not attend.
But on the question of the economy, ANC standard bearer Cummings believes the prescription is to grow the national budget from US$5.6 million to 2 billion, emphasizing the need to create middle class Liberians as opposed to President Sirleaf’s poverty reduction strategy.
For his part, ALP standard bearer Benoni Urey stresses adequate planning and wants the Ministry of Planning and Economic Affairs recreated to properly plan the country’s development agenda.
Urey continues that budget deficit persists because the government appears to be business unfriendly, adding that “We will continue to have deficit unless we plan properly.” He points out that 80 percent of the budget is on recurrent expenditure, particularly salaries and other benefits, while the remaining 20 percent which is very insufficient, is directed at development.
Partial view representatives of 26 African countries n Liberia attending a three-day Capacity Building Workshop of July 26-28 in Monrovia Representatives of 26 African countries are in Liberia attending a three-day Capacity Building Workshop for the third edition of the African Tax Administration Forum (ATAF) Tax Outlook Publication.
According to a press release, the three-day workshop, being hosted by the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) is highlighting means of improving cross-country comparison and benchmarking comparable data on tax policies and tax administration and related legislations, among others.
The gathering seeks to provide analysis of tax data trends and identify good practices as well as understanding of the Tax Outlook Publication data collection processes. Addressing the opening session on Wednesday, LRA Commissioner General Elfrieda Stewart Tamba describes the workshop as a critical milestone of the African journey in providing high quality and reliable statistical data on tax administration covering the continent.
She praises ATAF for spearheading such initiative, noting that it will further enhance the collection and compilation of accurate tax data in Africa. The LRA boss also points out that the hosting of the workshop in Liberia demonstrates the importance of statistics in tax administrations and the vital role it plays in informing public policy decision.
She urges participants to dedicate their attentions in acquiring the requisite skills with the aim to improve the level of revenue collection across the Africa region. For her part, the Director of Research of ATAF, Dr. Nara Monkam, indicates that the training is aimed at enhancing revenue administration in the region through knowledge and experience sharing and comparison analysis.
She notes that the event is also a means of preparing for the third African Outlook Publication, which highlights factual and evidence-based statistics on all tax related matters on the African continent. The workshop will climax with the tour of the LRA Headquarters on Friday, January 28, in Paynesville. Press Release
The Ministry of Finance and Development Planning or MFDP has strongly rejected a local daily’s report of a potential US$41 million dollars deficit for the just ended fiscal year 2016/2017.
In a press statement issued here Thursday, 20 July the ministry ays its attention has been drawn to the Tuesday, July 18, 2017 Edition of the FrontPage Africa Newspaper in which the paper erroneously reported a potential US$41 million dollars deficit for the just ended 2016/2017 fiscal year, not on the basis of factual reporting, but on account of “reliable or financial experts.”
The release says the paper based its story on an unsubstantiated year-end fiscal reconciliation report of the consolidated account, indicating a wrong year-end revenue collection of US$522million and US$42 million as potential deficit; even though, the year-end expenditure estimate needed for accurately determining deficit or surplus was not mentioned.
The release claims the paper further suggested that the deficit could increase to US$50 million if US$4million payment for the Executive Mansion renovation and US$6million payment to George Haddad’s Prestige Motors were made, which it maintains, are all concoction of a “financial expert’s” imagination.
It explains that the Budget year FY16/17 successfully ended with a surplus of US$1.8 million brought forward to the FY17/18 budget, which has been approved by the Lower House and awaiting concurrence by the Upper House of the National Legislature.
According to the Ministry, Gross Revenue collected at end June 30th, 2017 is estimated at US$550.8 million, saying “This amount net of the ECOWAS Trade Levy of US$3.2 million brings the net revenue available to GoL at US$547.57 million. This fact contradicts FrontPage reported net revenue amount of US$522 million.”
The release further refutes allegation that Finance and Development Planning Minister Boimah Kamara has usurped the allotment functions of the Deputy Minister for Budget and Development Planning, and is not holding weekly Fiscal Management Team meetings with senior technicians regarding the formulation and execution of the national budget.
“In keeping with supervisory oversight of every department to ensure proper and accountable usage of tax payer money; it says, “Minister Kamara has instituted several reforms including the following:
The authorization of allotments to spending entities still remains a function of the Deputy Minister of Budget, but with the expressed approval of the Minister as provided under the PFM Act. The procedures for allotments, which are the first layer for authorizing, spending from the National Budget, have been revised to effectively minimize unauthorized allotments;
In tracking the execution of the national budget with respect to revenue performance and expenditure monitoring, the Minister still holds regular Fiscal Management Team (FMT) meetings with senior technicians of the MFDP and the Liberia Revenue Authority to discuss various fiscal reports and reconcile the financial position of the Government of Liberia. These meetings are in addition to regular Senior Management Team (SMT) meetings and general staff meetings aimed at cultivating a working culture that promotes team spirit and effectiveness.
The MFDP release says in the fight against corruption, the current management team is on record for improving systems and controls within the Ministry and taking punitive action against individuals caught in the act of misuse of entrusted public resources.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning encourages media entities to seek clarifications on news relating to government’s fiscal operations from relevant authorities within the MFDP before publications. The Ministry cautions against spreading false news, especially on fiscal operations of government because it has the propensity to undermine the economic viability of the State by scaring away potential investments and development assistance. Press Release
The National Elections Commission says it is not aware of the pending political rally of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) scheduled for Saturday, August 19, but the CDC claims it has written the NEC.
The commission says the rally under the banner, ‘Blue Day’ which is expected to mobilize about two million people in the streets of Monrovia is being planned without its acknowledge.
But the National Secretary General of the CDC, Janga Augustus Kowo, denies, saying that the CDC secretariat wrote the NEC and that the communication was delivered on Tuesday, August 15, at the headquarters of NEC received by a lady identified as Mercy Yapkpazue.
Mr. Kowo says the CDC is not naïve enough to not have written the NEC officially about its upcoming political campaign, though he did display copy of the letter purported written to the NEC.
NEC Chairman Cllr. Jerome Korkoya told a press conference on Wednesday, 16 August in Monrovia that the Coalition is yet to formally inform the commission about the rally.He says if authorities of the CDC did not inform the NEC, the rally will be in violation of guidelines of the commission.
Mr. Kowo calls on Cllr. Korkoya to check his records well before making such public utterances against the CDC. Guidelines of the National Elections Commission require all political parties and independent candidates participating in the October 10, 2017 Representatives and Presidential elections to present their calendar of events to the NEC for proper coordination to avoid clashes between and among rival parties.
Chairman Korkoya says it is the prayer of the commission that the Coalition will do a formal communication to the electoral house to avoid coming in conflict with the electoral guidelines.
He stresses the need for political parties to responsibly handle electoral matters in order to maintain peace and stability across Liberia. Chairman Korkoya’s comment followed utterance the CDC youth wing chairman, Jefferson Koijii that the company hired by the NEC to print ballots for the October 2017 election is alleged owned by a relative of Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai, who is candidate for the Presidency.
Cllr. Korkoya explains that the company is based in Europe with no indication of having local branch or any contact in the country, noting that Koijii’s assertion is intended to spark tension ahead of the polls. A total of 2,183,683 Liberians have registered to participate in the impending elections, according to the NEC.
By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor-Editing by Jonathan Browne
Barely one month and three weeks to the October presidential and legislative elections, the chairman of the National Elections Commission or NEC, Cllr. Jerome Kokorya, is expressing fear for his life and members of the commission, alarming alleged threat from Senator Sando Johnson of Bomi County.
Addressing a news conference on Wednesday, 16 August at the NEC headquarters in Monrovia, Chairman Kokorya claims Senator Johnson threatens to deal with him and the NEC board of commissioners.
The NEC boss explains that the threat comes in the wake of recent ruling made by the board of commissioners in the domicile case involving Montserrado County Representative Edwin Melvin Snowe on one hand, and Cllr. Gayah Karmo and Senator Sando Johnson on the other.
The commission ruled in favor of Representative Snowe, but the ruling did not go down well with Senator Johnson, who has taken an appeal to the Supreme Court amid the latest report of alleged threat to deal with the NEC boss and his board of commissioners.
On August 9, the Board of Commissioners denied an appeal from Rep. Samuel Gayah Karmo of the ruling Unity Party, and Senator Sando Johnson of the National Patriotic Party against Rep. Edwin Melvin Snowe of Montserrado County Electoral District #6.
Rep. Snowe is making an unprecedented bid to leave his current district of representation in Montserrado County to vie in Bomi County Electoral district# 1 currently occupied by Rep. Karmo.
Following the NEC recent ruling, lawyers representing Rep. Karmo and Senator Johnson took exception to the decision and immediately pledged to mount an appeal to the Supreme Court, which is currently embroiled in a major impeachment push against three of its justices.
Detailing the alleged threats to members of the press, Chairman Korkoya further explains that on last Monday, he received a called from Sen. Johnson with a threat that he (Johnson) will deal him and the board of commissioners for the ruling brought against him.
Senator Johnson is former member of jailed ex-Liberian president Charles Ghankay Taylor. He is also former chief spokesperson for the Taylor family in Liberia. Korkoya added that Johnson, who is a member of the Liberian Senate, started his threats with insults and has been doing that on a daily basis.
He says not being satisfied with the threat through voice call, the senator allegedly reduced the insults and threats into SMS (text) which is in the possession of the NEC commissioners.
Korkoya notes that Senator Johnson threatened in his text message to deal with the NEC commissioners legally and politically. He says this could mean political assassination or other cruel attacks against his life.
He promises to file a formal complaint to the plenary of the Liberian Senate and other key stakeholders to ask the senator to provide further explanation on his threat.When this paper contacted Senator Johnson via mobile phone, he confirms threatening to deal with the commissioners but legally and politically. He however, denies raining insults on the NEC commissioners and Chairman Korkoya.
Tension continues to mount here ahead of the October elections. Group of lawmakers in the Liberian Legislature recently threatened to impeach three Justices of the Supreme Court for an opinion rendered in the controversial Code of Conduct for public officials, when the Constitution of Liberia protects members of the Judiciary from prosecution for opinions expressed in the line of duty.
The row between the first branch of government and the Judiciary has claimed the attention of the Executive and the Special Representatives of the UN Secretary General to Liberia, with both institutions trying to intervene to resolve the standoff amicably.
By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor-Editing by Jonathan Browne
President Ellen Johnson - Sirleaf has told U.S. group Carter Center’s Chief Executive Officer and Retired Ambassador Mary Ann Peters that the support of Liberia’s partners during the electoral and transitional processes here is very important for the nation and its people.
“These are very important times and I am committed to getting everything right. I am also sure that our political leaders, civil society, partners and all others are resolved to getting it right for the sake of Liberia”, President Sirleaf said Wednesday, 16 August.
Mrs. Sirleaf made the remark Wednesday when she received the Carter Center CEO Madam Peters when the Retired Ambassador led a 7-Member delegation to the Liberian Presidency at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Monrovia.
She told Madam Peters that consistent with the Farmington River Declaration, the Government of Liberia and all of the political actors will ensure not just free, fair, credible and transparent elections, but one that is very peaceful and violence-free to consolidate the democratic gains of the country.
Madam Peters is on a week-long visit to Liberia as guest of Carter Center Liberia Office. The Executive Mansion says President Sirleaf acknowledges the impressive partnership between Liberia and Carter Center, noting that the American institution has been a great friend to Liberia and its people.
She welcomes the delegation to Liberia and assures that her government is keen in helping to make the mission to Liberia a success. Key government officials including the Ministers of Justice, Health and Internal Affairs have provided insights on their partnership with Carter Center and commended the Center for being a true friend to Liberia and its people.
Also speaking, Retired Ambassador Mary Ann Peters, thanked President Sirleaf for the audience and provided update on her mission to Liberia. The Carter Center CEO has lauded the long-term partnership between Liberia and Carter Center, which she describes as rewarding and fruitful.
According to Madam Peters, Carter Center is keen on observing the presidential and representatives elections in Liberia, but will remain focused on its many projects including the mental health, access to justice, information, peacebuilding programs and identifying triggers or indicators for violence.
She has commended the Liberia National Police for its commitment to neutrality, maturity, professionalism and fairness thus far in handling security towards to the 2017 elections.
Ambassador Peters also highlights some of the many issues affecting women and girls and pledges to work with the government in tackling them. Also making remarks, Chief of Party Pewee Flomoku and Access to Information Lead Person, Thomas Doe Nah provided updates on interventions the Center has made in addressing hurdles identified in line with their respective program. They have acknowledged the cooperation of the government in enhancing their interventions.
Members of Ambassador Peters’ delegation include Dr. Dean Sienko - Vice President for Health; Dr. Eve Byrd - Director of Mental Health; Meaghan Fitzgerald - Mission Director, International Election Observation Mission; Pewee Flomoku – Chief of Party, Liberia; Dr. Janice Cooper, Project Lead, Mental Health Program; Thomas Doe Nah, Project Lead Person – Access to Information and Sarah Yoss.--Press release