By Martin K. N. Kollie |
In this second edition of our series “The Red Rooster from Ducor”, we are spotlighting:
- Foreign Missions and Embassies of Liberia
- The arbitrary arrest and despotic imprisonment of Central Bank employee Alfred Cheeks.
The Rooster’s Crow:
- Foreign Missions and Embassies of Liberia
Liberia has spent over US$44.3 million on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a period of just 3 years (36 months). Out of this amount, we spent over US$12.4 million on 27 embassies and foreign missions in Africa, America, Asia and Europe. The budget of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs this fiscal year is US$13.7 million. Is Liberia compelled to have 27 embassies and foreign missions or is it strategically rational to maintain diplomatic presence in 26 countries?
In my opinion, it is economically wasteful, diplomatically indiscreet and strategically impalpable for this pro-poor government to maintain 27 embassies and foreign missions. What have we got as a nation and people for spending millions on all these foreign missions and embassies? While Sierra Leone has only 19 embassies and foreign missions, Liberia has 27 even though Sierra Leone has an annual fiscal envelop of over US$780 million while Liberia has just US$563 million.
An Act of National Legislature established the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on December 31, 1971 with the mandate to formulate, interpret and articulate the foreign policy objectives of the Government of Liberia. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is the foreign relations arm of government that protects and advances Liberia’s economic, political and commercial interest abroad. We encourage Minister Gbehzongar Findley to develop and release a concrete roadmap of foreign policy objectives in line with this mandate and the government’s overall pro-poor agenda.
In addendum, is Liberia’s economic, political and commercial interest protected abroad? From glaring indicators available, Liberia has a weak presence and frail voice globally. Even in Africa, Liberia rarely has a bargaining chip. Trade justice, mutual interest, fairness in socio-economic and political partnership, etc. are yet too far. Can former Senate Pro Tempore Gbehzongar Findley, now Minister of Foreign Affairs make any difference? Here is a budgetary outlook of MoFA in just 3 fiscal years.
Summary of Expenditure FY2015 – FY2018:
FY2015-2016 – US$17,036,561
FY2016-2017 – US$13,528,119
FY2017-2018 – US$13,744,377
Out of this amount, Liberia has directly spent over US$12.4 million on foreign missions and embassies. Besides what Liberia is spending for Administration and Management (US$9,155,830) under the budget of MoFA, US$4,588,547 is being spent directly on foreign missions and embassies this fiscal year (2017-2018). In actuality, Liberia is spending over US$4.5 million on just 27 foreign missions and embassies in 12 months.
It is important for Liberians to know where their embassies and foreign missions are located around the world and what each of these embassies receives in terms of budgetary appropriation. This is a budgetary summary for fiscal year 2017-2018:
- Permanent Mission, United Nations – US$322,412
- Liberian Embassy, Washington DC – US$328,772
- Consulate General, New York – US$230,892
- Liberian Embassy, Paris – US$265,289
- Liberian Embassy, Brussels – US$205,728
- Liberian Embassy, London – US$244,720
- Liberian Embassy, Rome – US$138,540
- Liberian Embassy, Berlin – US$223,461
- Liberian Embassy, Beijing – US$248,628
- Liberian Embassy, Tokyo – US$348,672
- Liberian Embassy, Rabat – US$131,808
- Liberian Embassy, Tripoli – US$36,960
- Liberian Embassy, Cairo – US$138,036
- Liberian Embassy, Addis Ababa – US$186,720
- Liberian Embassy, Pretoria – US$140,640
- Liberian Embassy, Abuja – US$184,272
- Liberian Embassy, Accra – US$130,776
- Liberian Embassy, Abidjan – US$160,760
- Liberian Embassy, Conakry – US$134,772
- Consulate General, N’Zerek – US$67,764
- Liberian Embassy, Freetown – US$135,084
- Liberian Embassy, Dakar – US$137,580
- Liberian Embassy, Yaoundé – US$87,004
- Liberian Embassy, Kuwait – US$69,984
- Liberian Embassy, Qatar – US$105,027
- Liberian Embassy, Geneva – US$90,142
- Liberian Embassy, Brazil – US$94,140
- Total: US$4,588,547
The total amount stated above is excluding donors’ funding/support. This accounts for only on-budget support, and not off-budget support. This is a more concise outlook of the budget of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for this fiscal year:
- Foreign Missions and Embassies – US$4,588,547
- Administration and Management – US$9,155,830
- Total – US$13,744,377
These are few fundamental questions:
- What is the foreign and domestic policy of Liberia under this pro-poor administration? Because under Ellen’s administration, Liberia’s foreign policy was BEGGING while its domestic policy was CORRUPTION?
- To what extent is Liberia’s interest protected abroad?
- Does Liberia have trade justice and bargaining chip? If not, how can it pursue this paradigm?
- What and where are the benefits of establishing 27 embassies and foreign missions in 26 countries?
- What is Liberia doing to reduce its high appetite for foreign aid and grant?
- How much are foreign embassies raising from visa fees and other financial transactions per annum? Can MoFA give us a clear financial picture of revenues raised from visa fees for the past 3 years?
- The arbitrary arrest and despotic imprisonment of Central Bank employee Alfred Cheeks:
Recently, CBL arbitrarily suspended one of its staffs, Alfred Cheeks, who allegedly released a payment check of US$52,000 expended to facilitate a huge Presidential delegation to Senegal, Morocco and France. What is even disgustingly abysmal is that Cheeks was also humiliated, arrested, detained and imprisoned by security operatives of NSA under this pro-poor for allegedly releasing public information.
What wrong or sin did Cheeks commit by revealing information on public expenditure? Don’t we deserve to know especially when public finances are being expended by those in authority? I thought access to public information is a right in accordance with the 2010 Freedom of Information Law and the 2009 Public Financial Management Law.
The ‘Right to Know’ and have ‘access to public information’ is inescapably essential to ensuring public accountability, integrity, trustworthiness, openness and transparency. The sustainability of democracy and peace is anchored to the right to access public information, especially information on public finances and assets.
The arrest and imprisonment of Alfred Cheeks by this pro-poor government is not only pro-despotic and pro-autocratic, but it echoes the reemergence of a repressive system. The days of spewing out anti-democratic venoms against peaceful and patriotic citizens must come to an end. The brutal days of Doe’s SATU and Taylor’s ATU are over.
What legal authority does NSA have to even arrest, imprison and investigate Cheeks for releasing public information? NSA is in gross violation of its National Security and Intelligence Act of 2011. In fact, Alfred Cheeks is a patriot of our nation in my view. His ethical action is in line with our laws and has ignited a new national debate for this pro-poor government to launch an “OPEN EXPENDITURE INITIATIVE” and an “OPEN REVENUE INITIATIVES”.
The hallmark of a pro-poor government is openness, and not secrecy or confidentially of public finances. There is nothing wrong with releasing information on public finances. The arbitrary arrest of Cheeks is in a violation of Section 1.4(a) of 2010 Freedom of Information Law and Part 1 Section 1 and Section 2 of 2009 Public Financial Management Law. The government was in error to have arrested Alfred Cheeks and this shenanigan has to STOP!
- Reduce embassies and foreign missions from 27 to at most 17 because maintaining some of these embassies/foreign missions have no diplomatic, socio-economic and political benefits for our nation. Let us learn from Sierra Leone. This is a cost-saving measure as well.
- Launch an Open Expenditure Initiative (OEI) and Open Revenue Initiative (ORI). These 2 programs I am recommending are similar or analogous to Ellen’s Open Budget Initiative (OBI). An Open Expenditure Initiative (OEI) and Open Revenue Initiative (ORI) will regularly and adequately inform citizens about public expenditures.
Our ultimate interest is to ensure that our government does what is RIGHT and RIGHTEOUS in the best interest of our PEOPLE. We have a national duty never to economize with THE FACTS but demonstrate a sense of PATRIOTISM. We have made a solemn pledge to remain loyal to Liberia, and no one else.
From the largest slum of West Point and the top of Ducor, I see a NEW LIBERIA rising above the African Continent. HOPE is blooming – Change is in sight – Liberia will rise.
About The Author: Martin K. N. Kollie is a student studying Economics at the University of Liberia, a youth and student activist, and a global columnist. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org