The attention of the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) 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 paper based its story on an unsubstantiated year-end fiscal reconciliation report of the consolidated account, indicated 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 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 are all concoction of a “financial expert’s” imagination.
Lacking the proper knowledge about the operations of the Ministry with respect to the stewardship of Minister Boima S. Kamara, the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning chooses not only to respond to this misplaced and misleading reporting by Frontpage, which has the propensity to bring the noble journalistic profession into opprobrium but to also provide credible reporting to the citizenry, the business community, development partners, and the media in general on the national budgets and other key initiatives of MFDP before the close of the last fiscal year.
• MFDP categorically states 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.
o Gross Revenue collected at end June 30th, 2017 is estimated at US$550.8 million. 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.
o Total expenditures for FY16/17 is estimated at US$545.73 million.
o Deducting the US$545.73 expenditure from the net revenue of US$547.57 amounts to the US$1.8 million surplus or carried forward mentioned earlier. If there were any indication of a deficit, there would not have been a carried forward to FY17/18.
It is important to state that the Government is currently engaged with the IMF on an Extended Credit Facility Program which has rated the Government for sound macroeconomic management and adherence to fiscal discipline.
• The Ministry also refutes FrontPage allegation that Minister Kamara has usurped the allotment functions of the Deputy Minister for Budget and Development Planning and 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, Minister Kamara has instituted several reforms including the following:
o 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;
o 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;
o In building a cordial working environment among staff of the Ministry, a monthly staff award program has be instituted by the Minister to engender hard work and dedicated service within the work force at the Ministry;
o A laudable achievement that MFDP has lead is the successful completion of Liberia’s Country Self-Assessment Review under the African Peer Review Forum. This is a land mark legacy accolade for our President, Her Excellency Ellen Jonhson Sirleaf, a true champion of good governance; and
o 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.
• In addition to the budget formulation and execution functions, the Ministry of Finance before the end of FY16/17 fiscal year carried out initiatives or programs that support Liberia’s development agenda. Some key activities include:
o In addition to the IMF Extended Credit Facility Program (ECF), the Minister is actively engaged with other international and regional partners including the World Bank, IFC, EU, China, Sweden, Germany, African Union, and ECOWAS Commission in promoting multilateral and bilateral cooperations that are mutually beneficial to all, especially the people of Liberia.
o MFDP completed and published the Midterm Progress Review and Report on the first Agenda for Transformation, which ended in June 2017. Using lessons learnt from this review, the MFDP has started drafting a new five-year development framework out of the National Vision 2030 agenda with domestication of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
o The MFDP has concluded agreement with African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) for Quick win research capacity building support to the Liberia Macroeconomic Policy Analysis Center (LIMPAC). This support will facilitate at least 3 research studies about the Liberian economy and operationalized a modern Research and Econometric Training laboratory being establish within the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning.
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.