IT IS VERY CERTAIN THAT THE PRESIDENT and his lieutenants at the General Services Agency (GSA), including Mary T. Broh, have been talking and are talking.
WE DON’T KNOW EXACTLY THE details of most of the talks they have had behind close door.
HOWEVER, FROM SOME REPORTED attributions to President George Manneh Weah recently, one can deduce that indeed the President has been speaking with folks at GSA. And one would see that some of the briefs that they have placed on his desk have not been accurate. And this has made the President to look ill-informed when he acts, including speak, based on those pieces of information before him.
IT IS REPORTED THAT THE President on his very recent visit to Nigeria on March 6, he told Liberians, residing in that sisterly nation, who had gathered at their embassy to welcome him that former Liberian government officials were allowed to buy their “2018 model cars” for as very low as US$200.
MAYBE THE PRESIDENT IS RIGHT that “2018 Model cars” are now out on the market and somewhere in use in Liberia in 2017 before he assumed power on Monday, January 22nd.
A CAREFUL FOLLOWER OF THE unfolding opined, “What I am sure and I think the President himself thinks that way, too, is that one can’t possibly understand why such vehicles were auctioned or dashed or thrown at those former officials for that unbelievable amount, if indeed such cars were among the government of Liberia’s fleet? Maybe he probably said it at the Embassy; but the President reasons and understands well.
“I AM CERTAINLY SURE THAT HE didn’t buy that crap that a 2018 car of any brand or model, which is less than three months old, could be sold for US$200 to former government officials.”
THE PRESIDENT ON HIS VISIT TO France on Friday, February 23, mentioned that some former government officials had refused to hand in their assigned government vehicles to the GSA nor did they turn them in to the most senior civil servants in their places of work as they had now lost legitimacy to be heads of those institutions.
UPON HIS RETURNED TO THE COUNTRY, he gave a two-week ultimatum and in the same vein constituted a Special Presidential Taskforce, including the GSA and its Director General, to go after people who are hiding those cars and have refused to hand them in to his administration.
IT IS TRUE THAT SOME FORMER OFFICIALS of the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf-led administration, through the Liberian government buyback vehicle policy, bought some cars from the GSA. Those officials were issued formal ownership of those cars.
THIS BUYBACK POLICY HAS BEEN in place for many years now. And it has been modified a few times.
AS WE SET OUT TO WRITE THIS EDITORIAL, an employee of the GSA, who asked that his name be kept privy remarked: “How can anyone think that we at GSA will sell a 2018 vehicle for US$200? My boss, Ms. Mary Broh left very good record everywhere she worked in Liberia and I think it is unfair for anyone to tarnish her reputation for acts that were done legally. The records are available and let the taskforce come and review the records before giving out false information to the government. Those who are providing information should give the government the right information. The government should stop listening to these car hungry new appointees who are looking for vehicles to drive and park at drinking centers in the night like some of their predecessors.”
THE GOVERNMENT OF LIBERIA IS right to confiscate vehicles that were alleged to be taken illegally by former government officials if such allegations are proven true. On the other hand, some of these former employees legally purchased the vehicles from GSA through the buyback policy of the government.
OVER THE LAST 12 YEARS, several government ministers or officials and civil servants purchased vehicles from government.
SOME OF THESE OFFICIALS are serving in this current government. The question some Liberians are asking is how far back government is prepared to extend its task force mandate. If it was legal for a minister to purchase vehicle five years ago, it is also legal for those who bought their vehicles six months ago taking advantage of the same policy.
WE ARE TOLD THAT THERE ARE current presidential appointees who bought their vehicles during the last administration and advocating for vehicles to be taken from others who bought theirs about six months ago.
WE THINK THE TASKFORCE should request and publish the list of those who purchased government vehicles over the last six to 12 years.
SOME LAWS ON THE BOOKS MAY be seen as bad laws. However, since it is the law, every civilized society or government including this Liberian government should respect those laws until they are changed or an amendment to the law is done. The Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) has a three-year depreciation policy for vehicles including GOL vehicles. The government of Liberia has a buyback policy that her vehicles can be bought after they are depreciated base on the 2011 amended Liberia Revenue Code section 204 B. The Public Finance Management Act of 2009, Part V.5 states, “The conditions and terms of disposal or sale of immovable or movable assets shall be determined by the General Services Agency”.
THE GOVERNMENT DETERMINED the terms and conditions to sell the vehicles to the buyers through GSA and why should the same government send out police officers to harass her citizens that legally purchased the vehicles. Government should deal with GSA that sold the vehicles based on its functions or buy-back policy.
THE FORMER EMPLOYEES WHO took the vehicles illegally should be penalized and vehicles retrieved. This will serve as a deterrent to or for any future government employee. For those who bought the vehicles within the framework of the law, government should do one or two things. The government should allow them keep the vehicles because they were acquired legally. The second thing is, reimburse those who purchased the vehicles and have them return the vehicles. The reimbursement should be done as soon as the vehicles are returned in the interest or fairness. A pro-poor government should not take money from these former government employees that could be used to sustain their families without reimbursement.
SINCE PRESIDENT WEAH SPOKE against the vehicles purchasing, his government should work with the Legislature to amend the PFM Law and Liberia Revenue Code sections that give GSA the disposal authority of government assets and the depreciation rate respectively.
THIS PRO-POOR GOVERNMENT is for all Liberians and all their rights must be protected!