Senator Amara Konneh

Fajr Prayers Reflections: Reviewing Liberia’s Legislative Special Session and Governance Challenges Ahead

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Fajr Prayers Reflections: Reviewing Liberia’s Legislative Special Session and Governance Challenges Ahead

Fajr prayers reflections
We are officially back on recess after President Joseph Boakai recalled the 55th Legislature from its first break to a Special Session from April 1 to 30, 2024 in accordance with Article 32(b) of the 1986 Constitution to address “time-bound” critical national matters, specifically “securing a financing agreement for the Rural Economic Transformation Project between Liberia and the World Bank and the passage of the National Budget for FY-2024 and pending nominations for key government positions within the targeted 100 days deliverables are critical matters requiring immediate attention.” Well, here is a quick update on our accomplishments:

  1. Passage of the budget: We completed a budget of $748,859,827 national budget envelope, a $46,451,000 increase over President Boakai’s budget proposals he submitted to the Legislature on March 28, 2024. One of the biggest highlights of the budget is the reduction in the Legislature’s outturn budget by nearly $35 million. As a result, nearly all institutions in the Executive Branch got budget increases: education, health, municipal governance, infrastructure, security, and transparency got an increase in their budgets. The devils are always in the implementation.
  2. Non-concessional (substantially low-interest loans) Financing Agreement: I didn’t see one. I attended all our sessions. The MFDP has not been able to respond to our (Senator Dopoh of Rivergee and me) request, made two months ago, for a performance report for all the loans (concessional and non-concessional) our predecessors in the 54th Legislature ratified before we committed our country to new loans. Our current debt portfolio is more than $2 billion, nearly half of our country’s GDP and the amount we got in debt waiver back in 2010.
  3. Confirmation hearings: although a few of us have either abstained or voted “No” in some instances, the Senate has generally confirmed all the President’s nominees, for which I stand to be corrected. In some cases, the President recalled some of his nominations based on the Senate’s advice.
  4. The governance issue at LEC and the energy sector is still a problem that both the Legislature and the President are reluctant to resolve before the rainy season begins. Expect blackouts, load shedding, and increased debts owed to CI-Energies by the next dry season.
  5. A big change is happening in our governance system and it is happening in the Legislature led by the Speaker and President Pro Tempore, and supported by a few of us reformers in both Houses. The change is a “System Audit” of the Legislature, the first since 2006. For beginners, a system audit is an “evaluation of an organization’s financial practices, procedures, controls, and management systems including human resources practice” in the Legislature over the last 18 years. This process determines the Legislature’s compliance with regulatory requirements and other policies set by the Constitution, the Public Financial Management Act of 2009 (Restated in 2021) and the Public Procurement and Concession Act of 2005 (amended in 2010), the latter two passed into law by the very Legislature that has refused to respect them since passage.
    Here is why this change is huge and should be celebrated:
    a) Government spending in Liberia is heavily skewed toward the Legislature. See slide 1
    b) Expenditure per lawmaker in Liberia is the highest in ECOWAS, except Nigeria, in US$ terms and by far the highest in the region relative to per capita income. See slide 2
    c) Relative to GDP, spending by the Liberian Legislature is at least five times higher than elsewhere in ECOWAS. See slide 3.
    d) The Legislature outspent the health and education sectors in the last 6 years (2018-2023), making Liberia a stark outlier. This explains partly why our schools have no instructional materials and money to pay teachers, and why our hospitals and clinics have no drugs and money to pay health workers. See slide 4.
    e) Spending by the Legislature grew rapidly and increasingly overran initial budget allocations between 2018 and 2023, supporting Honorable Musa Hassan Bility’s “money laundering” argument. See slide 5
    f) Most spending by the Legislature during the same period was for goods and services, predominantly under the omnibus allotment “operational expenses,” which raises more suspicions because of its lack of transparency. See slide 6.
    Sources of all slides are MFDP, inter-parliamentary Union, and IMF calculations.
    With this big change in the Legislature, the reformers in there now have the credibility and moral authority to provide oversight to the Executive Branch to ensure accountability and transparency in the execution of the budget since they implement nearly 90 percent of it among the three branches.
    We and our staffers got paid the equivalent of our regular wages for the special sitting, a constitutional obligation, colleagues told me. We didn’t receive any other benefits. I got $7,617 net after taxes and social security deductions.
    Fresh perspectives
    Not much has changed in Liberia’s political governance since I took a seven-year break from politics. Two things develop the more time you spend in politics. One is a “business as usual” mindset, “we did it this way before, we should do it this way again,” and I think that’s a real burden. More importantly, the longer you spend in any institution, you either become complacent and a part of the “business as usual” culture or you reject that culture and take on enemies. These political enemies are vicious and they don’t forgive and forget. I have already started receiving threatening texts on my stance on the LEC issue from some of LEC’s senior management and their yellow journalists who make their living by promoting bad and corrupt leaders and blackmailing the good ones in Monrovia into submission. Not going to happen! We need a fresh perspective on governance in Liberia.
    The mystery of government is not how the three branches work, but how to make them deliver for you. Look, if you build castles in your head and start believing that it’s true, scientists call this “neurosis.” If you start living in that castle in your head too, they call it “psychosis.” And the person who collects the rent for that castle in the developed world is a “psychiatrist.” The same is true if you condition your mind to accept mediocrity from your leaders. They call that “unpatriotism,” and in the case of poor countries, the corrupt lawyers and journalists collect the rent. Don’t do this to yourself. Don’t complain about a damn thing if you remain silent on your government’s inability to give you quality services. Engage your government constructively. Insults and protests don’t work in predatory, corrupt environments. They create more corrupt advocates and opposition politicians who use them as cash cows for themselves.
    Finally, we have so many more exciting things to come this year including reports on CBL lending to GOL outside of our laws, the ad-hoc Committee’s reports on MedTech and CTN, and public hearings on existing audit reports that are collecting dust on the shelves. I’m looking forward to sharing them with you very soon. Thank you for your encouragement and support. I have received hundreds of messages via my website to which I will be responding soon. Keep following us at
    God bless you on this Sunday, and may God bless our country!

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