The Budget Debate: Good Governance Means declaring all Sources of Government Revenue

By Phil George


The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
June 30, 2007


Having read all the arguments in the ongoing budget debate, it is reasonable to conclude that AG Morlu makes some very compelling arguments. Foremost is the argument that all sources of government revenue should be reflected in the national budget, regardless of their financial disposition. In my opinion it’s simply a matter of accountability and transparency, not to mention good governance. I believe all of us would like to know what the government owns and what it doesn’t own. In fact the government has gone to great lengths to document and publish the country’s debt, and so we should expect the nation’s assets is published in its entirety as well. And the best way to make this information available is to include it in the national budget. It’s a superfluous argument to suggest that some of these entities are unprofitable therefore they should not be included in the budget. Even if some of these entities are unprofitable, does it mean that the government’s stake has no monetary value to merit inclusion in the budget? Do corporations exclude revenue sources from their budget of underperforming subsidiaries? If they did, how would they know the real financial picture of their corporation? I think their shareholders would be upset if they found out that the company was hiding something.

To my knowledge a budget consists of line items, therefore if LPRC or CEMENCO doesn’t make a dividend payment to the treasury for fiscal year 2007, then the dollar value in that column would equal zero dollars, right? So what’s the fuss? How will this simple accounting method distort the budget as some in the government would lead us to believe? The president has made fighting corruption her supreme enemy and I believe we’re with her. However, this government risks its credibility if it continues to make absurd arguments about why it can’t include all sources of government revenue in the budget. The Liberian people need to know where their government gets its income, period.

I read some of the budget director’s argument which I find perplexing. For example, why would he include appropriations in the budget for GRC, and the Bureau of Veteran Affairs whilst these institutions have yet to be legally constituted by the legislature? This is a government budget which by law should only appropriate funds for legislated mandates, not anticipated mandates. Does he have the legal authority to author a budget on assumptions that the legislature might fund something so let me include it? What if his assumption is wrong, then, what happens to the appropriation, not to mention the illegal entry in the budget? Also, his explanation why his budget lacked page numbers and table of contents is even more incredulous. I’m sure Mr. Ngafuan is doing his best under difficult circumstances but we can’t move the country on mediocrity.

Fellow Liberians, if we are serious about rebuilding our country then we must be intellectually and morally honest with ourselves. People back home like to say: “This is how we do things here.” But how they did things destroyed the country. For us Liberians returning home and especially those of you in leadership positions please have the courage to change the system for the better. Don’t be tempted to perpetuate a corrupt culture that destroyed the country. Ellen alone cannot change Liberia’s corrupt culture thus it’s in everyone’s best interest to make a difference. The success or failure of Liberia’s emerging democracy depends on our collective vision to change our behavior and we must not fail.

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