The Inquirer is a leading independent daily newspaper published in Liberia, based in Monrovia. It is privately owned with a "good reputation".

CDCians Vs Civil Servants’ Inclusion Interrupts Nat’l Budget

Things have fallen apart at the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) as it has at the Independent Human Rights Commission, the Governance Commission, the LIGIS as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, just to name a few and stakeholders must handle this and do something before it is too late.

Latest reports from the LRA speak of a serious leadership crisis embedded in pride, disrespect, ego and pomposity and that situation is said to be having a devastating impact on national revenue collection.

The rift is said to be undermining revenue collection and as reported in the media, documents originating from both offices are not being signed at the two extremes as the two men are A and B signatories while operations are slowed and employees are worried they will not get paid in time.

Revenue collection is falling drastically. One source said the LRA is supposed to collect US$50.4 million for February. Collection target as of February 21 was US$37.2 million, but the actual amount collected is US$21.8. With less than a week to go to March, the LRA has collected just 43 percent of its February target.

However, a Liberian observer said, “If it continues, without early resolution, one of Liberia’s best, professional, proficient, and prestigious entities will crumble, leaving an upsetting effect on the country’s economy and development trajectory.”

Multiple media reports for example on major talks shows like Okay Morning Rush, Prime Morning Drive and Freedom FM as well as in major newspapers have confirmed that Commissioner General Thomas Doe Nah and his deputies are at war.

The information is that the crisis erupted recently when the newly appointed Deputy Commissioner for Administration, Samuel Bennett, Jr., allegedly wrongly effected multiple changes and employed up to 20 new staff, most of whom are professedly partisans of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) without the knowledge and or consent of the Commissioner General who was on an official duty out of the country.

According to reports gathered, Commissioner General Nah rejected the decisions carried out by Bennett and the Deputy for Technical Affairs Gabriel Montgomery, and he therefore reversed their actions.

It is said that Bennett insisted and ordered the recruited and transferred staff to stay in their positions and such reported defiance and arrogance by Bennett have since drawn the battle line between the two top officials.

This situation has further sent shockwaves of fear and instability among employees who are being branded either as “CG’s people” or “Bennett’s people” and this reported cohesiveness is broken while trust is dissipating as nobody knows who to trust and who not.

The workforce is becoming fragmented and factionalized and team spirit, one of the core values of the LRA, is threatened.

Accordingly, Bennett had refused, according to insiders, to recognize the CG as his boss, claiming that the CG has disrespected him and his authority, while the CG claimed that he is the actual head of the LRA and his decisions must be respected by his deputies.

Section 21 of the LRA Act says the Commissioner General, among other things, “is responsible for the administration and supervision of the execution of the Liberia Revenue Code, the direction and day-to-day management and administration of the Authority, the supervision of officers, managerial staff, and other employees of the Authority, as well as other matters of the Authority.”

Sections 17(1) of the Act further specify that “the Commissioner General shall be the Chief Executive Officer of the Authority.” Further, Section 17(4) states that “The Deputy Commissioners General shall assist the Commissioner General in the execution of his/her functions and shall be primarily responsible for functions as contained in the HRMP as approved by the Board,” and that “The Commissioner General may assign additional responsibilities as may be required to accomplish the objectives of the Authority.”

Bennett’s reported failure to adhere to these laws, and the CG’s unwillingness to give in to Bennett is the crust of the conflict which could cripple the LRA while Bennett is contending that at no time did, he attempt to assume the role or functions of his boss, Commissioner e Nah, but has the right, as per the Human Resource manual to rotate staff and employ.

He referred to Section 7.17 of the LRA Act which he claims states that, “On job rotation policy, the authority shall take the general rotation of certain categories of staff from one permanent place of work to another.”

Additionally, he argued that the Act states that the rotation shall take place within 24 months but, the authority reserves the right to rotate in any category it deems necessary to obtain its objective and that departmental head is responsible for preparing the rotation scheduled within two months prior to the end of the authority’s fiscal year.

According to sources, in as much as Bennett may be right with all these arguments, at the end of the day, he needs to share the decision with the CG as provided for in Sections 21 and 17 of the LRA Act and that is reportedly the Commissioner General’s point of contention.

Domestic revenue collection has been rising and has jumped from US$400 million to US$700 million in the last four years which is the highest in the country’s history and extending that to nearly US$800 million in the just passed budget would be the biggest fantasy ever, with the current situation at the LRA.

The LRA needs to get back on track and become stable more than ever before as it is without doubt that Nah has changed the story of the LRA and is now working out modalities to take the revenue to one billion in the next few years of his tenure and if is possible, it cannot be with the current power struggle, greed for power and flagrant disrespect by deputies.

Many Liberians are believing that what is happening at the LRA should not be happening at a time when Liberians are preparing to go to the polls because the entire country depends on the LRA to fund the election.

The House of Representatives on February 21, 2023 passed a national budget of US$794.5 million and if the Senate concurs, which is unquestionably possible, Liberia will for the first time be hitting close to US$800 million in revenue.

Therefore, the public is discussing that the Joint Committees on Budget at the Legislature must not just concentrate on passing a budget close US$800 million, instead, it must intervene in a crippling infighting at the LRA, the only government entity, responsible to access, collect and account for revenue in Liberia to produce the money.

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