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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Liberia: Hire or Fire UP Government Faces Payroll Puzzle

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By Festus Poquie

Liberia’s $300 million wage bill is giving the country’s new President Headache as he ponders ways to implement his promise of creating jobs, increasing civil servants salaries and running a small government simultaneously.
Nearly one month in office, President Joseph Boakai and his cabinet are finding it difficult to handle the country’s wage bill.

From the Executive Mansion to the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning and the Liberia water and Sewer Corporation every minister and head of entity complain about the size of the workforce.

Mohammed Ali, LWSC Managing Director-designate told Senators Monday the entity is weighted down by employees who services are not necessarily needed.

“This level of employment without ascertaining whether these employees met the requisite requirement is worrisome.

“We do not intend to sack people but to Commission Human Resource audit.”

Boakai’s administration is exploring multiple options to solve the payroll but no clear prescription yet.

Finance ministry officials are pursuing a consolidated review of the workforce to determine “necessary adjustments.”

The Civil Service Agency has put a freeze on new employment, promotion and pay rise. Other agencies are examining payrolls to establish whether or not people on the register are legitimate employees.

These exercises could mostly likely force the President into two scenarios: reducing salaries of employees to make the wage bill affordable; layoff people and create space for new hires. Either way it goes, the political economy will be impacted.

The process could potentially lead to a shrinking workforce in a payment system beset by decades of fraud, waste and abuse amidst growing budget deficit and public debt portfolio.

In 2019, the International Monetary Fund said the country’s wage bill was lacking transparency and credibility. Key policy reform was needed to free up fiscal space, the Fund said.


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