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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Liberia: CSA Slashes Consultancy Budget by $2 Million

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By Matthew Turry

The Civil Service Agency has asked the  General Auditing Commission to conduct a detailed examination of payroll compliance across all 103 spending entities.

The audit will cover the period from January 1, 2022, to December 31, 2023, and aims to shed light on financial mismanagement and irregularities within the system, CSA Director General Josiah Joekai said at  a press briefing on Tuesday in Monrovia.

Joekai highlighted widespread discrepancies, inefficiencies, and irregularities that have led to an excessively bloated payroll. Currently, there are 67,746 personnel across the government entities, resulting in an alarming average monthly wage expenditure of US$23,543,874.64, he said.

The CSA recently conducted an employee headcount exercise in select spending entities and found concerning results.

For instance, at the Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs, 69 individuals could not be properly accounted for, suggesting the presence of ghost employees. Similarly, at the Liberia National Police, 98 employees remained untraceable, raising suspicions of fictitious personnel on the payroll.

Internal audits by the Internal Audit Agency consistently reveal issues that undermine the integrity and efficiency of the system, Joekai told reporters. These issues include payments for services not rendered, fraudulent payments, payments to ghost employees, and the continued payment of salaries to employees who have left their positions. The CSA Director General also highlighted the previous administration’s spend of US$6.1 million on consulting services in the last fiscal year, despite the lack of quality provided.

To address these disparities, Joekai emphasized the need for comprehensive reforms to rectify the discrepancies and prevent further misuse of public funds. In light of this, the CSA has requested the GAC to conduct a forensic system and financial audit of the CSA’s governance and fiscal operations from January 1, 2018, to December 31, 2023. The audit is scheduled to begin in July 2024 and will be covered in the GAC’s budget.

The CSA is closely collaborating with the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning to finalize the payroll automation process. This initiative aims to transition from the manipulated Alternative Temporary Automated Pay System (ATAPS) to the more efficient Civil Service Management system.

During this transition, the CSA intends to keep the ATAPS version of the payroll accessible for the upcoming audits to ensure all discrepancies are appropriately captured.

In terms of fiscal prudence, the CSA proposed a consultancy budget allocation of US$2,000,000 for the upcoming fiscal period, resulting in savings of US$4.1 million compared to the previous administration’s expenditure on consultancy services.

In line with former President George Manneh Weah’s directive to suspend all new employment and service contracts across government institutions, the CSA has blocked the salaries and removed from the payroll all individuals employed as of December 18, 2023.

Additionally, the CSA will reverse all promotions and salary increments made during the period of the presidential directive in collaboration with the concerned spending entities.

These measures aim to address the rampant financial mismanagement and irregularities within the civil service and pave the way for a more accountable and efficient system, according to CSA Director General.

 

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