The Ministry of National Defense has said it’s appropriate to refund US$1,147,656.35 deducted from the soldiers’ pension fund and expended on operations of the Armed Forces of Liberia.
Speaking at a news conference on Thursday, January 18, 2018, Defense Minister Brownie J. Samukai said the government has agreed to restitute the soldiers’ money in the next budgetary appropriation, following consultation with President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and President-elect, George Weah.
Minister Samukai said the protest by the wives of some of the affected AFL soldiers came to the attention of the government.
“They were concerned that funds used from the account of the AFL activities should not have been used for that purpose; that the government should have allotted money in the budget to cater to the welfare of the soldiers,” Samukai said.
It can recall that in August 2009, the Ministry of National Defense established a ‘contributory savings’ that involved deductions from all ranks of the AFL for their welfare and supplementary pension benefit after their years of honorable service.
As of October 2017, the amount of US$2,062,160.14, including accrued interest was deposited into a pension fund account at EcoBank Liberia.
Samukai said: “It has been established that about US$1,147,656.35 was spent on the AFL and the balance of US$688,946.96 as of November 8, 2017.”
Following the outcry by families of the AFL personnel on the status of said account, the Chief of Staff, Major/General Daniel Dee Ziankahn, ordered an immediate investigation through the Board of Inquiry to determine the status, utilization and balance of said account.
The findings from the report have established that the MOD neither set up guidelines nor a clear policy on how the welfare account would be used.
The ministry authorized the expenditure of funds from this account on soldiers’ welfare without the requisite consent of the AFL high command and that, the ministry did not provide timely information to personnel of the AFL on the operations and utilization of the money.
The findings also reported that MOD failed to seek requisite budgetary appropriations for the welfare of the soldiers and that the ministry should not have used the funds for the benefit of the soldiers without the requisite budgetary appropriation.
That the ministry is also responsible for the procedural lapses in the management, expenditure and utilization of said funds while all monies spent on personnel welfare should have been handled by and through the government’s normal budgetary appropriation and not from the AFL welfare account.
Documents revealed that expenditures made from this welfare account were for the benefit of the soldiers and their families, but that was never done.
Henceforth, the AFL shall manage all of its accounts, including the welfare account, through their chains of command without any hindrance nor interference from authorities of the MOD and there shall be no further withdrawal from this account until such time when a clear and concise policy is put into place that will articulate the management, procedure, criteria and authorization for the usage and expenditure of monies from the AFL’s welfare account.
“The MOD shall not utilize any funds appropriated for or belonging to the AFL for any purpose absolutely whatsoever,” Samukai said.