‘Dig Hole, Cover Hole’ Not Sustainable Policy - Ex-AG Morlu On Gov’t’s Back Again

‘Dig Hole, Cover Hole’ Not Sustainable Policy - Ex-AG Morlu On Gov’t’s Back Again

Liberia’s former Auditor General, Mr. John SembeMorlu, II, has warned the Government of Liberia(GoL) that ‘dig hole, cover hole’ is not a sustainable policy or practice.

According to Morlu, if the GoL continues such policy or practice, eventually, there will be no hole left to dig.

Former AG Morlu sounded the caveat when he responded to the Minister of the Ministry of Finance and Development(MFDP), Mr. Samuel Tweah recent posting in multiple WhatsApp chat rooms.

Minister Tweah, in his recent posting in multiple WhatsApp chat rooms, wrote a long article about how he is "Transforming" Liberia.

Minister Tweah, who also questioned Morlu’s degree and political stance on issues, among other things, bragged that President George Manneh Weah is the greatest President and was doing everything to improve the living condition of the Liberian people.

However, ex-AG Morlu, in response, said: “That's great news and we all want a minister who will bring about Transformation. All Liberians stand to benefit from his transformation leadership. Bravo.”

But he warned: “Don't take international people money just to pay salaries. Dig hole, cover hole is not asustainable policy or practice. Don't print money to pay salaries. . Don't borrow money just to pay salaries. Borrowed money should only be used on programs and investments aimed at building the long term productive capacity of the country. Grow the economy, then the revenue will increase, and then you can afford to meet all of your obligations.”

“The minister of finance is supposed to focus on the Real Economy, jobs, jobs and more jobs for the citizens, stop the talking and pontifications and find the money and pay your citizens salaries, then you transform,” the fearless former AG, among other things, intimated.

It can be recalled that a fortnight ago, former AG Morlu struck nerves when he said that the IMF had made the dismissal of some 400 employees from the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) as one of the prerequisites for Liberia entering its Extended Credit Facility.
But the CBL dismissed reports that it was planning a massive layoff of some 400 of its staff in compliance with the International Monetary Fund’s request to slice the wage bill. 

In a statement, the CBL countered that reports of massive redundancies, to the tone of 400 staff – something that would amount to more than 50% of all its employees, is simply untrue.  “This story, first reported in the Frontpage Africa Newspaper on Friday, 1 November 2019, has the potential of sowing discontent at the Bank and within the wider society and, in so doing, undermine the recent hard work by a renewed and re-invigorated CBL Board of Governors to enhance the credibility of the Bank as the Monetary Authority of the Country.”

The CBL said that, like other public sector organizations, it is implementing an austerity program that will qualify the Government of Liberia for an IMF-Supported Program, which is critical to the country’s economic recovery in the medium term. “However, nowhere is CBL planning to lay-off more than half of its entire human resources. Admittedly, the current level of CBL staffing is unsustainable, but the final figure, which is yet to be decided by the Board of Governors, is not likely to exceed 10% of its wage bill and that most of the expectedly redundant staff could be considered under a contractual arrangement.”

While the ongoing negotiation is in an advanced stage, the bank said there are still issues to be concluded between the IMF staff and the Government, of which the CBL is an important player.

The CBL averred: “The austerity program that CBL is currently implementing was necessitated by several years of deficit financing, going as far back as several past administrations. More than this, CBL austerity program involves more than just laying off staff. It also includes other components of the budget. It is important to also note that the proposed budget cut of the Bank is intended to strengthen the financial position of the Bank to enable it effectively perform its primary function of ensuring both monetary and financial stability.”

The bank is hoping that the above austerity measures will bring CBL operating expenditure under control by 2020, making it unnecessary for the institution to resort to the use its reserves for deficit financing. “CBL would like to work with a nationalistic and patriotic media that puts Liberia first, rather than media institutions whose publications cause panic and bring about social upheaval, undermining the national economy.”

It can be recalled that in 2006, after an extensive international search, the European Union recruited John SembeMorlu, II to become the Auditor-General of Liberia. Morlu assumed office in April 2007 and his tenured ended in April 2011. Morlu has extensive background in public accounting and management consulting, working major companies in the USA such as Unisys and Bearing Point.

Morlu produced more reports, including financial, compliance, internal controls, operational and also fraud investigative reports that indicted high profile officials. Morlu audits are highly covered by local and international media including Newsweek, Businessweek, Africa Confidential. Morlu audit reports are also referenced in State Department Reports and UN Secretary General Reports to the Security Council on Liberia. Morlu is highly credited for financial management improvements in Liberia.

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