Claim: The legislature allocated over US$65 million in 2022 for salaries and operations.
Source: Michael McCarthy, US Ambassador to Liberia Statement
Full Text: US Ambassador to Liberia, Micheal McCarthy has been in the news recently because of his statements made during a visit across Liberia.
He claimed the Legislature, the branch of the Liberian government that is clothed with the responsibility of Lawmaking, Oversight and Representation.
Few of the key things he said are, “I suspect the country folk do not know that the Liberian economy grew by 3.7% in 2022. And I am quite sure they have not been told that the legislature has spent more every year for the past three years buttering their own bread, allocating over US$65 million in 2022 for salaries and operations.”
He went on saying, “That’s correct – while hospitals went without, and service centers withered on the vine, the 30 senators and the 73 representatives spent sixty-five million U.S. dollars feathering their nests. We withhold 25% of the salaries of our Liberian employees at the Residence and at the Embassy to pay their legally mandated income tax to the LRA.
Verification: Since McCarthy accused the legislature of ‘buttering their own bread,’ on April 24, 2023, he has come under serious attack by many lawmakers who claimed that his statement is misleading and an art of interference in Liberian politics as the country goes to election come October 10, 2023.
One person who took the allegation seriously is the President Pro-Tempore of the Liberian Senate, Senator Albert T. Chie.
He accused the United States Ambassador to Liberia, McCarthy, of being supportive of the opposition bloc by creating an unleveled field to their advantage ahead of the October elections.
Excerpt of McCarthy’s statement
Rustolyn Dennis, Representative, Montserrado County District 4, said McCarthy misled the public with his assertion about how the Legislature’s budgets work.
Dennis described the ambassador’s allegation “as excruciating and painful” and has caused confusion among Liberians instead of alerting them about the issues of bad governance.
“Imagine how excruciating and painful it is for you to have a blanketed statement over the entire legislature, ” Dennis said. “Your judgment is not only unfair but highly misleading in some areas. You have confused the citizens more than alerted them. Let me state unequivocally herein, the budget we passed is never US$65M.”
“Next the $40 million [plus] that is passed is not for 30 senators and 73 representatives; rather, it’s for the over four thousand workers in central administration and all the legislative staffers for each member. Your failure to analyze those funds led to your blanket categorization of the legislature.”
However, the Montserrado County lawmaker’s claim that the Legislature’s budget “has never reached US$65 million.
She claimed the body 2022 budget was 65.6 million.
Dennis said In 2021, it was US$39.6 million, and now, US$42.7 million for this year, according to the 2023 budget document. “The monies were allocated for compensation of employees, and the use of goods and services.”
Verification: TSM-Liberia searched the Ministry of Finance’s website and discovered that in 2022, there were 38,792,585 allocated for the the House of Representative while 21,121,295 for the Liberian Senate bringing the total among to US$59,913,880 not US$65 Million as claimed by McCarthy and certainly not US$42.7M as indicated by Dennis.
However, Dennis also claimed that in 2021, the legislature budget was US$39.6 million but according to the Ministry of Finance’s website, the Senate budget was US$14,493,230 and the Representative is US$21,554,032 which amounted to US$36,047,282
Conclusion: From our research, it is safe to say that the US Ambassador to Liberia’s US$ 65 million statement is untrue with the difference of US$5.1 Million.
At the same time, Montserrado County District #4 lawmaker who also came to provide clarity about the US$65.6 million-plus statement got her facts wrong.
They are both wrong and the right budget is US$59,913,880 for 2022 and US$36,047,282 for 2022.
This story was produced with the Center for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID) support.