MONROVIA: The United States’ ambassador to Liberia has accused lawmakers of “buttering their own bread” and “feathering their own nests” by underfunding hospitals and service centers, leaving rural populations “destitute.”
Michael McCarthy stated that he recently visited several rural counties and “was startled and deeply troubled to encounter multiple county hospitals that received not one penny of what they were promised in the 2022 budget.”
In a statement issued late Monday, he stated that $100,000 would be donated to hospitals.
Meanwhile, the US has committed to spending more than $40 million to create a laboratory in Liberia, which will require $3-4 million in yearly funding from the national government.
“The blocking of resources is so complete that it must be institutional,” McCarthy, whose country is a long-standing supporter of Liberia, said.
He also stated that none of the rural service centers he visited had received any of their budget allocation for 2022, which is typically around $13,000.
According to him, one such center, which received its allotment five years ago, has not printed marriage certificates for four years since the printer broke.
“It was striking that the further I went from Monrovia, the more elaborate and explicit were the reasons given for the lack of funding from the central government,” said the ambassador, whose successor was appointed in March.
“While hospitals went without, and service centers withered on the vine, (Liberia’s) 30 senators and 73 representatives spent $65 million feathering their own nests.”
He also chastised MPs, senators, and ministers for enjoying duty-free goods and paying lesser taxes than ordinary citizens.
“If the US Congress asks how the elite in Monrovia treat destitute citizens in the leeward counties, my honest response would have to be, ‘those citizens are treated with neglect that borders on contempt,” McCarthy stated.
Graft is widespread in Liberia, which is ranked 142nd out of 180 nations in Transparency International’s 2022 corruption perceptions index.
Several hundred Liberians peacefully demonstrated in December in response to the opposition’s appeal to protest government inefficiency and President George Weah’s claimed indifference to the condition of ordinary Liberians.
Weah will run for re-election in the presidential election on October 10.
Fighting corruption was one of his primary campaign promises in the past election, but the US accused three of his close supporters of corruption and sanctioned them last year.
Weah received their resignations in September.
Liberia was founded as a colony by former US slaves in 1822 and became Africa’s first republic 25 years later.
It is still recuperating from two civil wars that killed 250,000 people.