Finance Clarifies US$13m Story

The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare experienced US$31 million increment in its aggregate budget disbursement for the just concluded 2012/13 Fiscal year indicating 57.7% jump; the  Ministry of Finance has announced.

Finance Minister, Amara Konneh, told this paper on Monday that with the help of the European Union’s direct budgetary support and other bilateral commitments coupled with government’s generated revenue, the country’s health sector budget was increased from US$ 45 million in FY 2011/2012 to US $ 71 million in FY 2012/2013.

The Minister’s explanation is against misstated information that the Health sector did not benefit from the US$13 million provided via the European Union’s direct budget support.

“It is important to establish that the Health Sector spent US$45 million in the FY11/12 budget. Of that amount, the French Government provided US$1 million while the USAID provided US$4.4 million as part of the FARA program and from the revelation, it means that the Government of Liberia’s contribution to the Health Sector was US$40 million during FY 11/12,” Konneh explained.

“If you look at the FY12/13 approved Budget, Health Sector gets appropriation of US$71 million. Looking at Government’s contribution to Health Sector in FY11/12, this is an increase of US$31 million,” the Minister said providing sources for the US$31 million.

“Let’s see where the US$31 million came from: US$14 million from USAID: even though USAID, under the FARA program, was reimbursing us only US$8 million, the Government agreed to add US$14 million to Health Sector budget,” he said.

“The US$1 million from the French Government is debt repayment that the French Government has agreed to give to the Health Sector. US$13 million from EU as sector budget support. This is support from the EU to be used on the Health Sector for specific purposes. From USAID, EU and the French Government, there is a total contribution of US$28 million. This means that the Government of Liberia added US$ 3 million over what was spent on Health in FY11/12,” Konneh stated.

“This is how the Health Sector budget came to be US$71 million in the FY12/13 approved National Budget. Minister Konneh dispelled the rumours regarding the Europeans funding towards the Health Sector. Contrary to noise in the media that US$13 million was diverted from the EU, I can assure you that no money was stolen or diverted.  The money was inclusive of our budget as approved by the National Legislature for FY2012/13, specifically against the appropriations of the health sector and does not constitute a separate and/or new allocation as being interpreted,” he said.

“I find it very ludicrous and repugnant that anyone would think that US$13 million can be easily stolen from the public treasury. To even speculate, in my opinion, is to display ignorance or the lack of understanding of our public financial management systems,” he added.

“Even though we wrote the Health Ministry requesting that they provide us bank account for the deposit of the EU fund, but while consulting further with the Department of Budget, we were advised that the support was already factored into the Sector’s budget as a “direct budget support”, and as such was to be administered from the central account and disbursed to the respective beneficiary agencies within that sector including the Ministry of Health.  This is in line with the regular disbursement procedure of government,” Minister Konneh indicated.

He then implored the media to remain robust and aggressive in tracking the development impacts from aid and non-aid revenue but enjoined the media to seek all available facts before going public so as to avoid confusion with the public.