-Wants FDA Financially Repositioned
By: F. Shelton Gonkerwon
The long dragging financial capacity of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) may probably take an upward trend in the shortest possible time, if the mandate from President Sirleaf is to be implemented by the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning- a mandated intended to supplement and break the financial instability of the entity.
At a meeting with members of the Board of Directors and senior managers at the FDA Friday November 11, 2016 in the Cabinet room at the Foreign Ministry President Sirleaf categorically underscored the noteworthy role played by FDA in revenue generation efforts of the country. She recounted the numerous challenges the entity is faced with in the forest sector while recognizing it as one of the lead pillars in the Liberian economy that should not be left in limbo.
President Sirleaf said it was unfortunate that despite the key role played by the entity in these critical times it has not been able to receive proportional budgetary allocation that could accelerate its valued plans and programs especially in the implementation of the community forestry area. Seemingly realizing the narrow financial position of the entity in the face of the volumes of obligations, she said in a mood of urgency, “FDA needs to be financially stable. There needs to be a proper financial position for the institution to enable it better perform in support of the economy. FDA is a neglected child,” the president stated categorically while instructing the Minister of Finance and Development Planning Boimah Kamara to hasten and work with the management team to ensure that those pressing needs and concerns are addressed in a well-timed manner.
She also called on the Chairman and Board of Directors as well as all contributing partners to FDA to work in a concerted effort over the coming days and weeks to ensure that government earn the desired economy gains. She said the intervention of the Ministry of Finance was very critical saying, “it takes money to make money.”
Earlier FDA Managing Director for Administration Kerderick Johnson who led a ten-member FDA senior staff on behalf of Managing Director Harrison S. Karnwea, Sr. provided the realistic picture of FDA in his presentation including the standing feeble financial position of the entity which continues undermine its efforts in meeting strategic goals. Mr. Johnson told the president that due to inadequate budgetary allocation, rangers who police the forests around the country are paid as low as USD$40.00, something he said gravely hinders the conservation efforts of the entity.
He continued,” Past ministers of the Finance Ministry had failed to listen to our plights; they would only restrict and limit us to any budgetary appropriation deemed necessary in their own calculation thereby undercutting our plans and programs. “We are obligated to contribute more than USD$10, 000,000.00 to the national budget. And we are constrained to effectively perform. Currently, we cannot meet our excess payroll for contractors. These contractors are so dear to us because without them we cannot succeed. Thus we use portion of the monies collected from the checkpoints across the country are used to pay the contractors. We sought the approval of the board. We are often in deficit since we cannot timely meet the payroll needs of these contractors given the decline in revenue collection as a result of the rainy season.” Mr. Told the President emphatically that FDA was in the loop and therefore financially incapacitated so that the management is often constrained to delve into allotment for goods and services to pay these contractors without which the FDA cannot meet its target. He promised the president that FDA stands ready to double up in performance and other commitments, when given the desired financial support.
FDA staff that sat and attentively listened to the president puffed an air of relief as they smiled and hailed the president as she squarely hit the nail on the head; in order words when she addressed those issues and provided the way forward. They appeared joyful, redeemed, rescued, and internally renewed.
The Minister of Finance and Development Planning Biomah Karmara for his part solemnly said the his ministry will begin active work with the FDA in line with the spirit and intent of the meeting and vowed to implement the presidential mandate for the good of the FDA, forest sector and the nation. He then advised the FDA team to document all of the needs and concerns raised by the president as project proposals for immediate implementation.
At the conclusion of the meeting one FDA staff was heard happily bellowing,” God has heard our cry; God has given us positive eyes; thank God for President Sirleaf for lifting FDA from the slumber and breaking the shackle that has long kept us neglected even though we are one of the highest contributors to the national budget.”
It can be recalled that during the just ended JIC conference in Monrovia the Managing Director of FDA Harrison S. Karnwea, Sr. used the occasion to call on the Ministry of Finance and by extension the Government of Liberia to obey its own commitment to make available monies owed the forest dependent communities and counties in this fiscal year. This he noted will prevent unnecessary embarrassment which often hinder the work of the FDA. He said if the work of FDA is to be successful especially as the Unity Party Administration under President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf comes to an end they should ensure the perfect fulfillment of commitment in terms of giving the communities and counties their fair share of the percentage from taxes paid by logging companies so as to avoid possible friction that could stall economic activities in the sector.