Boakai’s inauguration has become a splendid showcase of financial prowess, with a whopping $650,000 being splurged on the festivities. From strutting around in designer suits to giving his home a half-million-dollar makeover, it seems Boakai is set on making a grand entrance – and Liberian taxpayers are picking up the tab. This extravagant affair is shaping up to be the litmus test for Boakai’s much-touted integrity.
President-elect Joe Boakai’s upcoming inauguration, scheduled for next Monday, promises to be a budgetary masterpiece, drawing funds from a delightful concoction of private and public coffers. While the Weah government handles the bills for the event itself, the intrigue lies in how Boakai’s inauguration team is juggling corporate contributions from wealthy benefactors and Lebanese businessmen. Some of these contributors have an additional agenda: securing lucrative government contracts.
Legal experts are shaking their heads, pointing out the irony that Liberian law prohibits government contractors from greasing the palms of candidates and political action committees. However, a convenient loophole allows these contractors to shower unlimited donations for post-election shindigs like presidential inaugurations. It’s a masterclass in bending the rules, as contractors hope these contributions will translate into lucrative contracts with the new administration.
The charming dance of pay-to-play politics, where government contractors fund those responsible for awarding government contracts, has its own negative effects on economic growth. Joseph Baoakai campaigned to prohibit bribery in obtaining government contracts but Lebanese businessmen are however are cozying up to him to take advantage of this unregulated loophole provided by the inordinately lavished inauguration budget – insider sources suggests that they have already begun constructing enhancements to the new president’s home costing over $500,000.
Miatta Fahnbulleh, President-elect Boakai’s longtime friend, is spearheading the National Steering Committee for the Presidential Inauguration, armed with a generous $650,000 from the government. The committee is geared up for the 26th Presidential Inauguration, complete with a prayer service at the Benson Street Mosque, a youth jamboree, and an intercessory service at his church, the Effort Baptist Episcopal Church in Paynesville. The grand finale will take place on January 22, 2023, with the official inauguration on the Capitol grounds, followed by a presidential luncheon.
Madam Fahnbulleh is promising a simple yet sophisticated event, adorned with soft sensuality and poetic cadence. However, beyond these tantalizing details, the origins of funding for some of the extravagant donations remain shrouded in mystery. The National Steering Committee, seemingly allergic to transparency, has offered no account of its colossal inauguration budget. There appears to be little commitment to an independent audit after the festivities or any assurance that expenditures will align fully with the law.
Fahnbulleh’s justification is that the expenditure for the CDC inauguration amounted to US$900,000, and Boakai’s event, at US$650,000, falls short by $250,000. However, this argument does not withstand scrutiny because Weah’s inauguration drew approximately 5000 guests and took place at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Stadium, whereas Boakai has extended invitations to only 2000 guests, and his event will be hosted at the Capitol grounds.
Nepotism seems to be back in vogue, adding a touch of irony to the whole affair. Boakai has appointed not only his son, Tan Tan Boakai, but also his daughter, Randa Boakai, to the committee. In a surprising twist, Queen Johnson, currently indicted by the Liberia National Police for murder, and his nephew, Jake Kabakollie, are also gracing the committee. Boakai’s appointment choices for The National Steering Committee and the potential appointment of his nephew, Jake Kabakollie, to the National Port Authority indicate a willingness to blur the lines between political and family spheres – Queen Johnson’s appointment also shows a willingness to discard the rule of law when convenient.
During the campaign, Boakai campaigned that government positions should be ideally filled based on merit and qualifications rather than familial relationships. An appointment of Mr. Kabakollie will undermine Boakai’s own integrity. It will also undermine the principles of fairness and meritocracy because an appointment of Mr. Kabakollie will be based on his relationship to the President-elect rather than his ability to perform the job effectively.
Joseph Boakai’s triumph in the runoff elections on November 14, 2023, saw him defeating President Weah by a margin of 20,528 votes out of 1.5 million voters. He rode into office on the promises of integrity, vowing to lead by example and root out corruption in the public service.