Liberia: Protest Looms at EPS

The over hundred Executive Protective Service (EPS) officers who were planning a wide cat protest have abandoned their quest shortly when some of them were spoken to by their bosses to relax their planned action, as plans were underway to have an amicable solution to their issues raised.

The officers were planning to draw the attention of their bosses to their plight by protesting through different forms and means for their salary to be on par with what their colleagues are being paid.

The dissatisfied men and women in the executive service are contending that their colleagues are being paid the sum of US$500 or more while they are making as little as US$200.00 and when taxes are deducted, it ends up between to US$120.00 or US$106.

This, according to the officers who are providing VIP services for top government officials is nothing for them.

The hundred-plus officers of the EPS were recruited on September 20, 2020 with the promise that they would have started with US$200 and low, but they will get their full salary upon the passage of the National Budget.

As it stands, the budget of the EPS has increased from US$ 7 million to US$10.4 million according to the 2022 budget year, but they (leaders of EPS) are yet to meet up with their promise made to the Agents.

According to our source, the officers were recruited from the SABU Unit and the VIP service of the ruling party- Coalition for Democratic Change.

The delay and promises according to some of them were too much thus leading to them planning what was considered a wide cat protest.

Their bosses intervened and they discontinued their planned action because they were again promised by their salary retroactively.

Since the pronouncement, the officers are yet to get their salary as promised.

Because they were promised and their bosses didn’t live up to the assurance, the officers have again started agitating on grounds that they were being lied to.

Since their first plan didn’t work, the officers are again planning to carry out their protest through different means, and by that according to them, the President and those responsible for their salary will do the needful.

According to our source, the unwillingness to have the officers paid has created dissatisfaction among the security personnel assigned with President George M. Weah and other Very Important People (VIP) of Weah’s administration.

“Having over hundred EPS officers who are arm carriers being dissatisfied is a serious security risk to the President and the government in general”, the source said.

According to our source, all of those who are disenchanted are all part of important shifts (assignments) as some have started desertion of the post at night to meet to other needs.

The source said for example, a shift of over 15 persons, only few will serve their post because they are unhappy with how they are being treated.

“The payment thing is demotivating them and because of that, they are not taking the work serious” the source added.

The issue of the salary disparity is not the only problem at that protective service.

Nearly all of the officers at the EPS are dissatisfied with how their salaries were deducted to implement their plan of employees’ mutual Aid fund.

Background Mutual Aid funds:

The beginning of the first year of President George M. Weah, a funding scheme was introduced wherein some members of the Executive Protection Service (EPS) agreed in principle to have a mutual Aid fund which will be distributed among them (EPS agents) after the first term of the President.

They agreed that each month, the sum of US$20 be deducted from their salaries for said purpose.

The process was proceeding well until some missteps were observed by the officers whose money was being cut each month in keeping with their agreement.

What went wrong?

Currently, the collection of mutual Aid at the EPS is at a standstill now because those who are in leadership have directed the money to purchase of land without the consent of the officers.

This is near to the same scheme which was introduced at the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) year’s back, a scheme that led to the downfall of former Minister of Defence, Brownie Samukai.

The US$20 deduction from all of the EPS officers’ salaries came to a standstill about four Months ago according to an insider.

When our informer was asked why the process stopped, the answer was “It is because of financial misappropriation” that caused the stoppage of the program.

The EPS officers of Liberia want their money paid back and in time to them from the period under review as there is no defined statement from their bosses about how their money will be paid.

“What brought the dissatisfaction is that the manager of the Mutual Aid took the money and bought land. This did not go down well with those whose money was being cut. Since that time, the process has stopped”, the source said.

The informer indicated that those who are protecting the President are unhappy due to how they are being treated, but because of their professionalism, they have not made any public statements in regards to the management of their funds.

The informer added, “Very soon if they don’t pay the money, you people will hear some kind of news, just watch and see.”

Our reporter reached out to EPS to speak to the salary disparity, mutual aid management issues, and other happenings at EPS.

What the EPS authority says?

Mr. Philip Moore is the media officer at the EPS who was authorized by Mr. Trokon N. Roberts [Chief 50], Director of that protective services to speak on the matters that are lingering in the corridors of the EPS.

Executives at the EPS acknowledged the dissatisfaction of the Agents.

Moore first addressed the salary disparity and said, “We are aware of the problem and we are working on it. We are doing everything possible so the problem can be solved.”

When he was quizzed what has been the problem that has delayed the payment of the over hundred officers their full salary, the EPS media officer said, “You know it is an intergovernmental business and I cannot say more than this.”

Although, Moore declined to say what the real problem was, but our source said their bosses have also said to them many times that the Ministry of Finance has been the reason why they have not been paid their full salary because they are yet to accept the officers’ inclusion on the regular salary of the EPS.

According to him, the issue of the bodyguards that protect the President in keeping with security cannot be discussed in the public.

When he was pushed he said, “I told you that we are working on it and that’s it! We do not manufacture money here, we do not pay salaries here! We got agencies that are responsible for that and pretty soon they will get their full salary.”

When he was asked how soon was that pretty soon, he was not definite about the time.

“This is how they have been promising us since October 20, 2020 and we are now in July of 2022. Look, my friend, we will not allow them to make fun out of us again as they have been doing” an officer who asked to be anonymous said in an angry tone.

Also responding to the issue that has to do with the Mutual Aid Fund, Moore said the money is intact in an account at the UBA Bank.

When he was furthered asked about the misappropriation or redirection of the money to different use. Moore admitted that there are some procedure error by the manager of the funds and that the error was that without the consent of the beneficiaries of the money, the funds management purchased land with the money.

“The procedure error led to some of the stakeholders voicing out loud their disagreement. So, the management, I mean the administration of the EPS came in to avoid confusion and stopped the EPS employees’ development fund to be able to investigate what was going on” Moore said.

According to him, after many investigations, the EPS authorities realized that most of the money was intact.

The findings from the investigation informed the leadership of the EPS to convene a general membership meeting with the employees of the institution.

“At that meeting, almost all of the employees agreed that the land be sold to EPS officers and members of the public”, Moore added.

The re-selling of the land that was purchased with part of the Mutual Aid Fund is intended to make up for missteps by the aid fund manager who carried out misappropriation of said money.

In law, misappropriation is the unauthorized use of another’s name, likeness, identity, property, discoveries, inventions, funds, etc. without that person’s permission.

This is the case with the EPS Mutual Aid Fund which was misdirected without the consent of those whose money was being deducted on a monthly basis.

Speaking additionally, Moore said, “The selling of the land is going on well.”

He indicated that the purchasing of the 100 acres of land was done with good intentions which could help some officers to own land and eventually become property owners.

“The intent is that some people who work here and maybe they are not making much to buy land and or number two they may not have the kind of people to buy land from so that they will not be cheated, so the mutual Aid boss or the management through its wisdom in getting involved with getting some land so that the officers can buy those land and pay for it through salary deductions”, he said.

According to him, the administration of the EPS has nothing to do with the funds stating, “The funds is being managed by the employees themselves unless the Defence Ministry scenario you gave where the Minister himself had signature to the account.”

Moore moreover said, the Director or any of his deputies at the EPS do not have access nor are they signatures to the EPS Mutual Aid Fund, but added that when they [employees] have problems with the funds or any other misunderstandings, the EPS administrators make some interventions to ensure that it does not go overboard.

In writing the wrong and correcting the mistakes, Moore said, “As we speak, most of the money has been collected and more than half of the land has been sold and the funds have been replaced.”

Is Hope anywhere near?

The EPS media officer said they have made efforts to get the EPS officers’ money back and it is expected that their money will be given in parts and not in whole as anticipated by the executive protection guards.

Carefully choosing his words, Moore said, “From now to August, 70 percent of the money that is in the possession of the Fund will be disbursed to those who deposited it.”

Not very sure of the main date for the partial payment of the money, the mouthpiece of the EPS added, “From now to August, maybe before August 24. The process is ongoing right now and their money will be sent to their various bank accounts.”

In keeping with the agreement that started the collection of the funds, the money should have been disbursed at the end of first term of President Weah, but due to the missteps and misappropriation of the money, the first part of the money will be paid to the officers in August while the remaining 30 percent is expected in December of this year. This is because the administration has not sold all of the land and that they are still managing to collect all of the agents’ money entrusted to them [mutual Aid fund Management].

In conclusion, Moore said, “The mutual aid is one of the best things that have happened to the EPS. We will never go the way the Ministry of Defence went.”

It is rare to see men in arms expressing their dissatisfaction through protest or boycott of work, but if what sources in the EPS have hinted is anything to believe, it means that Liberia is expected to set another record that will go down in history for a long time.

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