Interviewee Profile - Alieu Fuad Nyei
Alieu’s journey in public service spans a period of ten years; starting in January 2008. This includes a stint in the then autonomous Bureau of the Budget before its absorption into the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP). At the MFDP, Alieu went on to serve in various capacities including as Technical Advisor to the Deputy Minister of Finance for Budget (October 2011-September 2012) and Pillar Manager for Peace, Security, Justice and Rule of Law Pillar in the Department of Budget (October 2012 - September 2014). It was during his tenure as Assistant Minister for Expenditure at the Department of Fiscal Affairs, a portfolio he manned from September 2014 to January 2018, that he embarked on the challenging reform of the government travel policy.
Challenging Institutional Norms - Travel Policy Reform in Liberia
After his appointment as Assistant Minister in 2014, Alieu took on travel allowance reform as one of his main priorities in his new portfolio. The reform of foreign travel had the dual objectives of reducing the attractiveness of traveling abroad and the cost on the government budget. In 2009, the resistance of officials who were the primary beneficiaries of the high rates of travel allowances was a challenge to the reform attempts that were first met with reluctance and reservations.
However, mounting economic pressures stemming from the Ebola crisis and falling prices of natural resources provided cost-cutting reforms with momentum. In this context, Alieu constituted a team of four officials from the reform unit, the cash management unit and the IFMIS team to support his case for change. According to Alieu: “this was a difficult reform… after a couple of months of sustained efforts, I started to feel this reform would not go anywhere. I almost gave up around July 2014 when the president made a trip without using the modified travel rates I was suggesting. To me, this was the test, and it failed”.
Despite resistance and setbacks, Alieu and his team were able to forge ahead with the reform.