The citizens of the nation’s regional, Political Administrative Sub-divisions – the Counties, indeed, the Nation – face a serious problem with the County Legislative Caucuses and the local County Administrations over management of money made available for County Social, Economic Development, CDF & SDF.
The County Legislative Caucuses, in cooperation/coordination with the local county administrations: a) Chair& decidewho gets on the County Development Councils;
b) Decide and approve the project to be financed by the County Social Development Funds and the amount;
c) Distort and abuse, more often than not,interpretation of applicable provisions of the Budget Law (Act of Legislature, June 30, 2013).
Nation-wide, from Voinjama, Lofa County, Northwest; Ganta-Saniquellie, Nimba County, Northeast; Gbarnga, Bong County, Central Liberia; Monrovia, Montserrado County & Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, both South Central; and Harper, Maryland County, the Southeast, there isa finance and development monster, a classic practice of public dishonesty – Liberia’s corruption, Inc.
That is, that the brains behind the crafting of the Budget Law did an excellent job in creating bureaucratic “run-arounds” (from Hon. Tom to Hon. Dick, Members of Legislature and County Caucuses who wrote the Budget Law and arenow the “police to police the police”) designed for“tired-outs”, the basic, classic requirement to induce kick-backs, extortions and bribes, with CDF &SDF funds into their pockets with no questions asked.
The citizens, nationwide, are aware of this scheme, but are afraid to speak out, because this Brotherhoodis composed of powerful personalities and agencies of government, including the Ministry of Finance & Development Planning (the “Paymaster who must ‘chop’ something from the people that he pays”), the Legislative Caucuses, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the local County Administrations.
Recent press reports (New Democrat, December 14, 2105) that LAAC investigation into withdrawals from the Bong County Social Development Account with charges and counter-charges by and between the County Legislative Caucus and County Officials about and for which the County superintendent has been suspended, now leads to the doors of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (has oversight responsibility over County development budgets, but refused to comment when contacted) and the Chairman of the County Legislative Caucus, who, also, refused to comment on the grounds of the LAAC on-going investigation.
But, sources close to the County Legislative Caucus provided documentation which shows that at a meeting held on July 27, 2014 in the City of Gbarnga, theCountyCaucus voted unanimous authorization to withdraw the following amounts from the County Social Development Fund for the following purposes:
1. To fight the Ebola Epidemic in the Administrative District of Bong County US $50,000.00
2. 13 Commissioners @ US $800 each (who are & where do they come from) 10, 400.00
3. The Muslim Youth 500.00
4. Fuel purchase (for whom was not indicated) 6, 756.00
5. Zonal Heads (from where was not shown) 600.00
6. Women Group (?) 400.00
7. Bong County Christian 1, 500.00
8. Bong County Health Team (different from the Ebola Health?) 11, 000.00
9. County Operation (additional toand different from the Ebola Team?) 4, 500.00
10. CSO 1,000.00
11. Radio Station 1,300.00
12.Renovation(of what?) 12,000.00
Most of the payments made were to relatives, cronies, such as the Muslim, Christian, women, CSO, Radio station, etc., different groups, rather than to social development that benefits society as a whole, such as education, healthcare, public transport, etc. Such entries as Items #1, 4, 8, 9 and #12 for a total of US $84, 256.00were or are double entries, apparently,to conceal payments made tothemselves (the Caucus members) and other officials, already on government payroll.
On September 17, 2014, the “Caucus issued a second resolution authorizing US $275,000 in the fight against Ebola. On the basis of this resolution, the Ministry of Internal Affairs wrote, requesting from the Ministry of Finance & Development Planning, US $200,000. This amount was US $75 less than the original amount requested. It is claimed (by who, the Caucus or the Ministry of Internal Affairs?) that only US $100,000 hit the (Bong) County account. It is not clear how the money short-landed”.
Either the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Monrovia, the County administration or the Bong County Legislative Caucusmust provide the explanation. Not only the glaring discrepancies in the use of the US $99,956.00 which was not applied to its intended purpose of social development, but also account for the US $99,956.00 and the US $100,000.00 since Bong County received funding out of the US $792,663.00 and the US $5.2 million for the Ebola Epidemic.
It can be recalled that although US $2 million was made available in 2010 for the construction of the Bong County Technical College,but there were blame-games among the County Legislative Caucus over construction, while makeshift classes were being held in the United Methodist High School with inadequate space for students and equipment.
Grand Bassa County
It can be recalled, also, that the superintendent of Grand Bassa County resigned over control and expenditure of County Social Development Fund with the County Legislative Caucus.
Grand Kru County
The developed situation in this isolated, Southeastern County reveals the nature of the corrupt practices by powerful agencies of government with unlimited political force – Ministry of Finance & Development Planning, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Legislative Caucuses and County officials.
The Perspective of April 14, 2015, reports that “Mrs. Elizabeth Wright Dempster, Superintendent of Grand Kru County, visited the United States in March 2015. No sooner had the superintendent arrived in the United States than a meeting with US-based Grand Kru citizens was scheduled on March 22 in Bowie, . . . Maryland. The Grand Kru folks went to the meeting with deep-seated concerns about how their county is being run–holding the incendiary torches ready to grill Mrs. Dempster. . . The Chairman of the board of trustees of the Grand Kru County Development Association in the Americas, kicked off the meeting with a 35-minute long on-phone presentation, outlining the issues of their concerns to her . . . the alleged mishandling of the county’s development funds as well as the alleged failure of “six companies” operating in the county to live up to their contractual obligations. . . revealed that since 2006 Grand Kru County had received $1.6m development fund which hadn’t been accounted for and that an additional $4m had entered the county with nothing to show for it”.
“But . . . Mrs. Dempster effectively prevented what could have been a heated discussion. She tactfully prefaced her remarks with a welcome announcement . . . She then went on to address the litany of concerns, not only debunking all the allegations and assumptions but also providing insights into the Grand Kru predicament—much to the marvel of the attendees”.
How the County’s Annual Development Fund is handled.
“Superintendent Dempster made countenance of frustration when she touched on the pertinent issue of how the county’s development fund is handled. She told the attendees that when it comes to money in the current state of governance in Liberia ‘what you see or hear is not always what you get’. Mrs. Dempster said the much-flaunted $200,000.00 annual county development fund does not reach the county in full–the finance ministry takes away $50,000.00 for unexplained reasons; hence, only $150,000.00 actually gets to the county”.
“When the amount reaches the county, it is taken over by a constituted group of county officials (Grand Kru County Legislative Caucus and the Management Team) dubbed, Project Management Team (PMT) whose sole duty is to disburse the money to another group of individuals named the Project Management Committee (PMC) . . . it is the PMC that determines how much of the development money to spend and therefore the pace of project implementation, suffocating the overall development process of Grand Kru County”.
“As a matter of expediency, members of the committee are selected from a 108-member council reflecting the 12 ethnic-based districts in the county. Each district, headed by a traditional leader or chief, is represented by nine persons to the council. The ethnic district heads decide who become members of the PMC, and for the most part they tend to appoint relatives and friends who are answerable to nobody but to the ethnic leaders. The ethnic leaders therefore wield enormous influence over how the county development fund is disbursed. The situation not only slow the pace of development projects, but it ultimately renders the superintendent a lame duck, merely presiding at council meetings and giving pieces of advice”.
According to The Perspective, June 1, 2015, “Hold the Maryland County Legislative Caucus Accountable”, was the headline.
“The students of Cape Palmas High School . . . have been protesting – demanding a renovation of their dilapidated school building. Following the returned to classes later this month, they found their building in ruins – much to their anger. “We want a building”, reads a placard of the protesting students”.
“The problem must be the lack of sensitivity to the development needs of the county”, said an incredulous Marylanders, who is knowledgeable of how the so-called county’s development fund is allocated but who had never thought that the current ruling elites of Maryland County would grossly neglect health and education”.
“He revealed that, like all other legislators in the country, Representative James P. Biney of the Harper District (where Cape Palmas High School is situated) has received $20,000 for this Fiscal Year so that he can fund any development project, known as ‘Legislative Project’ in the district, while both Senators Dan Morais and Gbleh-bo Brown have received $40,000 per district to carry out development projects in each of the districts in the county. Needless to say, the Maryland Legislators have received $180,000 (apart from the annual $200,000 for county development!) this year alone. Yet infrastructure in the county remain in tatters”.
“ . . . Hon. James Biney is currently sitting on $20,000 earmarked for the development of the Harper District, while students of Cape Palmas High School are forced to wear umbrellas in class . . . Hon. Biney has the final say in how County Development Fund (CDF) is spent. Over the past nine years, more than 1.8 million US dollars of CDF has been “spent” in Maryland County, but there is nothing to show for the money”.
“It has even been alleged, quite recently, that Nathaniel Toe, the Development Superintendent of the county, has not been able to give account of $85,000($50,000 to build a bridge over the Nehdilloh Creek and $35,000 allotted to Pleebo-Sodoken District). But the lawmakers are mute on the allegations against the development superintendent”.
“The people of Maryland County should therefore hold accountable their lawmakers and the county officials. The legislators must give full account of the county’s development funds and the money set aside for the “Legislative Projects”. Ta’shey are the ones standing in the way of infrastructure development in the county, and they must therefore be blamed for the dilapidated school. The immediate renovation of Cape Palmas High School squarely lies with them. Requesting help from Liberians in the Diaspora might be a good idea, but the money will undoubtedly end up in the pockets of these corrupt lawmakers and county officials.”
Similarly, Grand Gedeh County faces the problem of the County Legislative Caucus and the local, County Administration, over money for social & economic development!!
For emphasis, it is necessary that we repeat; for, this issue is very important.“This is a finance and development monster, a classic practice of public dishonesty – Liberia’scorruption, Inc.”
“That is, that the brains behind the crafting of the Budget Law did an excellent job in creating bureaucratic “run-arounds” (from Hon. Tom to Hon. Dick, Members of Legislature and County Caucuses who wrote the Budget Law and arenow the “police to police the police”) designed for “tired-outs”, the basic, classic requirement to induce kick-backs, extortions and bribes, with CDF & SDF funds into their pockets and no questions asked”.
“The citizens, nationwide, are afraid to speak out because this Clique, The Brotherhood, is composed of powerful personalities and powerful agencies of government – begins with the Ministry of Finance & Development Planning (the “Paymaster who must chop something from the people he pays”); the Legislative Caucuses (chair the CDF & SDF County Councils, decide who gets on the County Council, distort and abuse the Budget Law rules, and decide who gets what and how much); and The Ministry of Internal Affairs, the local, town chief & county control all”.
There is massive designed, planned and orchestrated disobedience of law sponsored, debated, passed and in full force and effect by past, recent past and prevailing Liberian political leaders/officialdom.Thus, the Republic of Liberia had, and has, become a country of “Men & Women”, rather than a “country of Law”.