On Thursday, January 16, 2014, members of the House of Representative, without any opposition, unanimously endorsed the January 13 US$73, 000,000.00 (Seventy-Three million United States Dollars) Direct District Impact Fund proposed by Speaker Alex Tyler. The Speaker’s proposal, announced during ceremonies for the resumption of Legislative duties following a three-month constitutional break by the lawmakers, was against the backdrop of the failure of the County Development Fund to impact the socio-economic and infrastructure development of rural Liberia.
“When one imagines that Gboe-pole Administrative District in lower Grand Gedeh County has never experienced a motor road, makes this proposal belated, but this is one of the ways or means we believe that the much needed development can reach and impact our people in rural Liberia,” Speaker Tyler claimed as he addressed members of the Liberian Legislature on January 13, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Monrovia.
Even though he did not say who will manage the funds, he noted that the appropriation for infrastructural development in the National Budget shall be in, what he refer to as “ballpark figure”, and that implementation of each project identified would be clearly and specifically vetted on a project-by-project basis and approved by the Legislature before final appropriation and implementation can be made. The US$73m-District Development Fund, if concurred with by the Liberian Senate and signed by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, would mean each district, represented by a member of the House of Representatives, will receive One Million United States Dollars for a specific project outside the County Development Fund, and managed by the Executive Branch of government.
The House’s unanimous endorsement of the proposal at last Thursday’s plenary immediately followed a communication written by Representative Mariamu Fofana of Lofa County District Number 4, sponsored by speaker Tyler, expressing her support for the Tyler Proposal owing to the experience from the recent nationwide tour on the country’s draft petroleum law, wherein lawmakers, on first hand basis, experienced the appalling living conditions of citizens in rural Liberia due to the failure of the executive to implement projects allocated in the budget.
While the move by the House of Representatives may sound to be in the interest of Liberians in the rural parts of the country, the justifications provided and continue to be defended in the media by a few representatives, may also not be convincing. It is no secret that lawmakers of the counties have been deeply and personally involved with the County Development Fund and Social Development Fund since coming into force by legislation. For the House of Representatives to openly attribute the failure of district development projects to the Executive Branch of government under the County Development Fund or Social Development Fund when most of them capitalized on their “oversight responsibility” to hijack development projects under the guise supervision.
Totally blaming the Executive for the failure of the County Development Fund is unfair and complete deception, and one cleverly designed by incumbent lawmakers to redeem themselves from their unpatriotic behavior toward their constituents. The idea is not actually because it does not seek to tangibly impact the socio-economic lives of the people of various districts, but because it may serve as guarantor for incumbent lawmakers for their re-election as many times as possible. US$4m for a District in the next four years under a Representative is very substantial for impact-making development projects when adequately utilized, and could serve as a reason for the desire of the citizens for the re-election of a particular incumbent district representative.
More importantly, if and only if such money would be used wisely for infrastructure and improvement in the socio-economic lives of rural dwellers, of course, the lawmakers would still be hailed and politically rewarded-but that’s something we wait to see, now that the resolution is awaiting senatorial concurrence.