Some members of the Liberian Senate see as wasteful, a proposal by the Executive Branch allotting US$9 million as “operational and administrative cost” for the distribution of stimulus package (food) that cost US$21 million.
Senators were alarmed by the US$9 million proposal which they believe is a huge slash from a small budget of US$30m intended to distribute food to vulnerable population affected by the coronavirus crisis here.
The debate ensued in the plenary of the Liberian Senate Friday, 12 June when Commerce Minister Prof. Wilson Tarpeh who also chairs steering committee indicated that the money is now available to the World Food Program (WFP) for the distribution of the food in the various communities.
Following the update from Prof. Tarpeh, Margibi County Senator Oscar Cooper says it’s being very wasteful for the team to allocate US$9 million for operational and administrative cost.
Sen. Cooper suggests that there’s a need for the operational and administrative cost to be reduced so that those who are vulnerable can get their package. The Margibi Senator argues that vulnerable people are not only disabled people, but those who were sitting home and never had job during the state of emergency.
Taking the same line of argument, Gbarpolu County Senator Daniel Naathan says the committee is embarking on a wasteful spending process. He says that the food distribution should have been done through coupon in which each household or family head is given a coupon to get their rice or other food items from the store.
Touching on the allotment of US$9 million, Mr. Naathan insists that it’s a waste of money to spend US$9 million as operational and administration cost just to distribute food that cost US$21 million. He notes that the US$9 million can be used to get more food for everyone including those that the government consider as non-vulnerable.
Also, Montserrado County Senator Abraham Darius Dillon urges the Commerce Minister to submit to the Liberian Senate the contract between the Liberian Government and the World Food Program. Mr. Dillon contends that the National Food Institution should have headed this project because it’s Liberian owned and not the WFP.
According to Dillon, the National Food Institute was enacted into law by the Legislature to carry on such functions, instructing the committee to inform the public of all the items that are contained in the food package. He says the Commerce Minister should tell the Liberian people how many bags of rice or cups of rice each household or family heads are expecting.
Updating the Senate earlier, Prof. Tarpeh explained that the total figure that is confirmed for the food distribution is US$30 million, of which US$25 million is from the recast budget approved by the Liberian Senate and US$5 million is from the World Bank.
According to Prof. Tarpeh, of the US$30 million, US$21 million is for the food purchase while US$9 million is for the operational and administrative cost.
The Commerce Minister told the Senate that because of the difficulty in getting to the southeast and other counties that are difficult to reach out to, they’re arranging logistics and will be using both sea and land transport to take the food there.
By Ethel ATweh–Edited by Winston W. Parley