Many ordinary Liberians are still finding it difficult to comprehend just how does spending US$100,000 on a few hours’ legislative retreat in a hotel characterized by having breakfast, lunch, supper and sharing US$1,000 each impact the government Pro-Poor Agenda.
But this is exactly what members of the House of Representatives from the 54th Legislature did a one ago in Monrovia under the guise of reconciling themselves, having been at one another’s throat, abusing and calling one another names. They spent that amount of money on entertaining themselves from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and still came out even with more disagreements on just about everything.
Some boycotted the so-called retreat, while others claimed they did not receive their share of the US$1,000 each per diem at the close of the day. They made such huge expenditure just at about the time the Liberian economy is in a very bad shape with hyper-inflation, soaring food and commodity prices and rapid depreciation of the Liberian dollar and lack of purchasing power among the population.
The retreat was intended for the House leadership headed by Speaker Bhofal Chambers and the membership to mend fence following unilateral and sometimes contradictory utterances coming from that august body over the ‘missing billions’ characterized by bitter disagreement and name-calling.
However, we think absolutely there was no justification for spending such amount of money in less than a day in the midst of scarce resources. Our lawmakers, particularly the leadership of the House ought to understand that economically, these are not normal times for the country.
The government is desperately in need of money, and is going here and there to borrow funds for roads construction and other capital-intensive development projects, while mystery surrounding the alleged missing 16 billion Liberian banknotes remained unresolved.
Just what was the essence of budgeting and spending said amount on a few hours’ retreat that has no tangible impact on the lives of the people. In whose interest was the retreat held other than the lawmakers themselves?
Did they need to cut short their annual vacation only to gather at a hotel and spent US$100, 000 on themselves when citizens of their various constituencies across the country continue to wallop in grinding poverty? We say absolutely no!
This is sheer insensitivity of the plight of the people who they claim to represent in the First Branch of Government. How could members of that august body herald the government’s Pro-Poor Agenda and yet engage in wasteful spending?
We challenge Speaker Bohfal Chambers and his entire leadership on Capitol Hill to provide reasonable justification for wasting taxpayers’ money in such manner and faction that brings no returns to the Motherland.