Liberia: Bong Residents Want Superintendent Esther Walker Audited amid “Missing US$9K” of County Development Fund
Gbarnga, Bong County – Bong County Superintendent Esther Walker went face-to-face with dozens of demonstrators who descended on the Gbarnga Administration building Monday to protest the alleged mismanagement of US$9,950 County Development Fund by the leadership of the county.
Superintendent Walker hasn’t accounted for the money one year since she reportedly lobbied with a local vendor in Gbarnga, Hin-Dweh Business Center owned and operated by Moses Manston, to withdraw the money from the vendor’s account.
The money, which was sourced from the County Council Sitting in 2017, was intended to procure a lawnmower to clean the presidential palace and the superintendent’s compound.
Nearly 75 protesters turned out to demand Walker restitute the money or resign as superintendent of the county. One of the protesters and resident of Gbarnga, Isaac Holder, said it was disappointing to know that Walker and the leadership of the Project Management Committee headed by Steve Mulbah connived with Manston to withdraw the money without buying the item earmarked.
Holder claimed Walker and Mulbah have turned the social development fund into a “cash cow’ that favors a select few. “The superintendent needs to account for the US$ 9,950 that has gone unaccounted for. This is so disappointing that our leaders continue to use public funds for their personal use,” Holder said.
This is a complete disservice to the people of Bong County, said Nukai Kparngbai, one of the protesters, calling on President Weah to see reason to investigate Walker amid the controversy surrounding the US$9,950. “What has really happened to the US$9,950?” This is wrong for tax payers’ money to go unaccounted for when the Bong Technical College hasn’t been completed, our hospitals don’t have drugs to cater to patients, our mothers are dying at C. B. Dunbar Hospital because of no medicine. We are calling on the president to investigate the superintendent to establish what happened to the money,” he said.
Winston Gray, head of the demonstrators, alleged that since the appropriation of funding for projects in the county after the 2018 County Council Sitting, the office of the superintendent and the Project Management Committee have failed to provide clarity on the monies spent on projects in the county.
Gray also alleged that since the allotment of US$ 100,000 for tuition aids of students of the county studying at various universities in the country, Walker and Mulbah have also failed to account for the money.
At one point, Walker left her office to address the crowd and got into shouting matches with some of the protesters. “I don’t know about any money issue,” she said.
The October 5 protest was non-partisan, and no speakers were invited to address the crowd. Attendees instead brought placards and chanted slogans such as “poor Walker has gotten rich in Bong County under President George Weah’s Administration,” and “President George Weah punished Bong County with mother Esther Walker”.
The protest proceeded largely without incident, although participants reported that the police arrested their leader, Gray, but later released him following the intervention of some civil society actors in the county.