Liberia: Grass Taking Over Administrative Building In Gbarnga

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Gbarnga, Bong County – The grounds of the administration building, the official seat of the leadership of Bong County, now looks unkempt and rough with waist-high grasses growing all around the building. There are also fallen branches, untrimmed trees and bugs.

This is simply due to the inability of Superintendent Esther Walker to procure a mower. During the 2017 County Development Sitting, delegates allotted US$9,950 to procure a mower for the presidential palace and the administration building, but it has been more than three years no mower has been bought and Walker hasn’t accounted for the money.

Documents in the possession of FPA show that Walker lobbied with a local vendor in Gbarnga, Hin-Dweh Business Center owned by Moses Manston, to withdraw the money from the vendor’s account. Manston is said to have received US$ 1000 from the superintendent as ransom, though he has denied.

Heavy rains this month are making the problem worse as grasses have surrounded the building, angering residents of the county. Some residents say it is a familiar and unwanted sight. “This doesn’t represent the leadership of the county,” says 34-year-old Anthony Mulbah, a resident of Gbarnga. Mulbah called on President George Weah to investigate Walker if he is serious about fighting graft.

“It is a shame that the superintendent will not account for US$ 9,950 when the official seat of the county has been overwhelmed with grass. This is sad,” he said. “I must confess it’s really disheartened.”

Anthony Sheriff, Bong’s assistant superintendent for development, acknowledged that the failure of the leadership of the county to purchase a mower has made it impossible to keep the compound mowed.

Sheriff said he feels embarrassed at how the building has been overwhelmed with grass. “The rain has caused the grass to grow and I feel ashamed as a leader of the county that we allotted US$9,950 to procure a mower and since then nothing has been purchased,” Sheriff said.

Sheriff says it’s an eyesore for the seat of the county administration and he wants something done immediately.

Last week, nearly 75 protesters turned out to demand Walker restitute the money or resign as superintendent of the county. One of the protesters and residents 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 the 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 taxpayers’ money to go unaccounted for when the Bong Technical College hasn’t been completed, our hospitals don’t have drugs to cater to patients and 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.

To date, Superintendent Walker has remained coy on her reported involvement in the missing US$9,950.

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