Liberia: Representative Marvin Cole, Contractor Trade Blame over US$80k County Development Fund Mismanagement

A US$ 75,000 Library project has been stalled after the county paid US$50,000 as Rep. Cole and the contractor, Fah Architectural Design trade claims over the status of the project

Gbarnga, Bong County Bong County District Three lawmaker Marvin Cole and the contractor of the Bong Engineer Construction Company have traded blame over the mismanagement of a US$10,000.00 development fund  intended for a town hall construction in Gbarney, Jorquelleh District Three.

The amount was part of a US$1.7m County Social Development Funds (CSDF) placed in a resolution by delegates of the 2018 County Sitting.

The construction firm received US$8,000.00 from the  administration of Bong County on August 18, 2020 (Check no.99563), but is alleging that its failure to complete the project is the result of the lawmaker reportedly requesting for over US$ 4,000  as “kickback”.

Rep. Cole, however, rejected the allegations, saying at no time did he request for any “kickback” from the contractor. The lawmaker claimed that he ordered the demolition of the project because the construction firm was doing a “substandard job” beyond the expectations of locals of the town.

“I have never been impressed with the work that was done by the company during the project, that’s why I ordered the demolition of the project,” the lawmaker said during his recent appearance on Radio Gbarnga.

To date, construction work on the building has stalled as there is still uncertainty whether the project would be completed despite the county paying ninety percent of the fund.

Gbarney, a town of over two thousand inhabitants, lacks a town hall, and residents had hope that the construction of such facility would have created a space to gather and hold discussions.

During campaigns for the  2017 elections, residents pleaded with the lawmaker to construct a town hall to save them of embarrassment faced most time when government officials or politicians visit the community to hear from them on topics of interest.

US $5k chairs draws ire

Another issue drawing controversy in Rep. Cole’s district is the US$ 5,000.00 reportedly used by the Bong Engineering Construction Company to purchase four locally-made chairs for the town hall in Wainsue Town, Jorquelleh District.

The picture of a US$5,000 furniture procured for the Commissioner’s compound in Wainsue Town. The amount spent by Bong Engineer and Construction Company has drawn the ire of residents

Jorquelleh District Three’s commissioner, Washington Bonnah, expressed disappoinment that the amount spent on the chairs doesn’t worth. “To spend US$5,000 on locally-made chairs is something incomprehensible. I strongly feel the money was wrongly spent by the contractor,” Bonnah said.

Bonnah told a team of Civil Society actors who visited Wainsue that they had no knowledge of the funds used to procure the chairs, pursuant to the 2018 County Sitting.

Stalled US$ 75,000.00 Library project

Delegates at the 2018 County Sitting also placed in the resolution US$75,000.00 for the construction of a modern library. Underlining the importance of the library, Rep. Cole, in 2020, told Radio Gbarnga, a local radio station in Bong County, that President George Weah made available 2,000 bags of cement as his contribution towards the project.

Despite the intervention of the president and the US$50,000.000 paid against the project cost of US$75,000.00, it remains unclear why the project has halted, and that the general work done on the structure hasn’t gotten the building at roof level.

According to engineers, based on the current status of the building, taking into consideration the amount of US$50,000.00 paid, including materials used on the dimensions of the project, it’s evident that the amount is very huge for the work performed so far.

A US$ 75,000 Library project has been stalled after the county paid US$50,000 as Rep. Cole and the contractor, Fah Architectural Design trade claims over the status of the project

How the revelation of mismanagement came to light

The revelation on the mismanagement of the county’s funds came to light when three Bong-based Civil Society Organizations Wednesday released a damning report to residents of the county.

With funding support from ForumCiv, the organizations – the Media And Civic Education-Rural Liberia, Foundation for International Dignity, and Development Education Leadership Training in Action Human Rights Foundation – partnered in implementing the “Bong County Social Development Funds Accountability Project” between September and December, 2021. 

The three organizations found several irregularities in the management of the CSDF, awarding of contracts, and implementation of the various development projects, thereby resulting to several stalled projects.

Out of a total of thirty (30) construction projects (bridges, clinics, schools, offices for chiefs, road rehabilitation, and renovation of public facilities) delegates agreed upon at the November 12, 2018 County Council Sitting, not a single project was fully completed in the county. 

Bulk of these projects are far from completion and most of them are currently being abandoned across the county.