Liberia: CDC Government Deserts Legislative Support Projects Despite Allotment of over US$6M in Two Successive Budgets
Buchanan, Grand Bassa County – Legislative Support Projects Act was crafted by members of the House of Representatives to fast-track development in counties as county development funds were seen as bureaucratic and frequently mismanaged by county authorities.
It was meant to help representatives and senators through the Liberia Agency for Community Empowerment implement projects (LACE) identified by the people and their leaders to enable those living at the margin of society have a share of the national cake.
Unfortunately, good number of these projects has been abandoned with strong lack of attention from the CDC led government to either raise or remit money allotted in the budget to the account of the LACE for district development projects.
A case study is Grand Bassa where projects initiated by current and former lawmakers are abandoned leaving lawmakers head-scratching about what they could show to their people.
Former Representative Gabriel B. Smith (Liberty Party Buchanan District) and his people identified the construction of new public school in Gohnnigar Town Buchanan to reduce overcrowding at the Bassa High School. For three years now, it yet to be completed.
In District One Grand Bassa County, contractors are yet to complete the Owensgrove Market which was identified by Representative Hans Barchue.
On the Civil Compound of Wee-Statutory District, Gorblee Town Hall although roofed already remains incomplete as the ministry of Health declares that the “Ceeyah” Clinic constructed by LACE at the instruction of former Representative Byron Browne is unfit for a health facility due to acute incompleteness.
In the 2016/2017 budget Senator Nyonblee Karngar broke grounds for the construction of sports academy in Nekree Township as a Legislative Support Project (LSP) for which her office was allotted $200,000USD Four years later, the project is yet to see its completion.
Lawmaker Left Frustrated
One Grand Bassa lawmaker who asked not to be named speaking on the issue said “We really don’t know what our own government expects us to show to our people at the end of our tenure” He continued… “We have passed two budgets under the CDC government and in those budgets, we have allotted US$31,000 for Legislative Projects in ours districts, unfortunately, the Ministry of Finance has repeated refused to remit said money into the account of the Liberia Agency for Community Empowerment”
“This is very frustrating”, said the first time representative, “because under Ellen, those lawmakers received regular district development fund and this really helped some of them who cared for their people to build hand pumps, toilets, schools markets and clinics”, the representative in an annoying tone concluded.
MFDP fails to remit money to LACE account, zero budget performance report
In the two national budgets passed under the presidency of George Weah, the Legislature has around roughly $6,180,000USD for Legislative Support Projects. That is, $4,380,000USD for Members of the House and about $1,800,000USD for the fifteen senators at about $30USD thousand for each lawmaker to identify projects that could be undertaken by the Liberia Agency for Community Empowerment (LACE).
To, the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning has not released a dime to the account of LACE as the MFDP also fails to submit a budget performance report that could justify whether or not the money allotted was not raised in revenue or why said money if raised was not disbursed to LACE.
Information Minister Eugene Nagbe was contacted for comment on why the government or the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning has not remitted money allotted for Legislative Support Projects to the Liberia Agency for Community Empowerment. The minister only replied: “kindly ask speak with Minister Tweh”. He later texted: “I will let him know soon”. Unfortunately, Minister Samuel Tweh himself has not answered calls or replied to messages sent him for comment.
Senator Lawrence vows to complete two stalled legislative projects
Over the Weekend, Bassa Senator Nyonblee Kangar Lawrence announced her willingness to complete two of the abandoned landmark projects in the County— the Gohnigar Town Public School and the Bassa Sports Academy.
Asked what is the motivation behind her decision to completed the two projects on her won, Senator Lawrence replied that she grew up in the community where the school project is located, with people “I knew 40 years ago still sitting there waiting for such an opportunity for their children”.
She continued: “that school will be the third Government high school in Buchanan, a city with a very huge school population that cannot afford private school tuition, keeping thousands of students out of school and hopeless. Former Rep. Gabriel Smith had that vision and took on the school project as his second legislative project”
“Former Representative Gabriel smith the community, the principle association and students association of the county have appealed to me and with no hope of legislative project money, I decided to make the worthy contribution. The best we can give is education” Sen Lawrence explained.
The senator also announced a planned pre-launch of the sports academy to raise money for its completion as she has personally met President Weah for the completion of the project with no tangible result.
She told this paper “In 2016 my office received $200,000 United States Dollars allotment for legislative project. My responsibility was to select the project and work with LACE for execution, I had no assess to the funding, but played the advisory role after the selection of project. LACE was given 10% of the 200, 000. From remaining $190,000, $25,000 was used for the construction of a car wash $165,000 for sports Academy”
“We really don’t know what our own government expects us to show to our people at the end of our tenure” He continued… “We have passed two budgets under the CDC government and in those budgets, we have allotted US$31,000 for Legislative Projects in our districts, unfortunately, the Ministry of Finance has repeated refused to remit said money into the account of the Liberia Agency for Community Empowerment”– A Grand Bassa County Lawmaker
“Personally, I have contributed an additional $10,000usd, $100,000ld and 100 bags of cement but the project she continue “was a $500,000 project and I have personally contributed over $60,000usd in addition to build a six room office building at roof level with personal funding as I have been paying for maintenance and securities since 2016”.
The Senator said because the George Weah Government has not paid a dime for legislative projects since its inception, all legislative projects in the 15 counties are at a standstill.
Senator Lawrence also indicated that when President Weah was a Senator, “we visited the project two times, and he encouraged me to prepare the soccer field and keep it active while the project was ongoing. Then Senator Weah she continued.. “personally dropped- off a box of footballs at my house for that purpose”.
“I met with President Weah one month after his induction into office as President for a meeting on the importance of completing the project in the interest of youth development and empowerment and I presented all the documents and asked him to please take that over ensuring that it was completed. He expressed interest and asked me to work with the First Lady and I also met with her and presented all the documents, but all follow ups have been fruitless” Senator Lawrence noted.
Before Madamn Ellen Johnson Sirleaf left office as President she included in her County tour, visitation to Senator Lawrence’s two legislative projects. And these were her words: “I didn’t expect to see this much, with such an amount, how did you deal with the contractor to do this much? The money you received is not even sufficient to do half of this”
But the Bassa Senator told our reporter she has decided to have a pre-dedication program to raise some money for the project to be completed.
With respect to the allotment of money for Legislative Projects, the senator confirmed “Money was allotted in the 2018-2019 National budget and 2019-2020 National budget but was not used for Legislative projects and we have flagged that many times and still waiting for a budget performance report to see why the allotment and others were not paid.
She concluded: “we have made the appropriate recommendations for the president to take actions and still await the president’s intervention”
Asked if completing these projects is a strategy to help her re-election, she replied that “Obviously some people will vote for my reelection base on such a contribution. But they will also consider that a leader without a vision will never make such a sacrifice”.
“As leader who doesn’t care and will not make such a sacrifice, A leader who doesn’t know the importance of educating our young people will not make such a sacrifice” the Bassa Senator continued before noting that “for this Country to be successful we must as a Government reduce the illiteracy rate and if the Government does not see that as a priority or if the government lacks the political will, than it becomes a situation that moves anyone who cares to play a role.”
“I have played this role since I was elected and my constituents are the witnesses and they will never consider this a project for votes, but rather consider me a leader with a heart and vision” said Senator Nyonblee Karngar Lawrence.
President George Weah who puts Ellen Johnson Sielaf’s success at a whopping 80% has repeatedly praised his predecessor’s achievements and committed to continue her legacy.
Pres. Weah speaking at the launch of the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Presidential Center for Women and Development in March this year said “as a nation and as a people, we Liberians remain very proud of these notable achievements.
The President even mentioned, “When I assumed the mantle of authority in 2018, I undertook to build upon the foundation she had left in order to consolidate our democracy, preserve the peace and ensure economic viability. Without the foundation she had laid, my task of nation-building would have been even more difficult.”
One would have thought that will all these praises on Sirleaf, the Ex- soccer legend now president would be committed to completing projects that started during the Sirleaf Administration.