Liberia: COVID-19 Stimulus Food Package Were Either Stolen or Sold As Pres. Weah Dismisses Commissioner in Cape Mount for Such Act

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MONROVIA – Bomi County Senator Edwin Melvin Snowe says the program set aside by the Government of Liberia to ensure the provision of food to vulnerable Liberians across the country during the heat of the Coronavirus pandemic was only intended to benefit a few public officials and others at the detriment of the true beneficiaries. 

The Government of Liberia and partners launched a US$25M Covid-19 Household Food Distribution Stimulus Package for vulnerable households in Liberia.

The program’s Chairman Wilson Tarpeh, who is currently the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) told senators last week that about 2.3m vulnerable Liberians benefitted from the distribution. He was the Minister of Commerce at the time the program was launched.

But the Senators rejected Professor Tarpeh’s claim, and described the report as a “world trade center” document.

In Liberia, the “world trade center,” located on Gurley Street in Monrovia is normally considered as a place where people go to falsify documents, including government receipts and other school and university documents, among others.

But speaking when he appeared as guest on the OK Morning Rush on OK FM 99.5 on Monday, May 3, Senator Snowe pointed out that the program did not live up to its true essence and commitment to ensure the provision of food to vulnerable citizens.

“The issue of the stimulus package and the way it was handled I think that it deviated too far from the actual intent from the Legislative and Executive branches of the government. Our hope and desire was that the vulnerable communities could benefit from the stimulus package during this major health pandemic where our people could not generate the needed resources to sustain their families and government needed to make some interventions. Unfortunately, people thought that the stimulus package was for their personal aggrandizement or house party”.

“They said that they fed over two million people; it’s a lie. You are telling me that you fed about 80,000 persons in Bomi County – I challenge that. You did not feed up to 80,000 persons in Bomi. The distribution in Bomi was marred with different happenings; people stole the rice; people sold the rice and to some extent it was done on political lines and our people did not benefit”.

Senator Snowe maintained that rice, oil and beans that form part of the package were stolen and found under the beds of some citizens, who he did not name.

He expressed disappointment over the manner and form in which cases reported on the Covid-19 stimulus package distributions were handled by the courts.

“As I speak to you, there are still cases at the court even though I am quite disappointment over the way most of those cases were handled. For someone to be caught with 800 bags of rice or 500bags and you sent them to court; and the court said go and pay 200 dollars into government revenue-there were several local government officials involved”.

He, however, encouraged Professor Tarpeh and other government officials to desist from going to the National Legislature “half-prepared” whenever they are called upon to respond to issues of national concerns because, members of both the House of Representatives and the Liberian Senate are “more prepared than ever before”.

He added that a full accountability report must be provided by Professor Tarpeh and his team because, his latest report presented to lawmakers remains difficult to comprehend.

Senator Snowe expressed the hope that the Liberian Senate will take cease of the matter and helps ensure that people are held accountable for their actions relative to the stimulus package distribution.

Passion to serve

Meanwhile, Senator Snowe has reminded his colleagues to have passion for those who they represent at the level of the National Legislature.

Senator Snowe was elected Representative of district # 6 in Montserrado County during the 2005 general and presidential elections, and subsequently Speaker of the 52nd National Legislature during the regime of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. He was re-elected during the 2011 general and presidential elections.

After serving 12 years in both the 52nd and 53rd National Legislatures as Representative of district 6 in Montserrado, Senator Snowe took a challenge in Bomi County district # one and came out as the victor during the 2017 presidential and legislative elections.

Following his three years stay in the 53rd National Legislature as a lawmaker of Bomi, he (Snowe) vied for the senatorial seat and defeated his longtime friend and incumbent Senator Sando Dazoe Johnson during the just ended December 8 senatorial election

 “My passion to serve drove me to politics; I believed that your passion to serve should firstly drive you to serve your people. Representation is not just about merrymaking; it is about knowing the needs and aspirations of your people and then turning to the needs and aspirations of your people, This is a burden that I so much cherished because I believed in working with people”.

Spirit of teamwork

He noted that despite being the closest county to the Liberian capital Monrovia, citizens of Bomi County continue to experience difficulties due to the lack of adequate health care delivery, better road connectivity, and better access to communication services, among others.

He pointed out that though he does not have any “magical wind” to help address all of the challenges confronting his people, but with “team work” and collective efforts, these challenges will be addressed gradually.

Senator Snowe promised to assiduously work with members of the county’s legislative caucus to ensure the provision of basic social services and the necessary developments to citizens of the county.

“Much is desire in the health sector. There are areas in Bomi that you cannot even find clinics. Before I even became Representative of Senjeh district, there were six clinics. The nurses were using the lights from their telephones in most of those clinics to minister delivery at night. We brought in containers of medical supplies and brought in medical doctors that performed free medical surgeries at the only referral hospital in the region”.

Senator Snowe added though he did not do much in other districts in Bomi apart from Senjeh, citizens of those areas trusted his ability to do better if he was accorded the opportunity to serve at the level of the Liberian Senate.

He promised to be very instrumental in ensuring the election of his Madam Finda Lassana as his successor for based upon a huge mandate he received from sons and daughters of Senjeh district.

Commissioner Dismissed in Cape Mount

Meanwhile, by directive of President George M. Weah, the Minister of Internal Affairs Varney A. Sirleaf has suspended Mr. Haji Jaleiba, Commissioner of Tewor District, Grand Cape County for acts incompatible to his function as an official of government.

According to a release from the Internal Affairs Ministry, the suspension takes immediate effect.

The Internal Affairs Minister has asked Mr. Jaleiba to turn himself over to state security for further investigation.

Preliminary investigation conducted by Grand Cape Mount County Superintendent Aaron Vincent linked the Commissioner to mismanagement of food commodities under the COHSFP-19 Household Food Support intended for people of the District.

Mr. Augustine Konneh, Relieving Commissioner of Grand Cape Mount County will serve as Acting District Commissioner during the suspension of Mr. Jaleiba. 

Meanwhile, Minister Sirleaf has instructed Grand Cape Mount County Superintendent Aaron Vincent to work with the security in the county for timely execution of the investigation.

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