Liberia: Lawmakers Raise Concern over US$25M Approved by the Legislature for Food Distribution Being Loan Not Approved By Them
MONROVIA – The Government of Liberia has come under a barrage of criticisms for reportedly infusing a loan of US$25 million in the recast budget recently approved by the legislature for food distribution to ease hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Report by Lennart Dodoo, [email protected]
The disclosure of the amount being a loan was made via social media by Senator Saah Joseph of Montserrado County and a staunch member of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC).
Senator Joseph who is disgusted over the use of US$9million of the US$30 million transferred from the Government’s consolidated account to the World Food Program (WFP) for administrative purposes, disclosed the money is a loan taken by the Liberian government and would be paid by the Liberian people.
He posted to Facebook: “Colleagues, WFP’s $9m charge for 21 food distribution is totally unappealing. This should not be allowed to happen in a poor country like ours. This is not free money! It is a loan that we, the people of Liberia, must pay. #COVID19IsReal #StaySafe #SocialDistance #ProPoorMustSucceed.”
The concern raised by Senator Joseph is raising eyebrows among lawmakers who speedily passed the recast budget through a resolution.
Representative Samuel Enders of Montserrado County District 6 on Monday took to social media (Facebook) to express his dissatisfaction over the loan aspect not being disclosed to the legislature.
He wrote: “It is also misleading and very troubling to read that the 25 million allotted in the recast budget was a loan. I do not remember signing any loan agreement for such. We need to know how much was taken and who authorized the loan during the COVID 19 period with specific reference to the recast.”
Sen. Dillon: Dedux of US$25m Mop-up Flop
Senator Abraham Darius Dillon of Montserrado County and a member of the opposition Liberty Party, came under investigation for calling his colleagues “spineless, useless and rotten”.
He was strongly opposed to the speedy passage of the recast budget without carefully scrutinizing the budget.
Senator Dillon and some of his colleagues had requested demanded from the Executive, through Commerce Minister Wilson Tarpeh (Head of “Free Food Package”) the following documents for proper scrutiny and input:
Food Distribution Contract between the Government of Liberia (GoL) and the World Food Program (WFP), and the details contained therein.
▪︎A detailed Distribution Plan (how many bags per person or household).
▪︎Details of the “administrative costs”, etc.
The Executive failed to provide the request of Sen. Dillon and his colleagues but the Legislature proceeded with the passage of the recast budget.
Sen. Dillon: “Now we are told that out of US$30 million for “Free Food”, nearly $10 million (1/3 or 33%) to be used for unexplained “administrative costs.” How does this make any logic sense in the absence of openness and transparency?
“What is WFP actually bringing to be awarded a nearly $10 million contract only to distribute food out of $30mil? How can we “credit” $30mil from one international partner to “feed” our people but award $10mil out of said amount to another international partner under unexplained manner? Where is our collective call for transparency and accountability?
“The nightmarish and yet unexplained usage of $25 million for “mop-up exercise” over a year ago remains a fresh reminder that should never be allowed to reoccur in any shape and form. We will not rest contend until proper accountability is provided here. Our country and people deserve better!!!
“It is also misleading and very troubling to read that the 25 million allotted in the recast budget was a loan. I do not remember signing any loan agreement for such. We need to know how much was taken and who authorized the loan during the COVID 19 period with specific reference to the recast.”– Samuel Enders, Representative, District 6, Montserrado County
Min. Nagbe: “Legislature Approved”
When contacted for details on the loan aspect of the recast budget, Information Minister Lenn Eugene Nagbe told FrontPageAfrica that “the money is not a standalone amount. It’s as a result of budgetary allocation as approved by the legislature”.
Commenting further on the issue, he added, “Those who say it’s a loan should explain further. All monies, loans, grants and domestic revenue go into the consolidated account of the government. Expenditures from said account must meet legislative approval; which we got for this program. We got approval from the legislature and transferred US$25 million from the consolidated account to WFP.”
The Information Minister was careful not to confirm or deny that the US$25 million in question is a loan as disclosed by Senator Joseph.
In his communication to the legislature for the consideration of a recast budget, President Weah wrote: “I propose that for the remainder of FY 2019/20 the National Legislature re-appropriates the amount of US$25 million to support food distribution to households in designated affected counties for 60 days.” He added, “The full costing to cover this period in affected and other areas may add up to around $40 million.
The Senate on May 22 concurred with the House of Representatives to pass a recast budget through a resolution signed by two-third of Senators.
The Senate plenary passed into Law the proposed recast COVID -19 Budget for the fiscal period 2019/2020 in the tone of US$518,000,00(Five Hundred Eighteen Million United States Dollars).
The Senate Decision was based on resolution signed by two-third of the total membership of the Liberian Senate. Senate Resolution #oo1/2020 was read during the Senate sitting on Friday May 22, 2020 by the Secretary of the Senate J. Nanborlor F. Singbeh and subsequently obtained an overwhelming vote by members of the Senate in chamber.