Liberia: Senate Explains US$15k Legislative Engagement Fund; Says Cummings’ Criticism Is Aimed at Political Gains

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MONROVIA – The Liberian Senate has provided justification for the allotment of US$15,000 to each lawmaker for legislative project and engagement while at the same time hitting back at the political leader of the opposition Alternative National Congress (ANC), Alexander Cummings, who has termed the allotment as political corruption.

The Senate in a press statement explained that the US$15,000 received recently by each Senator and Representative is from an allotment under Legislative Engagement Line of the 2020/2021 National Budget and does not go into the pockets of the members of the Legislature. Instead, the money, according to the Senate, is geared towards the support to their initiatives in their various counties. With the leadership structure in their respective counties, the money is decided upon and invested as deemed necessary by the Senator and his county leadership.

The Senate noted that Lawmakers come from every district in every county in this country. Hence, both the members of the House of Representatives and the Liberian Senate represent every single citizen in every part of Liberia.

“Over the years, Central Government has been overwhelmed by major developmental projects – focusing more on building of roads, agriculture and other infrastructure while at the same time boosting healthcare which has continued to do a tremendous job in curtailing the spread of the coronavirus – a pandemic that world has been battling for over a year,” the release continues.

The Senate at the same time stated “that no government, we know, has the financial and human capital to reach out and support the needs of every district and county in this country. While our people in these deprived areas continue to suffer untold suffering and hardship, they look up to their Senators and Representatives for the provision of schools, clinics, market, roads, and even direct personal support. Lawmakers have over the years, without hesitation, tried to meet these needs at their own expense.”

The Senate maintained that this fund could go towards helping in the fight against covid-19 in the county, construction of a bridge, road, library, hospital, school, payment of school fees, building of a modern public latrine or to help with some charitable undertakings, etc. This is how the counties get directly impacted with the little but needed developments.

“We find it disingenuous that Mr. Cummings would believe that this fund is intended to support the political interest of any Senator when the Senate comprises members of all political parties. Clearly, this is not intended to give any single Senator an edge because s/he is from the ruling party or the opposition parties,” the Senate added.

“No government, we know, has the financial and human capital to reach out and support the needs of every district and county in this country. While our people in these deprived areas continue to suffer untold suffering and hardship, they look up to their Senators and Representatives for the provision of schools, clinics, market, roads, and even direct personal support. Lawmakers have over the years, without hesitation, tried to meet these needs at their own expense.”

– Liberian Senate

According to the Senate, Mr. Cummings’ criticism of the fund is intended for his self-glorification and to bring the Legislature to public disrepute for political gains.

The Senate: “The Liberian Senate deems Mr. Cummings’ recent criticism of the Senate and the Legislature as a whole as an attempt to put the people of Liberia against their lawmakers for his own political gains. This kind of harmful politicking would only continue to leave our country in shambles. It must be condemned by all well-intentioned Liberians.

“It is sad that Mr. Cummings who thinks he is a better option for the leadership of this country does not have any inner idea on the needs of the indigenous people and how those needs can be worked around.”

The Senate maintained that this fund could go towards helping in the fight against covid-19 in the county, construction of a bridge, road, library, hospital, school, payment of school fees, building of a modern public latrine or to help with some charitable undertakings, etc. This is how the counties get directly impacted with the little but needed developments.

“We find it disingenuous that Mr. Cummings would believe that this fund is intended to support the political interest of any Senator when the Senate comprises members of all political parties. Clearly, this is not intended to give any single Senator an edge because s/he is from the ruling party or the opposition parties” the Senate added.

The Leadership of the Senate believes that Mr. Cummings’ quest for power is leading him to sow seeds of discord among our people. The Senate Leadership once again calls on all well-meaning Liberians not to lend credence to Mr. Cummings’ recent statement on the Legislative Engagement Funds that is coded 0563 in the National Budget.

Cummings on Tuesday has urged members of the national legislature to return the US$15,000 given them by the government, and authorize such payments to the Liberia Agency for Community Empowerment (LACE), which is clothed with the responsibility of undertaking legislative projects.

Cummings believes to allocate monies to individual legislators in the name of attempting to do for the people what the government should be doing for them, so that legislators are personally and politically credited for doing so, is political corruption.

Meanwhile, On Tuesday Senator Abraham Darius Dillon took to a press conference to address concerns raised by his supporters over his acceptance of the money.

Dillon: “This money is not personal benefits for lawmakers, it is not added to our personal benefits. It is budgeted for. The budget item has not been given for the past three years, this is the first time it’s being provided. This is the first time it’s being announced for the public to know about it – that is not the justification for doing wrong if it is wrong.

“I like the fact that the barrage condemnation is being thrown at me, it tells me that the country is looking up to us with hope that it will used us as a compass for integrity in the public service. Now that it has angered the public, we can now go back on the drawing board to do it better.

“I have decided that as disappointing it may sound to some people, we will not return the money. We will turn the money over through a communication to Liberia Agency for Community Empowerment and ask them to work with the office of the Superintendent to find an ideal parcel of land where we will begin the process of a public library. That land will not be in my name, but in the name of Montserrado County and it will become a property of the county.”

Senator Dillon acknowledged that he has followed views and concerns of the public some of which he said are legitimate while other are sentimental. “We too we are concern. If we hurt you by taking this money we are sorry, but the money wasn’t taken with any attempt to go home with it. The people are suffering we know that but if our actions will give something to the county let’s do it,” he said.

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