Liberia: Grand Kru Senator Coleman Wants Money for Stimulus Package Given to Health Programs
Monrovia – Senator Peter Coleman (CDC-Grand Kru County) is recommending a halt in the ongoing stimulus package food distribution in a bid to save money and redirect funds to the operational budget of the Ministry of Health.
Senator Coleman made the suggestion at the ongoing budget hearing by members of the Ways, Means, and Finance committee of the Legislature.
The Grand Kru lawmaker recommendation was based on the discovery that the budget of the Ministry of Health was reduced to fund the stimulus package. “Right now, no one is dying of starvation since the food distribution is still ongoing, we need to stop it and take the balance money and restore it back to the Health Ministry budget.
The Senator says he is concerned and aware as a Lawmaker that a resolution was passed but acknowledged that no one mandated the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning to go into the Ministry of Health’s budget to reduce allocations to health institutions.
The CDC’s Grand Kru County Senator described as double punishment to the population of the country the acts by the Ministry of Finance Ministry to reduce budget allotted to the Ministry of health and health institutions in the country.
The cost attached to the Stimulus was USD$25 million from government coffers and US$10 from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) if the government meets the needed requirement laid down by the IMF.
Since the approval, citizens have been anxious to know when the distribution will begin. More importantly, who will lead the process?
The highlight of the President’s plan features a US$25 million to support food distribution to households in designated-affected counties for a period of 60 days, electricity and water support during the Stay-at-Home Program; Market Women and Small Informal Petty Traders Bank Loan Program, a government domestic debt program and a President’s Tax Policy and Administration Stimulus Program.
The World Bank committed US$15 million to help the government fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The Bank has already made available US$1.5 million to help the government to start the fight against the coronavirus while they are working on making available in total US$6 million that is expected to be in the country within six days.
Recently, lawmakers, including Representatives Dr. George E. S. Bolley (District #2, Grand Gedeh County), Edward Karfia (District #5, Bong County), Moima Briggs Mensah (District #6, Bong County), Ivar Jones (District #2, Margibi County) and P. Mike Jurry (District #1, Maryland County) criticized the process.
Speaking separately in plenary last week, lawmakers said the exercise lacks a comprehensive plan and is not being done in line with accepted standards.
The lawmakers’ criticism followed the testimonies of several members of the committee headed by its Chairman, Commerce and Industry Minister, Professor Wilson Tarpeh.
Plenary voted in favor of a motion, mandating the committed to return within one week with a comprehensive report, detailing the timeline and number of people that are being targeted.
The Committee, along with the WFP had been invited by the House to give updates on the food distribution exercise.
Earlier in June, Senator Abraham Darius Dillon (Liberty Party, Montserrado) took Commerce Minister Wilson Tarpeh and the World Food Programme Liberia to task over the lack of transparency and accountability regarding the COVID-19 food distribution.
“The way they are proceeding, something is smelling – and we need the deodorant to spray the place,” Senator Monday during an appearance on Sky FM’s 50-50 Show Monday.
Senator Dillon expressed grave disappointment in Minister Tarpeh’s handling of the program. “I am disappointed that Mr. Wilson Tarpeh and the Executive branch of government has up to date failed, refused and neglected to submit the contract between the Liberian government and the World Food Program regarding this food distribution.”
Senator Dillon says the main reason for demanding transparency on the issue is to allay fears in the minds of Liberians skeptical about the process. “The reason I would demand openness and transparency for the sake of accountability is to erase suspicions, speculations, rumors and lies. When you operate under the cloud of darkness then you create suspicions in the eyes of the people.”