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Liberia: Govt. Official Calls for Full Disclosure of Development Funds from Concession Companies

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MONROVIA – Social and County Development funds paid by concession companies to host counties and communities are usually not disclosed by the government, an official of the Mines and Energy Ministry has acknowledged.

The Director of Economic Forecast and Concession Appraisal at the Ministry of Mines and Energy, Mr. Fahnseth Mulbah, has challenged civil society organizations to be inquisitive and seek information on how and when payments are made by these companies to the Government of Liberia.

Mr. Mulbah believes there must be full disclosure of monies paid by concessionaires in the country and it is incumbent on the civil society organizations to find out and inform the public.

“You don’t get to know how much the people pay or what they paying. We need to inform our people when the companies pay, he said.

He made the statement when he spoke at the official launch of a program dubbed ‘Making Natural Resource Work for Concession Communities in Liberia’.

He said, “We also need to admonish our officials to ensure that when these companies pay the money, it should go down to the community people. ArcelorMittal paid US$31.5 million for Yekepah but what do you see? Nothing! 

“I worked for Putu and they paid US$3 million for Zwedru but the common people don’t feel the impact, we need to lobby with our lawmakers to ensure that when these companies pay these monies, the affected communities are impacted.

“We should not antagonize the government, let’s work together to ensure that we succeed. We are all in this thing together we need to engage our lawmakers.”

In January the Speaker of the House of Representatives appointed Representative Clarence Massaquoi of Lofa County as chair on a specialized committee that would review all concession agreements based on the five-year review concession clauses but that committee is yet to report on the task.

Representative Massaquoi refused to comment on the matter when he was asked how far his committee has gone with the task given them by Plenary of the House of Representatives.

When ArcelorMittal, the London-based international mining conglomerate, amended its contract with the Liberian government in 2006, expectations for development in Nimba County soared. Among other benefits, the contract promised US$1.5 million would be given to Nimba every year to be used on projects and services that would benefit citizens. But over 10 years later, the bureaucratic process that administers those funds remains confusing, with limited public information about how they are being spent.

The Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) between ArcelorMittal and the Liberian government stipulates that $1.5 million dollars per year are to be contributed to Nimba for social development, in order to compensate for the effects of its operations in the county. The contribution was to be used on development projects in the county, with specific allotment for communities directly affected by mining activities.

Reports published by the Liberia Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (LEITI) show that from 2008 to 2015, Arcelor Mittal contributed US$15,497,260.50 to the social development fund in Nimba.

Under the current process, the annual contribution is initially controlled by the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, where it is placed in a consolidated account and disbursed to the county during a budgetary period that begins from July and ends in June the following year.

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