Liberia: Lawmaker ‘Makes Unilateral Decision’ on US$20k Given by China Union for District Development
Montserrado County – The District Development Council (DDC) of Electoral District #16, Montserrado County has raised a red flag over the expenditure of US$20,000 allotted by China Union as Social Development Fund (SDF) to the district.
Speaking in an interview with FrontPageAfrica recently, the Coordinator of the DDC, Rev. Alonso Duncan disclosed that he was notified about the allotment of the money by Representative Dixon Seeboe at the Capitol Building in Monrovia.
Rev. Duncan, who is also the Deputy Chaplain of the House of Representatives and Senior Pastor of the Bridgeway Baptist Church, says the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) lawmaker gave him the amount of US$2,600 for the completion of a bridge project that is presently ongoing in the Mombo Town West Community under the supervision and monitoring of the DDC.
The renowned Liberian Clergyman emphasized that Representative Seeboe allegedly failed to inform him about the whereabouts of the remaining US$17,400 from the US$20,000.
He pointed out that the ongoing bridge project was earmarked by Representative Seeboe instead of the people of the district.
Rev. Duncan disclosed that previously the amounts of US$1,000, and L$288,000 were entrusted to the council from the County Development Fund Account of Montserrado and deposited into the account of the DDC, but the total money allotted by China Union was never deposited in the DDC’s account.
He noted that though the Council was informed by some community dwellers that the lawmaker is initiating projects in the St. Paul Bridge and Bong Mines Bridge Communities, the Council will not give account of those projects.
“Less than two weeks ago, I was called by Representative Dixon Seeboe when we went for Session at the Capitol Building. He told me that US$20,000 has been committed to the district for development,” he said, adding, “I was not really told about where the money came from. The first money we received was placed in our account. But this second money, I don’t know where it went.”
He continued: “Out of the US$20,000 Representative Dixon Seeboe told me that the DDC will receive US$2,600 and that was what we received. We got information that the balance money will be used on the dry rice market in St. Paul Bridge and a toilet project around the Bong Mines Bridge.
“I believed that those projects should be done by the DDC but they were never given to us. I was told by the Honorable that we should monitor the market and toilet projects. We are District Development Council and we are not District Monitoring Council and so, we will not monitor anything outside of our scope. I have no knowledge about the market and toilet projects and I think it was a mistake from the Honorable side.”
Rev. Duncan expressed hope that the CDC lawmaker would rethink his decision and work in line with the Council.
He noted that though the DDC cannot tell whether or not the funds were mismanaged by Representative Seeboe, it looks forward to ensuring that the right things are done in the district.
He added that the alleged usurpation of the functions of the DDC by the lawmaker is impeding development in the district.
“Anything that has to do with development falls within our preview and not outside our preview. Anything that has to do with development, we are not limited or we should not be restricted,” he said.
“I was elected by the people to represent them as head of the DDC. The electorates came from the 25 leaders of the community. About one year now, we were never given any task to perform. We didn’t really perform last year. We were not financially capacitated.”
For his part, the Secretary General of the DDC, Winston Bobby Mitchell claimed that the clarification was necessary since there were speculations that the DDC had allegedly connived with the lawmaker to embezzle the money.
He added that Representative Seeboe has been allegedly earmarking projects to be implemented in the district, and hand-picking contractors without a competitive bidding process or the consent of the residents.
Mr. Mitchell urged Representative Seeboe to show respect to the DDC and desist from “over-riding the functions of the Council.”
“The reason why we are here is to start flagging out irregularities on the part of Representative Dixon Seeboe towards the DDC. Our term of reference was very clear that we were going to account for all developmental initiatives in the district and make report during the County Sitting.
“There are two different types of monies that came to the district. The first money that came was 10,000USD from the County Development Fund (CDF). It came in early this year. He told us that during the County sitting US$3000 was cut from the US$10,000 and the cut was used for entertainment. We were left with 7,000USD. Out of the 7000USD we received 1000USD physical cash and the second was 288,000LD.”
The DDC said it should be holding talks to identify project and inform the Representative but the lawmaker has been identifying project instead.
“The Honorable man is single-handedly initiating projects all by himself. Any project that does not meet our consent, we will not account for them during the County Sitting; apart from the bridge project we are undertaking,” Mitchell said.
“I believe that the money is still in the hands of the Representative. By virtue of the PFM law, I don’t think the Representative supposed to` be implementing projects. Every project in the district supposed to be bided for. But for the Representative to bring his own contractor, I think it is a disservice to the Council.”
But speaking when he appeared on a local radio show on Tuesday, September 11, Representative Seeboe confirmed that China Union gave Montserrado County US$1M for SDF and out of the total amount his district received US$20,000 through the office of the county’s Superintendent.
According to him, no Representatives or Senators received monies that are allotted for County or Social Development Funds.
He pointed out that he managed to convinced authorities of the county to select contractors from the district to implement the St. Paul Bridge market rehabilitation project and the Bong Mines Bridge latrine project.
Representative Seeboe added that the amount of US$20,000 in question was deposited into the account of a company named Silani.
The Montserrado County lawmaker, however, failed to clearly state whether or not he has a link with the company.
He justified that it was not prudent for his office to notify residents of the district on the money received from China Union on grounds that he made numerous campaign promises to his constituents in the communities, and as such, he directed the allotments to his campaign projects.
He added that no lawmaker would make promises to his/her constituents and reneged on fulfilling those promises without the use of the CDF and SDF.
“When we campaigned we went into Bong Mines Bridge; and the people had issues with sanitation; latrines specifically. We said well, we cannot do with you directly, we will deal with contractors. We want to ensure that the contractor we used is a contractor that is domiciled into our district,” he said.
“And so, we were able to convince Montserrado County to use a contractor from our district. It doesn’t work that way; and that’s why our people need to understand. When you do your campaigning, and you have your DDC setup; these are people that you to get to people you want to get to.”
He said Project Management Committee is clothed with the responsibility of awarding contracts, monitoring contracts at the county level and not the DDC.
“DDC serves as one major eye on the project to ensure that it is done. Our DDC thought they should have received the money, called the contractor and even to the extent that they sat at a workshop and NAYMOTE told them that they supposed to receive 10% of the monies for a project,” he said.
There have been claims and counter-claims over the proper usage of CDF and SDF in Liberia.
Most often, lawmakers are accused of using their influence to receive “kickbacks” from contractors who they favored to do or implement projects worth thousands of United States dollars in their respective districts.