Liberia: Lawmakers Want Fallah, Koung Removed From Ways & Means Committee for ‘Financial Improprieties’
Capitol Hill, Monrovia – Activities of members of the House of Representatives have for the past two days been characterized by sustained secret meetings intended to mitigate financial scandals that have reportedly hit the lawmaking body.
On Wednesday, September 11, aggrieved lawmakers headed by Representative Hanson Kiazolu (Montserrado Co. Dist. #17) and Thomas Gushua (Grand Bassa, Distct #5) began gathering signatures for a resolution.
The resolution calls for the removal of Representatives Thomas Fallah (Montserrado Co. Dist#5) and Jeremiah Koung (Nimba Co. Dist. #1) as Chairman and Co-Chairman respectively from the Committee on Ways, Means, Finance & Development Planning for alleged financial impropriety.
The aggrieved lawmakers also called for the restructuring of the entire Ways, Means and Finance Committee.
In a leaked document, the lawmakers alleged that Fallah and Koung are holding onto their compensation that was disbursed by the Executive for the ongoing extra sitting.
The amount distributed by the Committee, according to the aggrieved lawmakers, came from the House of Representatives’ budget.
But the money that majority of them received was far less than what the Senators received.
Only few “privileged” members of the House received benefits equivalent to that of the Senate, the alleged.
They termed the alleged practice as a manipulation of the House’s budget and called on House Speaker Bhofal Chambers and Deputy Speaker Prince Moye to ensure that plenary reprimand the Committee’s heads and restructure the committee. They threatened to act through majority vote if the Speaker and his deputy refused their request.
Excerpt of the resolution reads: “… we as members of the Honorable House of Representatives, govern by our rules and Constitution of Liberia, do hereby mandate the Speaker and Deputy Speaker to employ all necessary means to reprimand the Ways, Means and Finance Committee that will result into changing the entire committee with new code of officers that will bring integrity, transparency and accountability to the financial management of the lower house as we are resolved to chart the next course of our legislative authority as provided for in the Constitution and the House’s Rules and Procedures should you fail to act accordingly.”
The lawmakers’ resolution came on the heels of a fresh revelation by Rep. Nagbe Sloh (Sinoe Dist. #2) when he appeared on a local radio and claimed that a group of “majority bloc” lawmakers have allegedly spent US$266,000 from the House’s budget to hold three separate meetings.
According to our reporters, the lawmakers were locked behind closed doors all day on Wednesday, September 11 up to the night hours struggling to resolve the issue but to no avail.
On Thursday, September 12, before the commencement of session, the aggrieved opposition lawmakers led by Rep. Kiazolu began gathering signatures for the resolution requesting the restructuring of the Ways, Means and Finance Committee.
Heated arguments then ensued between those for and against the resolution as journalists and observers looked on in surprise.
Sensing the tension, the Sergeant –at-arms, Gen. Gabriel Johnson then asked the press and other observers out of the chambers.
And when session began, almost the entire items were discussed behind closed doors.
Sources said the lawmakers tried to harmonize their differences in order to save the image of the august body but some still left the meeting disenchanted.
Rep. Fallah declined to comment on the allegation after the meeting, terming it as mere rumors.
“It is alleged and I won’t speak to that. I have not heard about my removal. It is not to my knowledge,” he averred.
When contacted, FPA was unable to get a response from Rep. Koung.
Rep. Koung’s phone rang endlessly. He did not respond to a text message as well.
Meanwhile, Rep. Kiazolu admitted to the crafting of the resolution, but said following a thorough investigation they found no financial malpractice by the committee.
However, he stated that they will continue to hold on to the resolution until all information provided by the House’s leadership is verified.
“I have called the press to first of all dismiss what was paraded in the media this morning that individuals stole money. Absolutely, our investigation did not point to that. Notwithstanding our resolution remain strong. We will continue to verify other information given to us by the leadership,” he clarified.
The Ways, Means and Finance Committee is one of the largest committees of the House of Representatives. Each of the 15 counties is represented by a lawmaker and the committee oversees the financial activities including the review of the national budget.