Liberia: Rep. Yekeh Koluba Demands Explanation for Diversion of US$24m Road Fund Money

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MONROVIA – Montserrado County district # 10 Representative Yekeh Kolubah has termed as “overlapping of functions and the abuse of public trust and confidence” the expenditure of US$25m from money intended to rehabilitate roads across the country from the account of the National Road Fund (NRF) of the Government of Liberia (GOL).

Lawmaker Kolubah is an executive of the opposition Alternative National Congress (ANC).

Liberia passed the National Road Fund Act in 2016 and operationalized the National Road Fund in 2018 following the inception of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) led-government of President George Manneh Weah. Among other things, the law sets aside the amount of US$0.35 on every gallon of gasoline purchased in the country to go towards the rehabilitation of roads in the country..

But an audit of the conducted on the Fund by the General Auditing Commission (GAC) for two fiscal years July 1, 2018  to  June 30, 2020, unearthed that millions of dollars of fuel levies paid by motorists for the maintenance and rehabilitation of roads in Liberia are either not being remitted to the road fund account as required by the act creating the National Road Fund or expended for the intended purpose.

The GAC observed in the report released to the National Legislature last week, that the Liberia Revenue Authority collected  US$53,018,871.54 and deposited the money in the Consolidated Fund Account instead of the National Road Fund Account as required by the Road Fund Act. The Consolidated Fund Account is the Government general revenue account that is controlled by the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP). Of this amount, according to the report, the MFDP remitted US$28,152,231 to the National Road Fund thereby leaving a difference of US$24,866,637.54 which was not remitted.

Authorities of the government have justified that the money was diverted towards the payment of salaries.

But according to Representative Kolubah, the amount was set aside to be used for roads rehabilitation and not for the payment of salaries.

He made these comments when he appeared as guest on the OK Morning Rush Show on OK FM 99.5 in Monrovia on Tuesday, May 24.

He justified that before the usage of the fund, the National Legislature should have given approval to the appropriate authority to do so.

Representative Kolubah maintained that though he does not intend to make a hasty conclusion on the matter, it is prudent that lawmakers make an inquiry to the necessary government entities responsible to manage the fund.

He requested his colleagues to exert efforts and invite the Director of the NRF, the Ministers of Finance and Development Planning and Public Works to provide detailed information on the road fund deficit.

He claimed that few people within the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) led-government of President George Manneh Weah are allegedly taking the Liberian people money and enriching themselves

“Before you used any money from the road fund, the Legislature should give you that authority to do so. As a lawmaker, I cannot remember the Legislature given approval for the road fund to be diverted to the payment of salaries. This is abusing the Liberian people monies. You can’t the Liberian people money and enrich yourselves”.

Chambers shielding corrupt officials?

The Speaker of the House of Representatives Dr. Bhofal Chambers has been consistently accused of suppressing the views of some of his colleagues, particularly those from opposition political parties, including Representatives Kolubah, Francis Dopoh, Rustolyn Dennis, Hanson Kiazolu, among others of Montserrado and River Gee counties respectively.

He has been portrayed as one who is always shielding and preventing the appearance of some corrupt government officials before the Plenary of the House.

But Representative Kolubah is on record for referring to the Speaker of the House of Representatives Dr. Bhofal Chambers as a “bag boy and stooge” to the Liberian leader.

“People are feeling that the Liberian people’s money is something that is in the streets and people can just use it the way they feel like. I have written more than 500 communications since I became lawmaker in 2018, none of them has surfaced on the floor. Money is in this country. But we that are in authorities decided to eat the money and mean the Liberian people”.

Representative Chambers maintained that the House is not the personal “living room” of Dr. Chambers and as such, his communications calling  for that August Body to be audited and the establishment of a war and economic crimes court in the country should be placed on the floor for discussion.

“The Speaker’s budget is US$2.3M. Why the Speaker should have US$200,000 in his budget for car? He needs helicopter to come to work? We are not treating the Liberian people fairly. We are there to enjoying ourselves leaving the Liberian people out”.

He justified that Liberia will continue to be seen in the eyes of international partners as a “corrupt country” if the issue surrounding the road fund are swept under the carpet.

Representative Kolubah maintained that international partners would feel reluctant to spend their monies in Liberia if no steps are taken.

He emphasized that the wrong things will continue to go on in Liberia because, some of those in power, especially members of the National Legislature, have decided to be “bodyguards” to President Weah.

Consistent in advocacy

Representative Kolubah has been lambasted and condemned on numerous occasions by citizens and others, including the Liberia Council of Churches (LCC) for his disparaging and vulgar utterances against the Liberian presidency.

He is on record for consistently questioning the source of wealth of President Weah.

He has wondered why the President did not construct duplexes and other properties during his footballing days and following his ascendancy to the Liberian Senate in 2014.

Representative Kolubah claimed that President Weah and his confidantes, including the Ministers of Finance and Development Planning and State for Presidential Affairs, Samuel Tweah and Nathaniel McGill, are consistently engaged into alleged acts of rampant corruption, abuse of power, disrespect for the rule of law, favoritism, among others.

But the Executive Mansion and others accused have consistently denied the accusations.

Sometimes ago, the Council, through its President Bishop Kortu Brown, observed that though some of the issues raised by the firebrand lawmaker are germane, his presentation and outburst are unacceptable.

“That is how I express what I want to express. I cannot express myself like you. These people and myself come from the same party. I am a member of the CDC by extension and I know what they understand”.

Representative Kolubah emphasized that diverting and expending public monies for self-glorification amount to disrespecting the trust and confidence of the Liberian people.

He bragged that his high level of consistency and advocacy have yielded fruitful results for the benefit of his constituents.

Representative Kolubah named the construction of the Invincible Park, Old Road Market building, and the ongoing Peace Island asphalt pavement projects as some tangibles of his oversight and other cardinal responsibilities as a lawmaker.

“My job is to talk and not to be a collaborator or praise singer to somebody. My job is to make sure that the right things are done. You think they built those things because somebody wanted to build it? They built it because I am consistent. I am not Public Works Minister to build bridges; it’s not my function. My job is to talk to compel people to do the work”.

He noted that he would do things outside of his functions enshrined in the Liberian Constitution.

Why ‘Weah Project’

Members of the opposition community in Liberia have been seriously concerned over the manner and form in which monies are allocated in the budget to implement several developmental projects across the country.

They have complained that though those projects are funded by tax payers’ monies, the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) led-government is in the constant habit of diverting those budgetary initiatives under a nomenclature ‘Weah Project’ to please the Liberian Chief Executive.

Most of the several markets and roads as well as the donation of brand new vehicles to chiefs in Monrovia and other parts of the country have all been considered as presidential projects.

But Representative Kolubah frowned at the expenditure of tax payers’ monies to give leverage or privilege to the President instead of the ordinary tax payers.

“You cannot take the Liberian people money and you go somewhere and say ‘Weah Project’. You cannot put one light pole here and say ‘Weah for 2023. Is that your personal money?”

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