Liberia: Sen. Varney Sherman Expresses Disappointment in Stimulus Package Distribution, Minister Tarpeh Admits Delinquency
Monrovia – Senator H. Varney G. Sherman (UP-Grand Cape Mount County) has expressed utter disappointment in the COVID-19 National steering committee team over the handling of the US$25 million stimulus package approved by the government of Liberia through the Legislature.
In response, Professor Wilson Tarpeh, the outgoing Minister of Commerce and chair of the steering committee took responsibility for the low performance of the committee and vowed to make up for the delinquency. “We take responsibility as the steering committee for the poor performance, but we are taking steps to make up for that.”
Appearing before plenary of the Liberian Senate, he blamed the delinquency to what he called unavoidable circumstance that has created bad roads around the country making it difficult for free traveling for those handling the food distribution program. “The raining season provided unnecessary impediment, but that unavoidable impediment has now cease as we gradually move towards the end of the raining season.”
He also told members of the Senate that the committee is faced with another challenge of awareness on who are the main targets for the distribution and has promised to use the news media to create awareness about people who are to benefit from the distribution. “There is a general belief that once we arrive in a county or area with food everyone should receive and that is why we are working with the news media to inform the public that, that’s not the case.”
For many senators including Sherman, Darius Dillon and Steve Zargo, the excuses presented by Minister Tarpeh is not strange because according to them these situations have existed even before the COVID-19 outbreak.
When Liberia’s National Legislature jointly endorsed President George Weah’s measures in his declared State of Emergency granting the authority to implement a food distribution stimulus package, it was believed that Liberians from all 15 counties would benefit.
The package prioritized four counties affected by the COVID-19 – Montserrado County the center of the Virus in Liberia, Margibi, Nimba and Grand Kru. This list of counties was later amended by the legislature to include all 15 counties.
In the wisdom of the Legislature, it was necessary to include all fifteen counties since in fact the country was under a lockdown, making almost every Liberian vulnerable to the virus.
The cost attached to the project 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.