Liberia: Senate Trashes Report on COVID-19 Stimulus Food Distribution; Says WFP Needs to Clarify


Monrovia – Majority members of the Liberian Senate have termed as unrealistic a report from Prof. Wilson Tarpeh, chair of the Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19, in which he claimed 2.3 million people received stimulus package, a figure that represents 92 per cent of targeted recipients.

As part of a Covid-19-induced lockdown, the government saw the need to support vulnerable families whose lives were affected by the pandemic by setting up a special presidential taskforce.

The legislature approved a $25 million stimulus package to provide food for vulnerable communities in collaboration with the World Food Program (WFP), offset loans to vulnerable traders, and pay utility bills for some households, among other things.

Suspicions on the expenditure of over US$25 Million  from members of the Senate over the application and distribution of the stimulus package became a popular position  by most of the senators who said the only way to have a comprehensive response to their concerns was by inviting the WFP. 

Appearing before the Senate Thursday, Prof. Tarpeh said the 2.3 million people who received the stimulus package were those whose lives were ravaged by the lockdown.

What has the WFP done?

According to a report from the Chair, a total of 29, 769 metric tons of food has been distributed to the beneficiaries and reached. Five of the fifteen counties have been successfully completed, while distribution in the remaining 10 counties is expected to be completed by the 31 of May 2021.

Counties completed are Bomi, Rivercess, Grand Gedeh, Grand Kru and River Gee. Counties with distribution still ongoing are; Lofa, Bong, Grand Cape Mount, Gbarpolu, and Grand Bassa Counties. Others are; Magibi, Nimba, Nimba, Montserrado and Sinoe Counties.

“Approximately 200,000 vulnerable people (40,000 households) are remaining to be reached. Most of the remaining 200,000 people to be reached are in Lofa and Bong Counties.”

At some point of the interaction during the hearing, Prof. Tarpeh could not state the cost of the contract signed with the WFP for the distribution of the food and portion of the US$ 30 million dollars allotted to the process. According to him he was not privileged with the information. 

But majority of the Senators rebuffed Prof. Tarpeh’s report, stating that the relief assistance didn’t meet the targeted number of recipients. 

Edwin Melvin Snowe of Bomi was one of many senators who questioned the sincerity of the WFP distribution, claiming that the distribution process was characterized by theft.

“Honorable Pro-temp and colleagues: “A commissioner was caught with over two hundred bags of rice and was arrested. To date, she has only paid US$200 and she went free” he. said

“The issue in Bomi is that the people sold the food. I strongly advice plenary to constitute a committee to investigate the COVID-19 stimulus package. This legislature was criticized for passing the stimulus package but the people stole the food,” Senator Snowe added.