Liberia: Sen. Dillon Vows to Lead Campaign against CDC Mont. County Lawmakers in 2023￼
MONROVIA — Montserrado County Senator Abraham Darius Dillon has expressed disappointment over the consistent misappropriation and diversion of funds intended to carry out sustainable developments for the benefit of citizens in the county towards the mobilization of what he calls “cheering squads” during the National County Sports Meet in Liberia by members of the County’s Legislative Caucus.
Lawmaker Dillon is a National Executive Committee (NEC) member of the shattered Collaborating Political Parties (CPP).
According to him, members of the caucus, totaling about 19 legislators, only meet during the holding of the County Meet to make appropriations that are not benefitting to those who elected them.
The National County Sports Meet is a sporting jamboree that allows citizens of the various counties to participate in various competitions. It is intended to unite and reconcile Liberians.
“Montserrado County (legislative) caucus meets only when there is a County Meet. I can’t pray for 2023 to come for us to kick most of these people out of the office from CDC so that Montserrado County can have leadership from the legislative caucus perspective. Since I became Senator we’ve only met when there is money somewhere for county meet. I am tired of that nonsense”.
He made these comments when he appeared as a guest on the OK Morning Rush Show on OK FM 99.5 on Tuesday, May 31.
Senator Dillon said though the tenure of the Chairman of the county’s caucus, Representative Thomas Fallah has expired, members of the caucus only meet to decide on “county meet budget and how much dollars each lawmaker will need to go and do cheering squad” from monies intended to develop the county.
Booting them out
Senator Dillon said though he does not intend to present himself as the “angel” among his colleagues, he will lead a vigorous campaign to ensure that most lawmakers of the CDC in Montserrado are not re-elected.
“I have not come to act like I am Mr. Good or the most perfect among my colleagues. That nonsense is not going to work with me and I can’t wait for 2023 to lead this Montserrado County into replacing some of these people so that the county can have a leadership structure that can be governed in such a way that the county money is used properly”.
He said the high level of partisanship of caucus’ members from the ruling party, including Superintendent Florence Brandy, is responsible for the poor legislative leadership citizens and residents of the county are experiencing.
“The County caucus is chaired by the governing party, the Superintendent is partisan and the leadership is almost a partisan. The small number can stand up and talk and vote, but the big number will carry the vote”.
US$5000 given for county meet mobilization
Senator Dillon recalled that following his ascendancy to the Liberian Senate in 2019, the first county sitting for Montserrado convened in February 2020 for the setting up of a budget for the county budget.
He recalled that during the meeting, it was agreed upon that each lawmaker receive the amount of US$5000 to mobilize their constituents ahead of the festivity.
“I signed the resolution and waived the US$5000 to district # 11 to Representative Richard Koon to go and complete a public school. If Senator Dillon will go on the field to witness Montserrado playing, the field will be packed. I don’t need county money to go and mobilize Montserrado County”.
Senator Dillon added that the second county sitting was also held this year at which time members of the caucus took similar path to take money from the coffers for the sole purpose of mobilizing their constituents for the county meet.
He said though he objected the move on grounds that monies intended for the county should not be used to mobilize “cheering squad”, the money was diverted to be used for projects in the various districts in Montserrado.
He pointed out that his portion of the money was given to women of Dixsville to rehabilitate deplorable roads in their area.
“Right in front Senator Saah Joseph and Richard Koon, I waived that money through the two of them-to the Chairman of the caucus Thomas Fallah to give to the women of district # 11 to help them build the community and dixsville roads. Whether they have gotten that money, I do not know. I have not taken a dime from the county money; it is not for me”.
Change in leadership
Senator Dillon emphasized that as a result of the consistent misappropriation of monies belonging to citizens of the county by their own leadership, it is prudent that the county’s leadership be changed.
To effectuate this change, he stated that, it will require efforts to ensure that bulk of the CDC lawmakers who are seated at the House of Representatives do not retain their respective seats come the 2023 general and presidential elections.
Legislative caucuses comprise of legislators from various counties. The significance of the formation of a legislative caucus is to ensure that lawmakers from the same county gather, brainstorm and take unilateral decisions on key national issues or legislations to benefit their constituents in their respective districts and counties at large.
But for several years, Liberians have complained that their lawmakers have not been working in their interest.
They claimed that they have not adequately felt the impact of the constitutional functions of those who they elected, including oversight, representation and lawmaking as evidenced by a shattered economy, bad road conditions, high rate of unemployment, lack of basic social services, partial dispensation of justice and the rule of law, growing wave of insecurity, secret killings, rampant corruption in the public sector, among others.
The citizens have consistently complained that their lawmakers are not checkmating the Executive to ensure that state actors are held accountable.
Misapplying the people’s monies
Most often, Liberians complained that monies intended to improve their living conditions through the provision of basic social services and implementation infrastructural projects are frequently misapplied and embezzled by some of their public or elected officials.
In some instances, county and social development funds paid into the coffers of the various counties by the government and concessionaires are not use to benefit the citizenry.
Appointed and elected officials, including Superintendents, Senators and
Representatives usually connived by stage managing county sittings to suit their plan to “chop” monies intended to benefit their constituents.
The County Sitting decides the expenditure of monies from the county’s coffers by the locals.
But Representatives and Senators singlehandedly handpicked and brainwashed those delegates, who are normally their supporters, to attend and endorse intangible projects that will not benefit them at those sittings.
These delegates are given little amount for “sitting fees” while their lawmakers walked away with fabulous amounts after these sittings.
When monies are of surplus in the coffers of some counties, the local authorities will ‘hang heads’ and hurriedly arrange for a county sitting in a bid to justify their improper actions of wrongly allocating huge portions of funds to satisfy their personal aggrandizement, leaving the locals to only benefit from “sitting fees and refreshment” at those gatherings.
Forced to join ruling party?
In Montserrado County, the current Superintendent Florence Brandy was compelled to join the governing CDC when news broke out that she would be replaced following the inauguration of President George Manneh Weah.
She was a stalwart of the ex-ruling Unity Party (UP) and was appointed as Superintendent of the county by ex-Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in 2013.
Madam Brandy was retained by President Weah following his ascendancy to the Liberian presidency.
Since then, citizens of Montserrado have not been able to adequately benefit from their fair share of their county and social development funds as monies are now directly given to lawmakers to supervise and implement projects, instead of the Project Management Committee (PMC).
China Union US$20,000
In September 2019, China Union provided the amount of US$340, 000 as Montserrado County share of the Social Development Fund ( SDF).
The amount of US$20,000 was secretly distributed to each lawmaker from the county by Madam Brandy.
When news of the money broke out, scores of residents across the concession areas of China Union, including Bong, took issues with their lawmakers by demanding accountability over the full expenditure of the money.
In district # 16, Montserrado County, the District Development Council (DDC) Chair Rev. Alonso Duncan raised a red flag over the expenditure of the money by CDC lawmaker Dixon Seeboe.
Rev. Duncan, who is also the Deputy Chaplain of the House of Representatives and Senior Pastor of the Bridgeway Baptist Church, says the 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.”
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.
Despite the justification provided by Representative Seeboe, Rev. Duncan resigned his post a few weeks thereafter.
Same wahala in District # 17
The China Union money curse spilled over to district # 17, Montserrado County when a group of citizens under the banner: “Concerned Citizens of district 17” threatened to take civil and legal actions against their Representative Hanson Kiazolu for “unilaterally” selecting developmental projects funded from the district’s portion of the same China Union money.
They claimed that the UP lawmaker llegedly commenced the implementation of projects, along with his “hand-picked” District Development Council (DDC) without the consent of his constituents.
They added that their lawmaker also “failed to call a District Sitting for constituents to decide on the appropriate projects” needed in keeping with the tenets of democracy, including decentralized decision making and participation.
They maintained that they were astonished when the Montserrado County lawmaker failed to provide information on projects being funded from the allotted China Union money at a called meeting, on grounds that the meeting was intended for citizens to make decisions on propositions forwarded to the National Legislature by President George Manneh Weah on the constitution review process at the time.
Representative Kiazolu admitted to receiving the money through the office of Superintendent Brandy.
He termed the “Concerned Citizens of District 17”, as a group of “boys” who are being sponsored by his “political opponents” to distract his attention from working in the interest of his constituents.
He stated that officials of the DDC were elected at one of the meetings held in the district.
“Those allegations are all diabolical. They are being used by my political opponents to do things to distract me from addressing the many challenges our district faced. Their assertions are lies. How can I make decisions on my own leaving the DDC. Everybody in the district will not attend a particular meeting for the election of a DDC. So those that went there elected the DDC. It is just unfortunate that few of those boys – when they are on their liquor table, they don’t attend community meetings. When they come, they just say anything that is on their mind”.
“ When I heard about the China Union money, I called meeting twice. And in fact, it was in one of the meetings the DDC was elected. Not because you were not there – it doesn’t mean that the meeting didn’t go on,” he stated”.
According to him, the DDC of District 17 submitted projects to the Superintendent’s office, including the renovations of town halls and construction of a hand pump in some communities within the district.
Up to present, most of the projects that were being implemented in the two districts from the China Union money are yet to be completed.
The entrusting of lawmakers with monies intended to execute developmental projects in their respective districts appears to be a new phenomenon under the CDC led-government of President George Manneh Weah.
In the past, projects were identified by the locals at a county sitting and appropriation made towards those projects. The PMC will ensure the full execution and completion of these projects through the selection of contractors following a competitive bidding process.
Presently, most of the developmental projects that are being executed by lawmakers from the SDF have been abandoned due to their “handpicking of contractors and request for kickbacks”.
The proper expenditure of public funds to benefit the citizenry has been an aged-old problem in post-conflict Liberia due to the embraced culture of impunity.