Liberia: Senator Nyonblee Karnga Lawrence Raises Red Flag over Expenditure of Tax Payers’ Monies
MONROVIA – The embattled Political Leader of the opposition Liberty Party (LP) Senator Nyonblee Karnga Lawrence has underscored the need for a thorough checkmating and scrutiny of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) led-government of President Geoegr Manneh Weah to ensure that budgetary allocations are properly utilized and not use to enrich a few to the detriment of the nation and its citizens.
Senator Lawrence is representing the people of Grand Bassa County in the 54th National Legislature.
She said the proper expenditure of US$4M given to President Weah in the national budget sometimes ago to carry out his nationwide tour and implement developmental projects to benefit the citizens must be established.
She observed that public funds are being allegedly expended by the government on projects that are of no priority to citizens in many areas.
Senator Lawrence made these comments when she spoke to Reporters in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County on Sunday, July 17.
“The government hospital called me last night that they need about 15 gallons to put the lights on because people were dying and they couldn’t keep them under oxygen. Where is the US$100,000 that was placed in the budget for the government hospital in Grand Bassa County? What happened to the US$4M given to the President to go on county tour and do projects? He (Weah) brought few light poles and placed it in Grand Bassa County. It almost gone off. Is that our priority-no”.
Senator Lawrence disclosed that she was compelled to carry out rehabilitation at the Demonstration Public School owned by the government in the county due to the lack of sufficient support to enhance smooth academic activities at the facility.
“I didn’t donate a cafeteria set that I took to the school because, I had to do the roof, ceiling and paint even though the school is a government school. The government-George Weah and his people-take millions of dollars every budget year and squandered it”.
She stated that public funds are being allegedly misused by President Weah and others to the detriment of the citizenry.
Senator Lawrence maintained that the act is allegedly being committed at the time many young people are faced with mountainous difficulties and the health and education sectors are deteriorating.
Did not receive money
Recently, CDC lawmaker Acarous Moses Gray accused his colleagues at the National Legislature of receiving the amount of US$30,000 in the recast national budget for “legislative engagement and outreach”.
Representative Gray made specific reference to Senator Abraham Darius Dillon of Montserrado County-who many see as the only lawmaker bringing sanctity and some level of openness at the first branch of the Liberian government.
The accusation did not go down well with scores of Senators, including Senator Dillon, who reacted by challenging the CDC lawmaker to provide the evidence.
Senator Lawrence also denied receiving the amount in question.
Don’t run with rumours
Senator Lawrence used the medium to encourage members of the Liberian media to desist from “running with rumors”.
She said journalists should at all times report the facts instead of dwelling on fallacies and rumors to report their stories.
She pointed out that the media will continue to tarnish the reputation or image of an individual or group if it continues to report stories based on speculations and rumors.
Senator Lawrence further stressed the need for media practitioners to thoroughly scrutinize the national budget to determine or establish why funding allocated to governmental institutions, including medical facilities have not been disbursed properly to boost effective and efficient healthcare delivery and other services.
Force Weah to take actions
She said both civil society actors and journalists should “elevate the argument” from the barrage of accusations being made against members of the National Legislature and compel the government to give account of public monies.
She noted that though she has the constitutional mandate to question the President and his officials, she has been limited to only making recommendations for the requisite decisions to be taken by the Liberian Chief Executive.
“I don’t have that decision making power. If the President does not make the decision, the civil society will force the President to make that decision. That’s what happens in all the countries. I am challenging the press to start to start forcing the President to make decisions in the interest of the country”.
A Conduit To Accumulate Wealth
For several decades now, the National Budgets of post-conflict Liberia have not been adequately utilized to benefit the nation and its citizens-bulk of who live in abject poverty.
It has been used by some former and current public officials to enrich themselves and their respective immediate family members to the disadvantage of the state and its people.
Though the CDC led-government, through Finance and Development Planning Minister Samuel Tweah sometimes ago reported a budget surplus, heads of some government ministries and agencies complained behind closed doors of not receiving monies that were allocated to their respective institutions in totality.
For fear of reprisal or loss of jobs, these heads reneged on bringing the matter to the public.
During the public hearing and finalization stages of the Liberian national budget, unrealistic and unjustifiable figures are inserted and appropriated to institutions, including medical centers, schools, universities and others that are being owned by lawmakers and other government officials.
In some instances, “kickbacks” are reportedly given to some higher-ups to maintain or guarantee an increment in the appropriations of some government ministries, agencies or institutions captured in the draft document submitted.
The thorough scrutiny of the national budgets by members of the National Legislature is yet to come to fruition in Liberia.
It appears like a “taboo” for lawmakers to extensively debate the national budgets during their regular meetings, or for citizens to lay hands or see copies of the country’s financial envelope.
Recommendations for the passage of the national budgets are most often forwarded to both houses by the Joint Ways, Means, Finance and Budget Committee and thereafter hastily passed by lawmakers.
Since the inception of the CDC led-administration, the timely submission of the draft national budgets by the executive has been delayed for unknown reasons.
Though lawmakers, especially those from opposition political parties have complained of the delay in the submission and not having “luxury of time” to examine the budget, nothing has been done to address the situation.
The over US$800 National Budget recently passed by the National Legislature will be an “elephant meat” for a selective few in government or would not benefit the post-conflict nation and its citizens, if check and balance are not implore to ensure that monies allocated to the various institutions or developmental projects captured are given or actualized before the climax of the current fiscal period.