Bloody Nose in Legal Battle

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By Patrick Stephen Tokpah 

Bong County- The Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia, Justice Jamesetta Wolokolie has ruled in favor of the Bong County Civil Society Council, mandating the leadership of the county to establish a County Council before the holding of a County Council Sitting.

Justice Wolokolie’s decision comes two weeks after three member organizations of the Bong Civil Society Council and eminent citizens filed a Writ of Prohibition to the Supreme Court of Liberia in other to stop the County’s leadership from holding the County Council Sitting, which was scheduled for April 23, 2022, in the County.

The three Civil Society Organizations include the Foundation for International Dignity (FIND), the Media and Civil Education-Liberia (MACE), and DELTA Human Rights Foundation.

Mr. Moses Bailey of MACE, Jesse B. Cole of DELTA, and Aaron V. G. Juakollie of FIND argued that holding a County Council Sitting contravened the Local Government Act of 2018.

The Civil Society actors further said they weren’t going to allow any County Council Sitting that is not legitimate to take place, noting that the County Council Sitting is no longer important, adding, what is legitimate is the local government Acts.

The Civil Society actors; Article 19 of the Local Government Act of 2018 requires an appointed body of a county to have regulatory, representative, and confirmatory functions and powers.

Article Twenty also gives the following key functions to the County Council:   Promulgate ordinances, rules, and regulations for the promotion of peace, unity, reconciliation, maintenance of public order and security, and the delivery of basic public goods and services, consistent with the law.

Justice Wolokolie’s decision on Monday is a major blow to Bong County Caucus chairperson, District#6 Lawmaker Moima Briggs-Mensah, who had said that the Bong Civil Society Council had no standing order to file a Writ of Prohibition before the High Court and that they’re not in the best interest of the county.

The statements made by Rep. Briggs-Mensah have been greeted with condemnations, with many calling on her to read and comprehend the Local Government Act of 2018 before making a statement on the radio.

It can be recalled that the General Auditing Commission (GAC) released a report on an audit conducted on Bong County Social Development Funds between 2018 to 2021.

The GAC among other findings revealed in the report that Bong County Administration headed by Superintendent Esther Walker and controversial PMC Chairman Stephen Mulbah paid four contractors amounting to US$59,000 for projects without evidence of work done.

The GAC also established that the administration of Bong expended the amount of US$396,820 on projects without evidence of Bid Evaluation Reports, National Competitive Bidding, Contracts, Article of Incorporations, Business Registration, and Tax Clearance.

The GAC said the administration of the county disbursed the total amount of US$366,000 and L$1,920,000 to twelve (12) institutions as county support without evidence of supporting documents.

The total allotment approved by the Bong County Council Sitting for liabilities to contractors amounting to US$760,380 for projects, only US$468,900 was paid, thus resulting in outstanding liabilities of US$291,479.

There was a variance of US$222,664 between the total amounts disbursed to Bong County Administration as per the Fiscal Outturn Report 2018/2019 and the total amount received as per the Expenditure Report.

Further, there was no evidence of supporting documents to prove how the payments were done.

Meanwhile, the findings released by the GAC are very similar to the ones earlier reported by the three civil society organizations that recently researched how leaders of Bong County expended development funds between 2018 and 2021.

 

With support from ForumCiv, Media and Civic Education Rural Liberia, Delta-Human Rights Foundation, and FIND launched the report in Gbarnga on February 2 of this year.

Like the three civil society organizations recommended in their report, the GAC is also recommending penalties for county officials and contractors indicted in the report for the mismanagement of the county’s development funds

 

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