Rep Younquoi Describes Alleged Mismanagement of CSDF, Wants ‘Stand Alone Law’
By Reuben Sei Waylaun
Nimba County electoral district eight Representative, Larry P. Younquoi has described the alleged amendments in the Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) between the Liberian Government and ArcelorMittal as well as other companies without the right procedures regarding the County Social Development Fund (CSDF) as ‘criminality’.
Speaking on Okay FM Wednesday October 17, 2018, Representative Younquoi said there is a need for tougher actions to alleviate such ‘unwholesome act.’
According to the Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) the Liberian Government signed with world steel giant, ArcelorMittal in 2005 and amended in 2006, the counties affected by the company’s operations are to receive US$3million annually.
Nimba county where the Nimba Mountain is located has been receiving US$1.5million annually, Bong County, receives US$500,000.00 and Grand Bassa County that has the port receiving US$1million respectively.
But in the 2016/2017 fiscal budget, the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) reported that ArcelorMittal paid only half of the allotted amount to the three counties.
According to the ministry, ArcelorMittal said it could not pay the full US$3million because of the drop in the price of iron ore on the world market.
During the 2016/2017 fiscal year, Grand Bassa received US$519,250 of US$1million, Nimba received US$750,000.00 and Bong US$250,000.00.
Representative Younquoi alleged that there is no document for such agreement with the Liberian Government.
“You don’t have documents for these kinds of things and you expect me to believe it. I brought the communication on the floor and the ways, means and finance committee has not reported since then. Those things are not good,” he said.
Speaking further, Representative Younquoi warned that anyone caught misusing the CSDF and any other fund intended for the public should face the full wait of the law, adding “That shouldn’t be reason why that money shouldn’t come. The legislature is not the CID, LACC, executive branch, GAC, we need the money to go to our people.”
“The criminality we are experiencing every year in amending the law without going through the process should be aborted and resisted. People shouldn’t go and change the rules of the game in the middle of the game. The US$3million has become a law because after the passage of the MDA, there is something we called corporation law and it is in which that US$3million is incorporated and so it is a law,” he added.
According to him, such decision must go through amendment if there were request by the investors, steps should be taken to maintain the sanctity of the law and shouldn’t be arbitrarily done.
“As far I am concerned, that’s the money the government is owing these counties, because I continue to hear that there was a time they called us and told us that the people say they are hard pressed by the lowness price on the market and therefore they will be paying half for three or four years, afterwards they will be adding the extra money.
“Let’s criminalize the use of that money by any other person even by central government because the philosophy behind the allocation of this resource to these counties is to enhance ownership and reduce tension. When the people know their US$1.5m is coming on a yearly basis and building extra clinic, improving their schools, providing scholarship for their children, they will do everything to protect the investments of those companies,” he reminded.
The Nimba County lawmaker said such decision has the propensity to spark confusion because it has security aspect.
“They are not looking at it and they playing with the fund. They sitting in Monrovia under air condition and just reducing the allocation per these counties and it is a prescription for confusion and as leaders for our people we have to send this caveat and people who feel they can play with the interest of the people are not working in the interest of the people,” he added.
Rep Younquoi, CSOs Want “Stand Alone Law”
In an effort to ensure the full protection of the County Social Development Fund, Representative Younquoi wants a separate law that will ensure straight adherence to accountability and transparency in the usage of the CSDF.
The “Stand Alone Law” when enacted will allow the county social development fund to be exclusive of the budget law and allow the social development finance to go directly to the counties.
“That’s while I agreed with the draft STAND-ALONE LAW that says this money in the wake of the PFM law when it is given by the investors must just rest in the consolidated account and find way straightly into the various accounts because if it stays there long it will be used arbitrarily and people will do lots of things,” Rep Younquoi.
He said as a man who is interested in good governance, he will always look at the accountability aspect. Representative Younquoi warned his colleagues that if they are not careful people will refer to Liberia as ‘old for nothing country.’
“The Stand-Alone Law that some CSOs are proposing that I subscribed to, I am one person who believe must have this done. I am going to talk to my colleagues to accept this. When you leave the portion of the budget law that has to do with the county social development fund as part of the budget law section 9, you leave it to manipulation every 12-month and changed any time.
“But when you have it as a stand-alone law, the rigor of amending laws in this country we all know, somebody has to write, somebody has to go to the point that needs to be amended, you have to provide justification, lobby and after the level of the legislature, the president has to sign , all those things make the whole process difficult enough not to just make it at the will and caprices of any individual,” Representative Younquoi explained why the law is important.
For Francis Brewer, the Project Coordinator for the Liberia Media Center (LMC) on the Liberia Accountability Voice Initiative (LAVI) Natural Resource Management (NRM) Project said it is the aspiration of the eight Civil Society Organizations to have a “Stand Alone law”.
Speaking when he appeared with Representative Larry P. Younquoi in studio, Brewer said “the CSOs have some reforms or recommendations that when a stand-alone national county social development law comes about, it’s going to be exclusive of the budget law and the Public Financial Management Act Reform to allow the social development finance to go directly to the county.”
“This is what we try to advocate around so that when the law is drafted by the CSO groups and carry to the legislature these lawmakers will already have an idea to know what the law is and this is why we want them on board,” Brewer said.
He reminded Liberians that the current reform in the budget law has said that the role of the civil society is to monitor the entire process of the CSDF, ranging from county sitting, implementation of projects, district sitting and others, something he said they are taking seriously.
Liberians who phoned in during the program appreciated the Civil Society Organizations and Representative Larry Younquoi for such brilliant idea.
According to them, such law will help safeguard what belongs to those counties and will help speed up development because the too many bureaucracies is holding the development of those counties back for years despite having their share of the national cake.