Mistrust Looms Over Alleged Discrepancy

By Patrick Stephen Tokpah

 

GBARNGA-Bong County electoral district four Representative Robert Flomo Womba has described the recent report on the accountability research project on the management of Bong County Social Development Fund (CSDF) by three CSOs as a bogus.

The Bong County Lawmaker said an independent body should have conducted the accountability research report on the Bong County Social Development Fund projects, instead of Media and Civic Education-Rural Liberia (MACE-Rural Liberia), Foundation for International Dignity (FIND), and Development Education Leadership Training in Action Human Rights Foundation (DELTA-HRF) in the County.

The Bong County District#4 Representative said the CSOs were being bought by ForumCIV Liberia to conduct the bogus research in the County.

Representative Womba, who is always claiming to be an auditor said the CSOs did not qualify engineers to properly check on the US$80,000 bridge that was constructed to link Shankpalai and other towns and villages in Zota District#4, but rather they (CSOs) came out with bogus report alleging that the citizens were used to provide local material during the construction of the bridge in the District.

According to Rep. Womba, the resident engineer of the County conducted an assessment on the bridge and reported that the contractor did a wonderful job on the bridge construction, but he wondered while civil society actors don’t know anything or have knowledge on bridge construction condemned the Shankpalai bridge construction saying the bridge is substandard in the District.

The Bong County electoral district#4 Representative said it’s a sad day for Liberia because CSOs who should have been independent entities they are now being bought by NGOs to conduct research that is not organized, on the ground that the alleged CSOs were working for their paid master in the County.

Rep. Womba further said he cannot dignify such a bogus report from the CSOs in the County.

It can be recalled that three Civil Society organizations in Bong County launched a report of an accountability research project on the management of Bong County Social Development Fund (CSDF) in the County.

The launching of the event took place at the Gbarnga Women Center on February 2, 2022, in the County.

With funding and support from ForumCiv, Media And Civic Education-Rural Liberia (MACE-Rural Liberia), Foundation for International Dignity (FIND), and Development Education Leadership Training in Action Human Rights Foundation (DELTA-HRF) partnered in implementing the “Bong County Social Development Funds Accountability Project” between September and December 2021.

Given the brief description of the research and findings/ recommendations, Moses S. Bailey, the team leader of MACE- Rural Liberia said the research project focused on verifying how the local administration of Bong County expended US$1.7m of the County Social Development Funds (CSDF) on development projects in the County between 2018 and 2021, under the 2018 County Sitting Resolution valued at US$2.29m.

According to Bailey, the three organizations found several irregularities in the management of the CSDF, awarding of contracts, and implementation of the various development projects, thereby resulting in several stalled projects.

He further revealed that they as implementing organizations carefully and impartially documented the findings, and at the launch program, the report (narrative and video documentary) will be presented to the civil society and anti-graph institutions, foreign partners, and participants present at the occasion. Key among the findings are:

Out of a total of thirty (30) construction projects (bridges, clinics, schools, offices for chiefs, road rehabilitation, and renovation of public facilities) delegates agreed upon at November 12, 2018, County Council Sitting, not a single project was fully completed in the county.

“Bulk of these projects are far from completion and most of them are currently being abandoned across the county,” Bailey added.

Additionally, three CSOs said the leadership of Bong County through the Project Management Committee (PMC), paid US$59,000 to four contractors between 2019/2020 for the implementation of four projects.

“These projects were never started by those contractors with no further steps taken by the county’s leadership against the companies. Contracts were awarded to contractors outside the Public Procurement and Concession Commission Act of 2010. Contracts were given out without bidding as required by law,” Bailey said.

This gross disregard for the PPCC Act is a high contributing factor for the many stalled development projects in Bong County.

The Bong County Project Management Committee in its “Summary Financial Update of January 1, 2019, to February 1, 2021,” reported transferring US$41,295.00 and L$288,000.00 to the widow of the late Marcus Berrian (former Bong County Engineer), on March 31, 2019, like 3 months’ honorarium.

However, contrary to the PMC Summary Financial Update, the research found that the widow only received US$6,900.00 and L$288,000.00.

There is a discrepancy of US$34,395.00.In addition; Superintendent Esther Y. Walker spent US$83,325.19 against the allotted US$46,000.00 in the 2018 Resolution for “Administrative cost” to her office.

This means that the superintendent spent an additional US$37,325.19 outside of the 2018 Resolution. Similarly, Stephen J. Mulbah Jr., Chairperson of the Bong County Project Management Committee spent US$107,094.56 against US$75,879.00 agreed upon in the 2018 Resolution.

With this, Stephen J. Mulbah spent an unauthorized US$31,215.00.

The three CSOs in their report said, most members of the Bong County Legislative Caucus wrongfully personalized and interfered with the implementation of projects, possibly for political reasons across the county thereby resulting in poor oversight from the lawmakers.

Based on observations and discoveries in various communities by the implementing partners of the project and their recent assessment Of the Bong County Development Fund, they recommend the following as accountability measures in the management of the County Development funds, that the anti-graph institutions (LACC, IAA, and GAC) the County Attorney of Bong County investigate discrepancies observed in awarding construction contracts in Bong County.

They said that those found culpable in such investigation be made to account for their actions through a court of law;

At the same time, the County Attorney of Bong County requests all contracted companies who received funding from the Bong County Social Development Funds, under the 2018 County Sitting Resolution without contracts and BOQs for authorized implementation of projects be made to refund the money received.

The CSO underscored the need that the Bong County Accounts for Developments remain frozen until the legal system for local government Act of 2018 is rolled out in the County to ensure accountability.

Furthermore, they noted that the Projects Management Committee of Bong County ensures competitive bidding processes before contractors are selected to implement projects in the County, and ensure the list of qualified contractors with details information like names of heads of companies, contacts including emails and phone numbers, addresses of offices, etc. be made public for the use of the media and concerned citizens.

The three Civil Society Organizations cautioned members of the Bong Legislative Caucus not to be directly involved in the usage and implementation of funds for priority projects of the respective districts, under the county sitting resolutions, but they should play oversight roles and demand answers for expenditures.

Notwithstanding, the Bong County-based CSOs urged the Government of Liberia to ensure the gradual or full implementation of the local government act of 2018.

They at the same time said there should be effective monitoring and evaluation of all ongoing development projects by the Project Management Committee among others.

Launching the research report, the Executive Director of the Foundation for International Dignity, Aaron V. G. Juakollie called on Bongese to wake up in the fight against corruption in the County.

Mr. Juakollie informed the Bong County citizens that they as Civil Society Organizations don’t operate outside of government mandate.

At the same time, the sponsor of three months, project Forum CIV Liberia Country Director, Asa David Chon expressed delight over how the CSOs conducted themselves in turn of the research in the County.

He said the Swedish largest Civil Society Organization was able to pump less than five thousand United States Dollars to the Bong County Social Development funds accountability project done by the three CSOs in the County.

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