“Verbal Authorization Not Binding” -As Sen. Karnga-Lawrence Expresses Doubt Over Road Funds Usage; Called For Investigation

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By, Washington Tumay Watson –onewash9@gmail.com

Grand Bassa County Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence has expressed serious doubt over the uses of the Road Fund by the Liberian Government.

Expressing her opposition concerning the Minister of Finance who recently informed the public that the Legislature had given him verbal authorization to redirect the National Road Funds to other expenditure or categories.

In her reaction on her official social media page the Opposition Liberty Party Political Leader indicated that the Legislature does not give verbal authorization, neither does the President Pro-Tempore of the Senate or the Speaker have such authority to do so.

She narrated that such action when legal, must be taken by majority votes in plenary supported by a resolution signed by the majority.

“Therefore, authorization for the redirection of funds was never given because “verbal authorization” as claimed by the Minister of Finance does not qualify as legal authorization”. she noted.

The strong female lawmaker further disclosed that there is no provision of the National Road Fund Act that grants the authority to the Road Fund Steering Committee or the Minister of Finance and Development Planning to redirect Road Funds for other purposes other than those provided in the Act; stressing that there is no provision in the Public Financial Management (PFM) Law of 2009 that supersedes the Road Fund Act.

“Please also be informed that acquiescence by some donors for the redirection of funds in the Road Fund does not legalize the process. Such actions must go through an operational process to legalize it – tabling of the request before the Plenary of both Houses and the subsequent signing of an appropriate resolution by a majority of the legislators”, she said.

According  to her, she is not convince  that even those donors that, in principle, supported the redirection of some of the funds expected the Minister of Finance to flagrantly violate the law by arrogating unto himself the authority and  responsibility that resides only in the Legislature.

“My distinguished colleagues, while in transit yesterday on my way out of Liberia, I was informed of the vote by the Senate to support the action of the Minister to redirect the funds. It is clear that approving such transaction after the fact is wrong and may make legislators who approved such an illegal act criminally liable tomorrow”, she caution .

Senator Karnga-Lawrence however called on members of the Liberian Senate to revisit   their actions to take responsibility of the matter by calling on Minister Samuel Tweah to give them a complete report on the expenditures.

The Grand Bassa County Lawmaker further said if Minister Tweah’s reports are proven to be correct, the Ministry must be instructed to replenish the Road Funds from the government’s revenue in the next budget while the consequences of taking such unilateral actions are being considered.

“In addition to this, we look forward to further investigation into the Road Funds collection process including the millions that are outstanding, particularly the status of the receivables that the General Auditing Commission (GAC) was unable to confirm during their audit of the Road Fund” she indicated..

She pointed out that while the illegal redirection of funds is of serious and urgent concern, the Liberian Legislature must also be seized of the less than transparent process by which road maintenance contracts are awarded under the Road Fund.

“We deserve a complete report that will delineate the procurement process followed for each contract awarded, the value of money achieved during the execution of the contract, and the legal status of the contractors including their beneficial owners” ,she noted.

However, the Chief Executive Officer of the National Road Fund of Liberia, Boniface Satu disclosed that the management is transparent in the management of the National Road Fund.

Mr. Satu said  the fund  is there  to finance  maintenance of the roads  and  the building  of new roads  of which  the entity  is on  top of  its duties.

He was speaking on the Spoon Talk Show on May 18, 2022 when he said the Government of Liberia is using the mega resources with all of the competing challenges with the resources in the country, yet the government is building roads across the country.

He then conveyed gratitude to President George M. Weah  for  his intervention  to ensure  that the government gets  the just money  to undertake national development through  the Road Funds by building roads, and  the maintenance of the roads among others.

He said the major intervention by President Weah during the legal process regarding   some importers and the Government of Liberia that brought the National Road Funds of Liberia to where it is now, was in the best interest of the country.

According  to him,  the importer collected funds for  the Road Funds  and  they did not report  the amount  to  the National Road Funds  that resulted  to legal process.

Satu also refuted media reports that twenty five million United States dollars was misappropriated.

He said the reporter of the local daily did not understand the word unqualified opinion in the audit report by the General Auditing Commission (GAC).

Satu said there were difference on what was collected and what was omitted indicating that there was a justification for the difference.

He further disclosed that the government collected fifty three million United States dollars for two years.

According  to him,  the twenty five cent  revenue that the  Liberia Revenue Authority  collects  on ever  one gallon of petroleum,   that funding is placed into  government’s  extra  consolidated account.

He said the Liberian Government remitted forty eight Million out of the fifty three million United States dollars.

According to him, the government through the legislature used some of the money to meet up with the economic constraints the government was faced with to pay salaries in 2018-2019.

Satu further narrated that in 2019-2020 the government recasts the budget and due to financial constraint, the legislature approved 12 million United States dollars and   the Ministry of Finance remitted that amount to the National Road Funds, on grounds that they could not meet up with the full amount due to economic challenges   that the country encountered due to Coronavirus.

According   to him, the government informed its developmental partners concerning the economic constraints that the government was faced with.

He further disclosed that they provided all of the supporting documents to the GAC concerning that funding.

Satu said the National Road Funds of Liberia is opened, and is transparent in all of its activities.

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