US$250K Mystery – Hands Behind Bong County Development Fund Hubbub

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By Festus Poquie

Investigators from the Liberia Anti Corruption Commission are probing into circumstances leading to the withdrawal of US$250,000 from the Bong County Social Development Fund Account and how the money was utilized.Bong County

Superintendent Selena Polson-Mappy is temporarily out of office facing questioning for her role.  The ministry of Internal Affairs that provides oversight for local government’s development budget did not provide formal comment on the matter when contacted.

For Bong County Legislative Caucus Chair Senator Henry Yallah, granting press interview on the situation will not be healthy for the ongoing investigation. So, nobody is willing to provide information on the expenditure of the money.

However the New Democrat has seen document pointing to the County Legislative Caucus endorsement of the withdrawal and expenditure of the fund. For instance on 27 July 2014, the Caucus reached a resolution for US$50,000 to be spent to fight the Ebola public health disaster.

“We the members of the Bong County Legislative Caucus, acting upon the urgent call of our people including the county authorities, local district administrators, wemon, youth, and student groups, the religious community and the people of Bong County have resolved in a special sitting of the Bong County Legislative Caucus convened on Monday July 27, 2014 in the city of Gbarnga to commit to the fight against Ebola as stated below:

“That an amount of US$50,000 (fifty thousand Liberian Dollar) be withdrawal from the County Social Development Fund and committed to the fight against Ebola in the administrative district of Bong County,” the Caucus mandated.

On the basis of this resolution, Project Management Committee Chair Lawrence Plator made a US$50,000 request to the office of Development Superintendent Anthony Boakai Sheriff on 18 August 2015.

The money was released and this is how  the document claimed it was used: Thirteen commissioners – US$800 each; Muslim youth US$500; fuel purchase US$6,756; Zonal heads US$600; women group; US$400; Bong Christian US$1,500; Bong County Health Team US$11,000; County operation US$4,500 ;  CSO  Council  US$1,000; Radio Station US$1,300; Renovation US$12,000.

Apparently satisfied with the usage of the US$50,000 the county caucus again on 17 September, 2014 issued the second resolution authorizing US$275,000 in the fight against Ebola.

The Resolution reads “ Whereas the EBOLA Virus  is a deadly disease that is killing Doctors, Nurses and other citizens of Liberia;

“Whereas the Bong County Legislative Caucus has agreed to resolute to strengthen  the Bong County administration to continue to fight this deadly disease, particularly in Bong County;

“Whereas it  is hereby unanimously agreed by the body that more supports be given to the Bong County Health Team as a way of further supporting Government’s efforts  to fight the Ebola virus in Liberia;

“Now therefore the Bong County Legislative Caucus has unanimously agreed with the Bong County administration for portion of the county Social Development Fund in the amount of US$275,000 to be used to combat the Ebola virus in Bong County.

On the basis of this resolution the Ministry of Internal Affairs wrote requesting from the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning US$200,000 . This amount was US75,000  less than the original amount requested . It is also claimed that only US$100,000 of the US$200,000 hit the county account.

It is not clear how the money short landed. But answer can be found between the County administration seated in Gbarnga and the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Monrovia. The expenditure of resources located for the fight against the Ebola Virus epidemic has been controversial.

The General Auditing Commission (GAC) claimed its audit of money appropriated to fight the Ebola established that seven hundred and ninety two thousand, six hundred and sixty three United States Dollars along with 5.2 million Liberia dollars was misappropriated.

The National Taskforce on Ebola also known as the incident Management team, which makeup include Now Deputy Health Minister Tolbert Nyenswah and J. Dorbor Jallah, Executive Director of the Public Procurement and Concession Commission were held responsible for what the GAC considered as financial irregularities and material deficiencies.

Also, heads of county administration and security agencies in the country, including defense, police and immigration chiefs were named for alleged mismanagement of entrusted public money given to them to help flush the virus.

As it has been become a standard practice now in Liberia, nearly all individuals and institutions who on the basis of the GAC’s judgment directly or indirect misused the Ebola fund have rejected the report with unkind words.

President Sirleaf downplayed the audit findings when she said action and decision taken to spend public money during the disaster were justified once human lives were saved. It is not clear if this formula is applicable in the Bong County development fund saga. Festus Poquie