14 November 2012

Liberia: Bong Citizens Detest 'Caucus Interference' On County Development

There seems to be displeasure amongst citizens of Bong County regarding the domineering posture of the Bong Legislative Caucus in deciding various development projects of the county.

Expressing their disappointment on a local radio talk show in Gbarnga, Bong County recently, the citizens called on the County Legislative caucus, headed by Representative George Mulbah to desist from the practice of serving as policymaker and implementing the same policy which does not support the doctrine of separation of power.

The citizens said it would be expedient for the county leadership to establish a team of technocrats to jointly work with Project Management Committee and Project Implementation Unit under the county social development in executing various development programs and projects rather than the policymakers serving as implementers.

The citizens alleged that the persistent interference by the county legislative caucus in the implementation of the projects in the county has reportedly left most of the projects not completed because of its political nature.

They said politicians are deeply involved in the usage of the county development fund more than those the funds are intended for especially communities that are directly affected by the operations of the concessionaires which necessitated the payment of social benefits to the various counties.

The citizens expressed fear that with the pending 2014 midterm senatorial election, some lawmakers who are contemplating seeking reelection might be tempted to use the social development money as a political fund to accomplish their selfish goals.

Bong County receives a little over US$2 million on an annual basis as social development fund from China Union, Accelor Mittal and BHP Billiton in keeping with the companies' corporate social responsibilities as enshrined in the Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) with the Liberian Government.

In recent times, concerns have mounted in Gbarnga regarding the current slow pace of work at the construction of the Bong Technical College (BTC), one of several projects financed through the county's social development fund.

The college is being constructed by the Liberia-China United Construction Company hired in late 2010 by the leadership of Bong County to construct the US$4.4 million community college within a project time frame of 18 months.

Despite the payment of over US$800,000 to the construction company in July this year for the last two months, no active work has been done at the construction site, thus creating room for residents of Gbarnga to ponder as to what is responsible for the slow pace of the project.

An investigation conducted by this paper established that the company has reportedly received a little over US$3 million, constituting around 75 percent payment for the work but the payment cannot match the work done.

In a recent radio interview in Gbarnga, the Chairman of the Bong Legislative Caucus George Mulbah said the Liberia-China United Construction Company has apologized for the delay and requested three weeks grace period to resume full construction work at the college.

The Bong Legislative caucus chair mentioned that the decision was reached recently at the Capitol Building in Monrovia during a project review meeting involving some members of the caucus and the administration of the county.

Rep. Mulbah said if the company fails to work in the scope of its appeal to the county, the leadership of Bong will be left with no other option but to institute legal action against the company for default of contract.

An unimpeachable source hinted this paper the balance of US$1.2 million will be paid by the company if it fails to complete the work which has become an embarrassment.

The source indicated if the Bong Technical College (BTC) is not opened to students by September 2013, the county would face the burden to allocate additional money to have the multi-million dollars college completed.

Residents in Gbarnga strongly believe that the Chinese company would not be courageous - without some political backing - to receive such huge money and is doing nothing to have the job completed on time.

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