New Democrat (Monrovia)

10 January 2013

Liberia: U.S.$500,000 for Clean Up

A staggering amount of US$500,000 is being used to carry out general cleaning exercises on the House wing of the National Legislature which formally begins normal sessions next week, well-placed sources have disclosed.

The amount, a part of the operational activities of the House of Representatives, was allotted by members of the House Standing Committee on Rules, Order & Administration, chaired by former Speaker Edwin M. Snowe, ahead of their official resumption of normal legislative activities next week, our sources demanding anonymity hinted this paper Monday.

"They took the decision during a leadership meeting at the office of Rep. Snowe who requested one of his colleagues, Rep. Josephine Francis to spearhead the cleaning exercise," our source said.

But contacted Tuesday morning at the entrance of the House' Press and Public affairs offices, Rep. Edwin M. Snowe directed this paper to Rep. Josephine George-Francis who he confirmed as "the woman in charge of the cleaning exercise" at the House of Representatives.

Rep. George-Francis who could neither confirm nor deny the report said she was not authorized to reveal the amount involved in the cleaning exercise.

"I am a member of the committee; I am not a chairperson of the committee. I am taking care of the maintenance and sanitation of this building. So I cannot go in details. I don't think it is good for me to publish that information.

"I have to talk first of all to the chairperson (Rep. Snowe) before I do that. I don't like to overlap functions," she emphasized.

Reports also said a private entity, B.J Cleaning Services which was given the responsibility to carry out the cleaning exercise is co-owned by an influential lawmaker who is also a member of the Snowe committee. But Rep. Francis denied the claim stressing, "I am not aware."

She clarified that a vetting process - with the participation of three companies - was done and that the B.J Cleaning Services won the bid, thereby giving the company the responsibility to clean up the House wing.

According to Rep. Francis, "patriotism" compelled her to take over the cleaning exercise at the first branch' of the Liberian government. "This would be done for the next six months."

All efforts to contact the B. J. Cleaning Services via phone and other means were fruitless.

Nevertheless, since the appointment of Rep. Snowe as Chair on Rules, Order and Administration, the House has been on the threshold of mounting criticisms over claims of inflating financial costs of most of its operational activities.

In 2012, Members of the House of Representatives received a brand new equipment consisting of digital Ipod and Information Technology each estimated at over US$ 160,000 to "ease their legislative" works.

At a press briefing in Careysburg where the Ipods where displayed, Rep. Snowe said:

"We purchased 75 pieces of Ipods, 75 pieces of desktop computers, 75 pieces of wireless printers and the total amount came to US$ 167,000.

"Lawmakers are capable of purchasing their own Ipods. Thanks to the 53rd legislature that we still had money left in our projected budget and out of that proceeds, we decided that we needed equipment to work. So a decision was reached to purchase this equipment," Rep. Snowe told his colleagues at a retreat ceremony.

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