There are doubts over the whereabouts of a US$13.6 million land rental fees for counties and affected communities in the forestry sector.
Three top government institutions that have oversight over the forestry sector have confirmed the collection of the US$13.6 million from logging companies operating in Liberia.
They include the Central Bank of Liberia, Ministry of Finance and the Forestry Development Authority.
Appearing before the House of Representatives Tuesday, Deputy Finance Minister for Revenue, James Kollie confirmed that the amount of US$13.6 million has been collected as land rental fees since the rectification of the Forestry Reform Law in 2006.
Dr. Kollie said the money was generated from land rental fees from various communities.
The Deputy Finance Minister's statement later became different when he told the Representatives that the Ministry of Finance was not sure whether the money has been deposited at the Central Bank of Liberia.
The Forestry Reform law states that in the land rental fees, each affected counties are entitled to a portion, 30 percent benefit goes to affected communities within these counties, while the rest goes in government's coffer as general revenue.
According to Dr. Kollie, beneficiary counties and communities have not received their portion due to mistakes in the budgeting process.
He said in previous years, there were mistakes made in the allocation of the money to affected communities, hoping that these mistakes would be corrected.
Last week when the Acting Managing Director of the FDA, Harrison Karnwea appeared before the House of Representatives, he also confirmed that the money has been paid in government's coffer by logging companies operating in Liberia as land rental fees.
Mr. Karnwea told the lawmakers that although the money has been collected, these communities were yet to receive their 30 percent portion on grounds that institutions responsible for disbursement have not done so.
At the same time, Deputy Governor for Economic Policy, Theophilus Bettie acknowledged confirmation by the FDA boss that the money was collected as land rental fees.
Mr. Bettie told the House that the funds have not been disbursed because the bank has not been given instruction from the Finance Ministry for disbursement.
The admittance by these top institutions to the collection of the US$13.6 million in the forestry sector and uncertainty over its whereabouts for the benefit of the community dwellers raises serious doubts.
Citizens who witnessed the hearing expressed frustration over the manner in which the lawmakers downplayed the whereabouts of the money.
The citizens said the lawmakers were not serious in discussing such critical national issue that has to do with the wellbeing of the citizens.
Heads of the three government institutions were summoned based on complaint filed by Lofa County Representative Moses Kollie.
Representative Kollie told the House of Representatives recently that the Forestry Reform Law which provides 30 percent from money generated in the forestry sector be given to citizens in affected counties and 40 percent be given to the Finance Ministry as general revenue but this is yet to be implemented since its rectification in 2009.