26 February 2014

Liberia: U.S.$73 Million - Ex - Lawmaker Demands Priority On Roads Construction

Across the length and breadth of Liberia, the need for feeder roads remains a major challenge facing the reconstruction drive of the country. Towns and villages around the country are cut off during the rainy season and even Monrovia and its immediate environs face the same problem.

A former lawmaker at the 52nd national legislature of Liberia says in spite of projects and other development activities currently taking place in the counties of Liberia, better road network is essential and must be given first priority.

Gbenimah B. Slopadoe, I, former Representative of District #2 in Grand Kru County believes that good road network will be a major economic empowerment for the citizenry of the country.

"We need roads that will connect the towns and villages in this country, once that is done, the people will be empowered. Roads will enhance empowerment. In the 2008 County development Agenda, people from all around the countryside, roads is their number one priority, so why not we focus specifically on construction of roads which will stimulate economic growth", the former lawmaker indicated.

Connectivity the former lawmaker says is a major way the government can empower the citizens as according to him, once people can easily move from one location to another, economic activities will boom and the citizenry will become employed individually without waiting for the government.

Legislative 73 million not specific

A current budget proposal of US$73 million by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alex Tyler, the ex-legislator observes does not have a specific focus as stated by the crafting of the bill that the money is intended for direct district development.

"To be economically productive, we need roads, let's be clear and do what the Liberian people want instead of pronouncing developments that will make little impact on the peoples' lives. If you ask people in towns and villages across Liberia, they will not tell you we want electricity, or running water, though they need them, but the first thing they will tell you is we want roads, so let's be specific and focused and do what the people want".

He said, taking clues from the Management of what he termed the failed County Development fund where projects were not implemented based on the need of the people, budgetary allotments for the counties must be in line with the need of the people.

"We do not want another budgetary allotment for blanket development, priority number one is a road and so we can open and escrow accounts exclusively for road construction and construction companies can bid to construct our roads that will also create jobs".

The management of the County Development Fund (CDF) has been a problem in several counties with projects remaining incomplete. Audit of several counties showed gross abuse in the expenditure of funds allocated for county development with counties that are already in need of development including Southeastern counties feeling the pinch.

In Grand Gedeh County, for example, an audit by the General Auditing Commission of Liberia observed lack of project implementation with the money expended without project completion.

"During my review of the records of the Project Management Committee (PMC), I noted that 12 projects valued at US$329,746.22 were selected and undertaken in the County. I inspected the projects in March 2009. I noted that one (1) project (Gbarzon-Jarwodee Road Rehabilitation Project) was indicated, completed, ten (10) projects were incomplete, and one (1) project (Sayuo Town Project) was not started at all, though the contractor, GCCE was paid the full contract sum. This indicates that 91.67 percent of the project remained incomplete or not started all. All of these projects were contractually agreed to have been completed by the contractors either on or before December 2008", the Auditor General stated in an audit on the administration of CDF in Grand Gedeh County.

The lawmaker's native Grand Kru County, one of the underdeveloped counties in Liberia also experienced mismanagement in the expenditure of County development Fund with the GAC audit also pointing a gloomy picture of project implementation.

Stated the GAC audit of Grand Kru County for the period 2006/2007 and 2007/2008 "For the period under audit, the Grand Kru County Authorities undertook thirteen (13) construction projects and one (1) road rehabilitation project, and the purchase of equipment for road rehabilitation and construction, again bringing the total projects to fifteen (15) projects. Additionally, there was a scholarship program"

The GAC audit also observed "As noted in the report, the Grand Kru County Authorities made nearly 100 percent payments on the fourteen (14) projects associated with the construction of structures and road rehabilitation, but as my physical inspection revealed these 14 projects are yet to be completed. It is indicated in the report that Six (6) projects have not started, three (3) projects are in foundation Level, four (4) projects were incomplete and one (1) project with only sticks planted in the ground. Of the four (4) uncompleted projects, substantial works were done on the Barclayville Generator House Project and the Barclayville City Hall Project".

The former lawmaker is a key individual behind the harmonization of laws seeking to protect Liberians aimed at helping to empower them economically. He disclosed that symposium sponsored the Governance Commission is expected to be held shortly where Liberians will brainstorm on harmonizing existing policies and laws and passing a bill that will seek to sustain and empower Liberians.

During his tenure in the Legislature, he proffered bills seeking to empower Liberians including a bill seeking for projects around the threshold of US$ 1 million and below to be contracted exclusively to Liberian owned companies while far higher can be opened for bidding form Liberians and foreign owed companies.

In 2012, the former lawmaker also petitioned the House of Representatives for the allotment of US$45 million for all fifteen counties of Liberia, US$3 million each but the House of Representatives is yet to act on his petition. He said he welcomed the US$73 million proposal, but is demanding specific focus on roads.

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