28 June 2014

Liberia: Lawmakers Exposed

Internal Affairs Minister Morris Dukuly has accused some members of county caucuses of unilaterally selecting delegates for projects and illegally collecting funds from government.

Each county in Liberia has council comprising delegates that meet regularly and decide on county projects from County Social Development Funds or County Development Funds.

Each of the 15 counties receives US$250,000 from government as CDF each fiscal year though controversy has trailed expenditures. Although the Minister failed to name counties or lawmakers involved, he however told the Senate yesterday that there were substantial evidence to convict several lawmakers caught in the act.

"Mr. President Pro-Tempore and Senators, I must admit that there have been challenges since I took over as Minister; especially as it relates to the County Development Funds," he said. "There are evidence in possession of my Ministers that show that some county caucus members have written micro management delegates so as to approve self interest projects that do not represent the overall views and aspirations of the county." Minister Dukuly said such "uncalled" for acts, coupled with other factors, forced his office to place a moratorium on all Social Development Funds.

The Minister's comments came minutes after he was summoned by the Senate to show cause why he placed the moratorium that was stalling several development projects in the counties. It followed a Senate committee's report in which it reported that the Minister was in violation and should rather show legal reliance for his action or risk contempt.

Attempts by Senators to have the Minister disclose names and counties failed as he declined to do so in public. "I crave the indulgence of the Senate to allow me submit to each of you later a full report that captures all the issues raised by me here today." he pleaded.

Dukuly was also accused of deleting several chiefs' names from government payroll and of the dismissal of four commissioners appointed by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. But in response, the former Speaker of the House told lawmakers that the allegations were untrue.

"I did not delete Chiefs' names neither have I dismissed any commissioners appointed by the President," he said. According to him, during the Ministry's re-documentation process carried out in counties, the concern Chiefs failed to either show up or boycotted the exercise.

Additionally, he said no fund has been allocated to the Ministry for the reinstatement of Chiefs as being recommended by the Senate and others.

"Even if we had money today, we will still have to vet some of these chiefs on grounds that some of them have reached the retirement age or are not physical strong," he added.

Yesterday's hearing which lasted more than four hours was later suspended with the Senate mandating the Minister to reappear on Tuesday.

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