The joint legislative committee on ways, means, finance, and public expenditure, Monday questioned authorities at the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) over reported unaccounted for and unexplained US$67Million (Sixty-Million United States Dollars) loans the Ministry of Agriculture secured in recent years from donors in order to enhance the nation's agro industry.
At Monday's eye-catching public hearing, Montserrado County electoral district five Representative and chairman of the House of Representatives' committee on Ways, Means, Finance and development Planning, Thomas P. Fallah revealed, much to the amazement of the public that: "Mr. Minister, for some time now, the Liberian people have been complaining that despite millions of dollars that have been received from donors as loans in order to support this sector, it would interest you to know that nothing real is happening to make a difference."
"We have documents in our possession which indicate that the Ministry of Agriculture has received loans in different segments first, US$13.3million from OSIWA (Open Society Initiative for West Africa) and others for the improvement of this sector; second, it would also interest you to know that another US$54.4million was secured as loan for road development for this sector but, to our outmost surprised, nothing tangible has happened to get things the way they should be. We do not see roads, neither have we had account of how the monies were being spent. Hence, you must go and catalogue all documents related to loans that this ministry of secured in recent years so that the Liberian will people know what's happening."
The Montserrado Legislator said both figures combined totals US$68.1million. He said it was important for the breakdown of the loans so that the outcome of the hearing would inform both plenaries on the proper decision to take on how the government can help give additional funding to the sector.
"This is very important because the Liberian have repeatedly cried about lack funding to the agriculture sector but, no one really cares to find out on how the millions of loans that this government needs to pay back at some time are accounted for," Nimba County representative Jeremiah Koung, also a member of the legislative joint committee on ways, means, finance, and expenditure, said.
However, in order for the new agro Minister to give factual information on the loans in question, he suggested that: "We need to give the Minister from now to Friday, June 22, 2018, at about 10:00am to come with all of his documents and facts so that we can take an informed decision on this sector." Representative Koung's suggestion, which was later transformed into a motion, was unanimously approved by a majority of lawmakers sitting on the committee probing the agro sector on the 'value for money hearing'.
"We need to know whether or not there's need to pump more into this sector because so much has been said about the agriculture industry not growing in Liberia. There has been too much noise about the sector being underfunded, and that the government of Liberia is under so much pressure to something so as to make this sector sustainable but, we also need to ensure that we give proper account of how monies given have been used in the past," Representative Thomas Fallah, chair of the legislative joint committee on ways, means, finance, and expenditure, insisted further.
Liberia's Agriculture Minister, Dr. Magona Flomo, Jr., whose public hearing has been deferred to Friday, 22 June 2018, assured lawmakers of responding to their inquiries when he returns to face them, for the second time in roll. The agriculture Minister however declined in speaking to the press, when quizzed on his limited knowledge about the financial transactions affecting the loans the contested loans whose debate has now sprawled a new public eye glimpse on possible misappropriations that may have engulfed the nation's agro industry.