The Liberia Agency for Community Empowerment (LACE) has rejected in advance Montserrado County Senator Abraham Darius Dillon's plan to turn over a check of US$15,000 for the construction of his public libraries project in Montserrado County because receipt of individual project monies would be marked departure from LACE's best practice. "We regret to inform the Senator that LACE is unable to take receipt of his USD15,000.00 (Fifteen Thousand United States Dollars) check," a communication trending on social media from LACE has said.
The agency on Wednesday, 16 June said it had come to its attention that Senator Dillon publicly stated that he would transfer his USD15, 000.00 check to LACE to undertake his proposed Library projects within Montserrado County. "Media outlets are today reporting through headlines and other forms the Senator's intention to turn the USD15, 000.00 (Fifteen Thousand United States Dollars) check over to LACE," the release said.
However, LACE reminded Senator Dillon and apprised the public that the regulations governing the appropriations of LACE and the statute creating the entity do not allow it to carry out individual projects for legislators outside the structures of a memorandum of understanding signed between the agency and the legislator and in line with budget appropriations or the budget process.
LACE said it would carry out such a project as part of the budget law and once such appropriation is made to LACE through the budget process.
It noted that receipt of individual project monies from legislators would be contrary to governance norms to which LACE subscribes and would be marked departure from LACE's best practice.The agency's release came Wednesday as Mr. Dillon continues to face public pressure, including from some of his supporters to return the controversial US$15,000.
Members of the Liberian Legislature continue to be bombarded by heavy criticism from across the Liberian society barely a week after they all received a whopping sum of USD15, 000 each under the guise of project fund, with calls that the money is returned.
On Tuesday, June 15, the political leader of opposition party Alternative National Congress (ANC), Mr. Alexander B. Cummings joined the chorus condemning lawmakers for taking the money, while calling on them to return it.
Mr. Cummings' ANC is a constituent party of the opposition Collaborating Political Party (CPP) of which Mr. Dillon is a stalwart.
Cummings said the mere distribution of the money without the possibility of audit and any acceptable means of accountability, the disbursements, and receipts by individual legislators of USD15, 000.00 violate the Public Financial Management Law.The PFM Law provides that all disbursing and receiving entities, and individuals, must account for public monies disbursed, received, and or entrusted into their care.
But it appears that this continues not to be practiced. Liberia, one of the world's poorest countries, currently has 28 sitting Senators with 73 Representatives bringing the total to 101 lawmakers. The number of sitting lawmakers - 101 multiplied by US$15,000 amounts to US$1,515,000.
Liberia's Legislature actually has 103 lawmakers, but two Senators - elect have not yet been seated since the 2020 December polls either due to election disputes or other legal issues which have yet to be concluded, thus making the number 101.