By Timothy R. Yoko
It was under former Liberian President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf that Liberia introduced what is referred to as “Monies for Legislative Projects” and were allotted in the National Budget. The Liberia Agency for Community Empowerment (LACE) was tasked with the mandate to implement all Legislative Projects throughout the country based on the prevailing needs of the people with the lawmakers having oversight.
The projects that were undertaken by LACE were identified by the people and not forced down their throats by the Government. This gave room for audits to be conducted after each project was implemented by LACE.
In President Sirleaf’s mind, the Lawmakers needed to undertake tangible projects for their respective constituents, though under the law it is only the Executive branch of Government that enforces laws and policies of the government. Apparently, President Sirleaf introduced the ‘Legislative Projects’ initiative in order to have hands on approach and grasp of the National Legislature in order to get her legislative agenda passed at the time.
LACE at that time continued to implement legislative projects throughout the country under Madam Sirleaf’s administration until a change occurred in 2017 after the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) government led by President George Weah ascended to state power.
Instead of the 54th Legislative maintaining LACE to implement Legislative Projects as was done by its predecessor, a new ball game was introduced with monies being now allotted in the National Budget under the title “Legislative Engagements and Public Accessibility”, where this time around, each lawmaker would receive a setting amount of United States dollars and thereafter goes to his/her constituents to implement projects he/she may deem necessary.
This approach has also been viewed by Liberians as campaign spree to entice their constituents to vote them back into office.
It can be recalled while Liberia was facing proper checks and balances during the COVID-19 pandemic heat in the country, members of the National Legislature decided to give themselves US$30,000 each in the middle of the deadly virus pandemic, when vaccines were in short supply, amid a depleted environment lacking simple medical supplies with Liberians dying like flies on a daily basis from simple illnesses that are easily treated in other parts of the world.
Most of the lawmakers who received the US$30,000 justified at the time that they would go into their various communities in their constituents to donate COVID-19 preventive supplies, instead of opting for such money to be channeled through the Ministry of Health or other health institutions for interventions.
Thereafter, Liberians called on the National Legislature never to allot to themselves such amount again most especially when the country is in economic dire straits, and the ordinary Liberian can barely find food to put on the table for his family.
Of recent it was reported that this time around, the Legislative Engagement and Public Accessibility allotment is placed under different budget line, with the aim to deceive Liberians that the lawmakers heeded Liberians’ calls not to allot US$30,000 to themselves while the rest of the country and Liberians suffered.
Interestingly, the Legislative Engagement and Public Accessibility allotment was included in the 2022 budget in the tone of US$3.6 and Operational Expenses at US$1.3 million.
While appearing on a live podcast on Spoon TV recently, Montserrado County District #8 Representative Acarous Gray of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) told Liberians and foreign nationals; and insisted that Montserrado County Senator Abraham Darius Dillon, along with every member of the Liberian Legislature, received $30,000 each during their last sitting.
“It’s time for Senator Dillon to admit to Liberians that he received yet another US$30.000 because he processes to be the ‘Light’ of the Liberian Senate. It’s time for people to be sincere to those who elected them rather than pretending to be a ‘saint”, Rep. Gray said.
“Every member of the House of Representatives and the Liberian Senate has received $30,000. This is the second time in five years we have received this money. Our accounts were credited and I challenged any legislator, whether a senator or representative, to deny this.”
Dr. Emmanuel Urey-Yarkpawolo
Following the recent saga about lawmakers taking another 30k , a son of Bong county , Dr. Emmanuel K. Urey-Yarkpawolo has blamed lawmakers on Capitol Hill for the increased in the number of maternal death across the country .
Dr. Yarkpawolo said while mothers are dying on a daily basis from maternal death coupled with other death due to simple illnesses, lawmakers are responsible for it.
He said “Blood is on Their Hands”.
“Blood is on their hands because if they are taking thirty-thousand dollars each and our mothers are dying on a daily basis from simple sickness blood is on their hands, when our hospitals and clinics in our communities across the country are empty without basic drugs, I say blood is on their hands.
“It is simple, blood is on their hands because the country resources that supposed to be used to improve the lives of the people , they take majority of it for themselves at the results there are non-functional health centers , mothers are dying in child birth , mothers in pain cannot get ambulance to take them to hospital they died, their children died , who is causing that, those who are taking the resources are the cause of all these , so the blood is on their hands”, he lamented.
He made the statement during the weekend in Bong County minutes after he served as guest speaker at the 90th closing of the Academic year 2022 of the St. Thomas Lutheran School in Foequelleh town, panta district #4.
(Independent probe contributed to this story).