Liberia: Senate Demands US$15.5M Rice Subsidy Expenditure Documents

Queried by Bomi County Senator Edwin Melvin Snowe as to why the President (George weah) assured citizens that there was sufficient rice available up to next year, Diggs told the Senator to go and ask the President.   

Threaten Finance, Agric Ministers with contempt 

Following hours of sustained grilling, the Plenary of the Liberian Senate on October 25, resolved to keep Commerce and Industry Minister, Mawine G. Diggs under oath, so as to submit to the Committees on Public Accounts & Audits and Ways, Means, Finance & Budget all relevant documents relative to the expenditure of the US$15.5 million rice importation subsidy.

Senators also mandated the Commerce Minister to ask President George M. Weah as to who advised him that there was sufficient rice in the country following his return from the United Nations General Assembly and subsequently informed the Pro-Tempore with respect to the feedback. 

Queried by Bomi County Senator Edwin Melvin Snowe as to why the President (George weah) assured citizens that there was sufficient rice available up to next year, Diggs told the Senator to go and ask the President. 

Meanwhile, during the hearing, many Senators called for the cancellation of the program to subsidize rice importation and vowed not to vote for any further subsidy of such, if included in the 2023 national budget.  Senators Jeremiah Koung, Botoe Kanneh, Milton Teahjay, and Abraham Darius Dillon, among others, argued that the US$15.00 per 25kg bag of rice is only benefitting residents of Montserrado County.

However, the Pro-Tem cautioned his colleagues against taking an abrupt decision, reminding them of the hasty decision that prompted the infamous 1979 rice riot.

Tuesday's hearing was a result of a communication received from Grand Bassa County Senator Jonathan L. Kaipay, for the Ministers to appear before the Senate as a “Committee of a Whole”, relative to the troubling development surrounding the shortage of the nation’s staple food (rice).

Meanwhile, the Plenary of the Senate has rejected the excuses from the Ministers of Finance and Development Planning and of Agriculture, Samuel D. Tweh, Jr. and Jeanine M. Cooper, respectively.

 Plenary maintained that the two Ministers, instead of sending excuses, should have instructed their principal deputies to appear on their behalf. The two Ministers have been mandated to appear before the Liberian Senate next November 1, to show reason(s) why they should not be held in contempt.

The overwhelming decision was triggered by a vote taken by the Plenary after the ministers’ letters of excuse were read, stating that they both are out of the country, and asked that the Plenary reschedule their appearances.