-Says County Social Development Funds Illegally Spent
Bong County Electoral District #4 Representative Robert Flomo Womba has filed a law suit at the Civil Law Court in Monrovia against the Project Management Committee (PMC) and some members of the Bong County Legislative Caucus for the alleged misappropriation of US$50,000 and US$1.1 million received by the county from concessionaires operating in the county.
The PMC was established as per the new budget law to oversee all county social development funds (CSDF) including its expenditure.
In an interview with local radio stations in the county on Tuesday December 3, 2019, Rep. Womba alleged that the PMC of the county, following receipt of the US$ 1.1M, it (PMC) made allocations to projects that were not approved at the November 12, 2018 County Council Sitting which is the highest decision making body of the CSDF.
In June of 2018, Decco Gas Incorporated, a Nigerian oil company, gave the leadership of Bong County the US$ 50,000.00 for an oil exploration and the company would have carried out the exercise in electoral district three and the company paid the money into the county’s account following an unsuccessful exploration in the district.
“The head of the Project Management Committee Stephen J. Mulbah and some members of the Caucus agreed to pay the money to electoral district three outside of the resolution that was reached with citizens on November 12, 2018. I believe that the New Budget Law was violated and the court needs to explain to us why the money was expended outside of the resolution agreed by the citizens” Rep. Womba said.
The Bong County Lawmaker named the payment of US$214,000.00 to the Sesay Brothers Incorporated for the USAID Gbarnga pavement funded project; the provision of a little over US$50,000 to the Phebe Hospital and the disbursement of US$50,000 to Electoral District #3, without the unanimity of the caucus, as money spent outside of the November 12, 2018 County Council Sitting resolution, adding, our colleagues did not do us due diligence with the spending of the money.
Rep. Womba said the act on the part of his colleagues is gross violation of the New Budget Law which states that: “All allocations for the spending of the County Social Development Funds must be done through a resolution derived at a County Council Sitting”.
As of 2006/2017 budget, the 15 counties have been equally receiving County Development Funds and, at present, each county receives US$200,000.
In 2008, the Social Development Fund was established for counties hosting concessions from international extractive concessionaires as negotiated in the Mineral Development Agreements (MDA).
Three years later, in 2011, the SDF was merged to form the CDF legislative framework under the annual budget law, whereby the Legislature assumed de facto control of the process in a consolidated County Social Development Fund (CSDF).
The new law requires the election of a 3-member Project Management Committee (PMC), once every three years. The Committee must comprise a treasurer and a comptroller and the council must decide the criteria for qualifications based on professional training and work experience in accounting.
The project chair must have a minimum of three years’ experience in project management and must have resided in the county before taking the position or be willing to relocate to the county.
This is intended to guard against having the PMC members living in Monrovia or somewhere else, making them unable to provide oversight.
The new law would create more checks and balances on the three PMC leaders and promote competence in terms of electing a chair rather appointing someone with political influence. Previously, PMC members were appointed based on political interest.
Under the new law, only 10 percent of the CSDF allocation is spent on PMC’s operations. The idea is to spend more on projects that will benefit the community instead of on administration.
Appearing on local radio stations, Bong’s PMC Chairman, Stephen J. Mulbah, said most of the money was spent on liabilities the county incurred during the administration of past county leaders.
On the issue of the US$50,000 disbursed to Electoral District #3, the PMC Chairman said the money was expended in accordance with New Budget Law and PPCC Law.
He said at current, the county has an account balance of a little over US$200,000.
Bong County District #2 Representative, Prince Moye, said the superintendent, the PMC Chairman and the Ministry of Internal Affairs did not do due diligence with respect to Public Procurement and Concession Commission.
“I am not against a district receiving US$50,000 but the process should have passed through the rightful channel,” Rep. Moye said.
“I welcome the law suit filed by my colleague because that’s the only area we can get clarity if you have doubt about anything,” Rep. Moye said.
Rep. Moye argued that the money should have been distributed among the 13 administrative districts of Bong County because the oil exploration was done in the county.
“So, [should we] argue that money given to the county by other concession companies operating in other districts should be owned by that district?” the District #2 Rep. asked.