-As MFDP fails to remit funds
In December 2018, the Grand Bassa County Sitting approved 35 County and Social Development Fund (CSDF) projects totaling $1,0870,500 to build a market, a health center, a ferry terminal and a bridge, among other initiatives, but the projects have been stalled because the government through the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) is yet to remit funds.
The CSDF is a combination of the funds some counties receive from the operations of concessions in their area and the $200,000 the government earmarks to each of the 15 counties for development projects.
For instance, Grand Bassa benefits from the payments made by ArcelorMittal in compliance with the Mineral Development Agreement (MDA). These funds are paid to government by companies and remitted to the various counties by the MFDP. The counties then decide on how to use the funds. In Grand Bassa, however, the resolution has been divided into two parts: projects and programs.
Trokon Williams, citizen of Grand Bassa County, said “the resolved projects from the December County Sitting remain essential in alleviating constraints faced by some of the communities and districts, especially the projects. Our people are more interested in the projects resolved than the programs for now.”
Mr. Williams indicated that the CSDF program has been helpful to both citizens and the government in addressing some of the problems faced by citizens, stating, “today everyone in Bassa wants to know the status of the county’s cake or CSDF.”
Moses G. Henry, chair of Grand Bassa County’s Project Management Committee (PMC), said the government through the Ministry of Finance Development and Planning (MFDP) remitted $100,000 to the county, but was used on programs approved at the County Sitting. He said 60 percent was remitted in United States dollars, while the remaining 40 percent was paid in Liberian dollars.
“The county used the money to cover the arrears owed to the Grand Bassa Kickball team from the just ended county meet, cover four months’ salary arrears to the PMC and pay vendors owed to maintain good relationship with them,” Mr. Henry said.
“We are not doing any project now, because of lack of funding,’’ Mr. Henry said, emphasizing that the county had to pay the vendors to maintain a good relationship, so the vendors can continue working on projects in the county.
Mr. Henry, who previously served as treasurer and now PMC chair, said the county sitting birthed several meaningful projects valued at US$1,087,500 and were approved by delegates.
The 21 projects, valued at $670,000, include the construction of the Commissioner’s residence in Geegbahn, furniture for a health center in Gorblee, a new market in Bleahzee, launch an agriculture project Neekreen District, beautify Monrovia junction, construct two bridges, one in Diaahn and the other in Zuehgar and completion of the ferry terminal in Edina.
Others include: sanitation and intervention in Buchanan City; construction of a youth center in civil compound; construction of the commissioner compound in Kpoe-wein; construction of Korkor David clinic (initial) in Doegbahn; extension of the junior high to high school in Nyuen-wein; renovation/extension of the administrative building in Compound #1; Ownegrove market construction in Kporkon; and beautification and other initiatives in Edina City.
The 14 programs, valued at $417,500, include support to the Bassa Sports Association, support to the Disabled Community, payment of one-year arrears to the Project Management Committee (PMC), National Fire Service, Bassa Youth Caucus, and women organizations.
Others are: Re-electrification of LGH/Doctor quarters, Grand Bassa Community College Clinic (GBCC), repair and maintenance of public buildings, support to media institutions, support to education foundation, workshop/county sitting, and GBCC bus, and others.
Grand Bassa County, according to the 2008 census had a population of 224,839, making it the fifth most populous county in Liberia. The county currently hosts the world steel giant, ArcelorMittal Liberia, which exports iron ore through the Port of Buchanan.
Historically, Grand Bassa County received $1 million from ArcelorMittal for its operations in the county. But the amount was reduced to $533,250.00 in 2017 because of the drop in iron ore prices. With the annual allotment of the $200,000 from the government, the county is expected to receive $733,250 from the CSDF in total.
In the last three fiscal years (2015/2016, 2016/2017, 2017/2018, the county received US$1,176,000 instead of the US$3.6 million dollars projected for the three years, Henry said. The lack of funds hampered the county’s ability to implement projects in the last three years. During the county sitting on December 7, 2018, the delegates pushed for some of the projects that were not implemented in previous years.
Henry hopes the county will receive the remaining $633,250,000, so it can proceed with some of the approved projects. The implementations of these projects help to stimulate development for government,” he said.
Peter D. Jimmy, Grand Bassa County Coordinator for Group of 77, participated in the December 7 County Sitting that approved the projects and said he was delighted, although his organization is yet to benefit from the funds received by the county.
The county chapter of the Group of 77 received US$3,000 during the 2017 County Sitting. The amount was shared with three groups: including Christian Association of the Blind, School of the Deaf and Group of 77.
“We have been pushing for disabled people’s children to be placed on scholarship during the county sitting, but the county’s leadership has not accepted the request.,’’ Mr. Jimmy said. “We continue to engage them to ensure that our children benefit from these scholarships.’’
According to Mr. Jimmy, the county leadership through the 2018 county sitting has earmarked US$5,000 for the disabled community, but will continue to negotiate for the disabled community.
Barley M. Togba, Chair, Grand Bassa County Civil Society Council and national coordinator for Grassroots Agency for Social Services, said the CSDF is essential to the county’s development.
“Prior to the amendment, any member of the PMC would be dismissed and counties’ leaderships would use any amount for administrative cost; but the amended law makes it difficult. The law spelled out percentage as administrative cost, which is 10%. CSOs are now challenged in raising funds to monitor CSDF projects as indicated by the national budget law,” Mr. Togba said.
“We have monitored the implementations of the CSDF, both programs and projects. We followed the construction of public schools, health centers, market buildings and bridges. We had a problem with a high school built, and no students for senior high division and it was raised with the county’s leadership,” Mr. Togba said.
“We have engaged the citizens at the highest level and we intend to invest money provided to the county in the agriculture sector. We want to focus on a more productive sector that will turn the resources around. We invest our money into schools and sometimes, no one to attend these schools. Importantly, we believe that the government agenda needs to be in line with the county level,” Mr. Togba stated.
Martha Karnga, Chief Executive Officer of the Bassa Women Development Association (BAWODA), said her organization advocates for the CSDF to support women and girls at the district levels.
“We were involved into advocating for health centers and schools for women,” she said “We are now focusing on women’s empowerment financially, because some have to send their children through business or farming activities.”
The CSDF, she said, has had some positive impact on the county, but more work needs to be done that will directly impact women.
“I have seen some schools, health centers and bridges in various districts that were built with funding from the CSDF,” she said. “We have done some good things with CDF but more is needed, especially for the women of Bassa.”
Othello Cotowor, president of the Bassa Youth Caucus, said the county sitting as usual has given citizens the opportunity to propose or identify priority projects in their communities and districts to improve health, education and infrastructure of the county.
“We are struggling now to achieve projects that will specifically directly impact the youth. For the past two county sittings, the youth proposed computer literacy program valued at US$20,000, but only US$3,000 was provided by the county leadership, which was a drop in the ocean,” he said.
According to him, the youth has presented a sustainability plan, which has to do with the building of 10-bedroom guest house in the port city of Buchanan that will help generate funds to support agriculture and other projects for the youthful population of Bassa.