Sinoe County Senator Milton Teahjay has written the Senate, soliciting the consent of members to his request for an increase in the annual appropriation of County Development Funds (CDF) from US$200K to US$400K in the upcoming 2015/2016 national budget.
According to the letter from the Sinoe lawmaker dated April 27, his idea is being proffered on the basis of the increasing development priorities of “our various constituencies.”
“By maintaining the present recurrent annual allocation levels usually made in previous budgets, it would take each county in our country 10 consecutive years to achieve five decent projects in any given leeward jurisdiction,” said Sen. Teahjay.
A former superintendent of Sinoe County, who on several occasions was accused of embezzling funds intended for the county development, informed his colleagues that the alternative to his proposed increase is to painfully force each county administration into investing in dirt-brick structures simply by increasing quantity in projects and sacrificing quality.
“While dirt-brick structures are acceptable alternatives for disadvantaged communities such as ours, they do not guarantee the architectural integrity of structures for protracted periods. Our ability to allow this increase will not only promote needed sustained community development, but will also add value to our constitutional oversight responsibility as elected legislators.”
With the deployment of internal auditors in the counties through the Internal Audit Agency (IAA), Teahjay said the question of transparent management and accountability of the CDFs would be efficiently and effectively handled. The anticipated outcomes will be achieved contrary to previous situations where controversies surrounded the usage of these funds,” Teahjay assured.
It may be recalled that on March 1, 2012, former Maryland County Senator John Ballout wrote the Senate Plenary expressing what he described as strong feelings that “since the national budget was being increased, there was a need to increase the CDFs to US$1m, contending that the current US$200K allocated for CDF purposes remains largely insignificant to have the desired impact on the development needs of those districts.
The idea of a CDF was first introduced by the 52nd legislature and was widely accepted with joy and embraced by the entire citizenry.
But that joy was short lived in some of the counties, as citizens started filing complaints of either embezzlement or misuse of funds earmarked for specific projects.
In January, Grand Cape Mount County Senator Edward Biakai Dagoseh, who then chaired the Senate Committee on Public Accounts and Audit, wrote to his colleagues about the need for a paradigm shift in the procedures and policies under which the Social Development Fund (SDF) operates.
The SDF, like the CDF has had its bad times in some counties where concessions operate.
Senator Dagoseh in his letter dated January 15, this year recommended that a CSD Trust Fund be set up and its management team be comprised of only professionals in order for it to operate without the influence of political stakeholders.
The Grand Cape Mount County lawmaker asserted that annually, millions of United States Dollars are put into the SDF to ensure that affected communities benefit from economic development to lessen the impact of conflict in areas where concession companies operate.
The Senators voted for the set up of an SDF Trust Fund and a motion proffered by the now Pro Tempore Senator, Armah Zulu Jallah, was voted for. The communication was sent to the committees on Internal Affairs, Governance and Reconciliation; Ways, Means, Finance & Budget; and Lands, Mines and Energy which were expected to report to plenary within two weeks.