By Leroy M. Sonpon III
Members of the Joint Committee on Ways, Means, Finance & Budget and Public Accounts have expressed disappointment over the bottleneck at the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) causing the delay of the distribution of over L$92m to affected communities across the country since 2015.
The Joint Committee Chairman, Rep. Prince Moye, and eleven (11) lawmakers frowned at the FDA for creating unnecessary and technical barriers and economic hardship by denying affected communities access to their respective benefits from logging companies operating in their communities.
The angry lawmakers included representatives Thomas Fallah, Jeremiah Koung, Gabriel Smith, Johnson Chea, Edward Karfiah and Aaron Vincent.
Others are senators Morris Saytumah, J-Gbleh Bo Brown, Andrew Jaye, Daniel Naatehn and Dr. Peter Coleman.
The representatives and senators voiced their anger during the Budget Hearing of the Expenditure Component of the FDA yesterday.
The resentment stemmed from a report from the FDA managing director, Darlington Tuagben, on the Community Forestry Development Committee (CFDC).
The managing director told lawmakers that even though the FDA has oversight, a group is responsible for the distribution, headed by Mr. Matthias Yenay of the NGO Coalition.
FDA’s chief accountant Joseph Koon, who is also the secretary of the group, told lawmakers, however, that the benefits for the affected communities date back to 2009, but the money was finally released during the 2015/2016 and 2016/2017 Budgets.
He said US$250,000 (L$22,250,000) and US$680,000 (L$70,315,000) were respectively released.
Since the money was released, he said the group has been working tirelessly to identify the affected communities and their projects in order to pay them.
The Joint Committee has mandated the FDA to provide a detailed report on the criteria for communities to benefit and the full listing of communities and counties.
The committee also mandated the FDA to provide a report on the Norwegian off-budget support, to the tune of US$15m, and the US$37m intended for the FDA and other ministries and agencies.
The FDA is expected to furnish the report on Thursday, June 15.