Development activities in the southeastern county of Maryland are at a standstill. This is due to what residents say is either financial constraints or lack of accountability by the county’s leadership.
A survey conducted by this newspaper recently revealed that most of the projects earmarked by the county’s administration are yet to be implemented.
The fate of the County Development Fund (CDF), residents say, is unknown, thereby leaving many confused about the status of funds, whether they are available or not.
The Daily Observer reporter who visited some project sites as well as some public buildings, did not observe any development being implemented.
The county’s leading public high school, Cape Palmers High, now lies in ruins, leaving the school to run its academic activities from an abandoned barrack previously manned by United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) personnel, somewhere near the sports stadium.
Some of the county’s contractors told the Daily Obsever that they were yet to receive their contract fees after they were advised to pre–finance some of the county’s projects.
Gabriel Tarpeh, Chief Execitive Officer (CEO) of Gab Mark Construction Company, expressed frustration over the entire situation. He said since he was hired to renovate the sports stadium, he is yet to receive part of the money since the work started, as per the agreement.
In a follow up to his statement on Tuesday, November 23, Mr. Tarpeh said via mobile phone that the first check the county administration issued to him as part payment for his work was outdated, “therefore the Ecobank branch in Pleebo City rejected it.”
The elected officers of the Project Management Committee (PMC), responsible to steer the affairs related to the implementation of projects in the county, are still not fully empowered to operate effectively.
“Since I was elected as comptroller, the county leadership is yet to turn a single document over to me. There is no office space and no documents that resemble bank transactions,” said Lee Newton, Comptroller, PMC. “It is yet to be established whether there is any money for development in the county’s coffers, and nobody cares to provide any clarity.”
In other counties, for example Nimba and Bong, the PMC has all the logistical support, including cars and well equipped offices, and is responsible for all financial transactions regarding the development projects, something Mr. Newton said is not the case in Maryland County.
Confused residents are worried about the purchase of yellow machines to rehabilitate feeder roads that they say was unilaterally done in the absence of a county sitting.
Otis A. Turay of the New Creation Business Center in Harper told this newspaper via mobile phone that the local government owed him huge sums of United States dollars for goods he supplied to them to renovate the stadium, construct the commissioner’s compound in Harper and other places in the county as well as to construct a mini bridge to link Harper City Center to New Kru Town community.
However, County Superintendent Betsy T. Kuoh –Toe in an interview a week ago could not provide details on the allegations levelled against the local administration regarding the amount owed the contractors. She could only relay that the local government has completed many projects in the county.
It is not clear whether the completed projects were done unilaterally or through the county council and its PMC. However, Supt. Toe said the county council did not allot any operational budget to run the PMC, neither were they allotted money for allowances or vehicle repair and other such requirements.