Nimba Officials at Loggerheads Over misapplication of Ebola Funds

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    Supt Zuagele and Sen. Grupee at induction_web.jpg

    Another round of conflict is raging in Nimba County among the local leaders of the county headed by Superintendent Fong Zuagele and the members of the 53rd Legislative Caucus of Nimba over the handling of US$ 100, 000 allotted to fight Ebola from the County Development Funds by the local leaders.

    The lawmakers, who gave the authorization for the usage of the money, expressed  dissatisfaction over how the money was disbursed by the leadership of the county headed by Supt. Fong Zuagele.

    Senator Thomas Grupee on the local radio on 10th September 2014 said that the money was intended to procure protective materials for health workers and purchase drugs for health facilities across Nimba, but instead it was used contrary to what they planned.

    There had been criticism from the across the county over how the money was distributed, with the Superintendent giving greater priority to local administrators rather than what he was told to do.

    Early this week, Representative Prince O. S. Tokpah criticized the way the money was handled by the Superintendent and his entourage.

    On Friday, 5th September 2014, what appeared like a County Council to discuss the usage of money was held in Sanniquellie.

    The meeting began with the Superintendent outlining development activities as well as the update of the Ebola in Nimba, but when the issue surrounding the use of the funds reached the table, the media and other observers were asked out for what the Superintendent said was the technical part of the meeting.

    The closed-door portion of the meeting was held for the rest of the day, making it difficult to get feedback from what was discussed, but at last the Spokeperson of Nimba, Assistant Superintendent  for  Development ,Teeko Yorla,  told the county via radio how the money distributed.

    According to him, 30% of the money was given to the County Health Team.  Paramount and clan chiefs as well as township commissioners were given US$ 100 each for awareness in their areas.

    District commissioners and some city mayors were given US$350 for the same awareness in their areas of control, while Ganta received US$ 5000 because of it being and epicenter; followed by Saclepea which also received US$ 1000.

    According to Teeko Yorlay, six motorbikes (AG types) will be procured for use by the six statutory superintendents to carry on monitoring and supervising burial areas.

    This distribution of the money is creating tension among the citizens, with most of the callers on the local radio stations criticizing the handling of the money.

    The level of tension between the present leadership of Nimba, headed by Fong Zuagele and Members of the Nimba Legislative Caucus appears to be hampering developmental activities even prior to the outbreak of Ebola.

    During the leadership of former Superintendent Robert Kamei and Edith Gongrue Wehyee, there were some disagreements, but they were resolved in a shorter period of time.

    On 26 June 2010, a month to the celebration of the July 26 Independence, Supt. Edith G. Weh at the United Liberia Inland Church in Sanniquellie apologized to the County for using US$ 300,000 to procure generators and other materials for the hosting of July 26 without the county and caucus, giving the reason that it went that way because Independence was fast  approaching and there was not enough time to go through PPCC.

    Mrs. Weh’s apology was well understood by the 52nd Caucus, represented at that time by Representative Martin Farngalo and the rest of those who attended the meeting,  including Sheik Kafumba Konneh.

    The problem started when Development Superintendent Teeko Yorlay obstructed the disbursement of US$265,000 for the reconstruction of a  sport stadium after the 53rd lawmakers had authorized Nimba businessman Floyd Tomah to refinance the project during leadership of Christiana Dagadu.

    Teeko Yarlay’s argument was that the reconstruction was not his concern, while others who backed him said the reconstruction process should have gone through the PPCC, but the lawmakers, too,  argued that the hosting of the Nation County Meet was crucial and time was not in their favor; so it was better to do the work speedily so as to meet Liberia Football Association deadline.

    Recently, the Project Management Chairman of Nimba, Mr. Clinton Layweh,  was removed from office by the present leadership of the county in the absence of the County Council (the highest decision making body) who elected him, for misapplication of the development funds,  something for which the lawmakers feel disrespected.

    The present hurdle over the use of the Ebola US$100,000 is likely to delay the fight against Ebola, even as the Nimba  people are yearning for a quick response to the eradication of the disease.

    Even up to present, the county is yet to know how much government allotted to the County Task Force in this Ebola crisis, besides what came from the county’s own account.

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