Nimba County has in recent days received about US$1.55 million from ArcelorMittal through the Government of Liberia for social development funds after three or more years of delay. The money came through the advocacy role of District #5 Representative Samuel Kogar, and the county still has not less than US$4 million with the government to disburse in its account.
This money began coming to the county since 2011 with some used to purchase earth moving equipment for feeder roads. However, with the disbursement of the current amount, two advocacy groups are calling on the county’s leadership, especially Legislative Caucus, to invite a firm to audit and establish how Social Development and County Development Funds have been used in the county.
Presenting their separate but concurred petitions recently during the just ended controversial Nimba County Council Sitting in Sanniquellie, both the Nimba United for Progress (NUP) and the Concern Nimbaians urged the caucus and the delegates to invite an auditing firm to conduct an audit of development funds and proceeds from the controversial metal scraps that were stockpiled in Yekepa and sold.
“We want the County Sitting to mandate the Legislative Caucus to hire the services of the General Auditing Commission or an independent auditing firm to conduct a forensic audit of the disbursed Social Development Fund,” said a statement from the petitioners.
The NUP, which comprises professional Nimbaians in different disciplines, including geology and law, among others, recommends that the CDF, being a public fund from Liberian taxpayers, should be managed by public officials in line with the Public Financial Management Law.
Looking at the sources of the Social Development Fund, NUP said, “The SDF, which comes from the natural endowment for the people of Nimba, must be dedicated to and invested in the greater good of all citizens of Nimba, both current and future generations.”
“NUP proposes that the management of the SDF (from all concessionaires) should be done by a group of professionals or an independent firm that will be vetted by an independent recruiting entity void of political influence or elections.”
The County Sitting is the biggest decision-making body of any county as established in the budget laws consistent with applicable laws, including the PPCC and Section 9 of the Public Financial Management Act of 2009.
The recently held Nimba County Council Sitting was overshadowed by the election of a new corp of the officers to steer the affairs of the Project Management Committee, downplaying some major needs including reports from line ministries, investment partners and institutions, among others.
The NUP also urged the County Sitting to prepare a 5-year strategic plan for the management of the SDF in collaboration with ArcelorMittal Liberia so as to jointly identify milestone development projects within the period of the Mineral Development Agreement.
For the Concerned Nimbaians, they have previously been threatening to stage a protest against the council sitting until a forensic audit is conducted of the past administrations. In their plea, the Concerned Nimbaians also called for the implementation of the 2014 audit report by the GAC.
The GAC audit report covered the controversial Nimba 2010 Independence Day expenses, where it was alleged that US$800,000 was used from the county’s account to facilitate the occasion.
Senator Prince Johnson, in his opening statement at the County Council Sitting, also raised concern about the US$800k and other funds taken from the account and used in the interest of the national government, something he said should not have been and that those who were in authority at the time be held to give account.
The Scrap Agreement
Both the NUP and Concern Nimbaians are anxious to know how the scarp agreements between Sethi Ferro Fabrik and the County on one hand and North Star and the County on the other were reached. In recent days, County Inspector Mack Gblinwon announced on a local radio station in Ganta that the scraps have disappeared, and was wondering who had taken it.
The groups, therefore, are urging the stakeholders in the county to mandate the county administration to make public copies of the scrap agreement, particularly with Sethi and North Star.
Also in demand is the review of the Mineral Development Agreement between ArcelorMittal Liberia (AML) and the Government of Liberia, which the advocacy groups are calling on the Legislative Caucus to champion its review with the involvement of professionals and others in line with Article 10 of the Mineral Development Agreement (MDA).
Article 10 states: “The concessionaire shall ensure that subject availability within five years of the Amendment Effective Date, 25% of all senior managerial positions at the concession are held by Liberians and to 50% within 10 years of the Amendment Effective Date.
“The Caucus should request and or demand the relevant government authority to ensure that qualified and professional Nimbaians occupy managerial positions as indicated in Appendix G of the MDA,” the NUP added.
The yellow machines that impressed Nimbaians several years back now lie in ruin and are gradually turning into scrap. Instead of being used for the feeder roads, they are parked in the fence of the Liberia Produce Marketing Company (LMPC) in Ganta without repair. The availability of the social development fund can ease the situation to get the machines working, but that is not the reality on the ground as allegations of the county authority and the legislative caucus diverting the money to personal accounts have continued to emerge.
The NUP and other advocates, therefore, called on the County Council Sitting delegates to mandate the county administration, through the caucus, to provide detailed reports on the management of the SDF that has been provided by AML from the inception of its activities to the present day.