Public Works Minister William Gyude Moore has told a joint Senate committee that up to now, “the Ministry has had no access to the money coming from the Road Fund Act; that money is currently captured in the National Budget as you did when you passed the budget; so I do not even know how much was collected.”
Minister Moore made the statement last week before the Senate joint Committee on Public Works, and Lands, Mines, Energy, Environment and Natural Resources in a three-hour marathon public hearing in the Chambers of the Senate.
Moore told the Committee, chaired by Bong County Senator Henry Yallah, that the order and sequencing of events and the passage of bills created a situation that made it “impossible for us to use money out of the road fund.”
“The Legislature passed the National Budget before the Road Fund Act was passed, and in passing the national budget, money that should have been collected into the road fund was projected as revenue into the consolidated account.”
Money from the road fund act was included in a letter from Senators H. Dan Morias, J. Milton Teahjay, and Albert T. Chie who had written Senate plenary reminding them of the perpetual deplorable roads in the country, especially in the southeastern region.
The three southeastern Senators quoted an undisclosed source that a little over US$40 million was collected through the road fund act to be used for maintenance of roads and construction of new ones.
But during the hearing which was earlier called off on Tuesday due to the Minister Moore’s choice of clothes in the Chambers of the Senate, he informed the lawmakers that upon passage of the Road Fund Act, Public Works moved to establish the escrow account at the Central Bank of Liberia, “but the
International Monetary Fund (IMF), which has a representative at the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, said such action will cause the National Budget to be short by US$32 million.”
Moore further explained: “The projected amount coming out of the road fund was supposed to be US$32 million, but you have already captured that as revenue into the consolidated account.”
Minister Moore reminded the Legislators that with a budget of USS$18 million, his Ministry faces a very big problem with maintenance. He said USAID (United States Aid for International Development) has intervened with US$6.5 million in roads projects, but that his Ministry will not receive a cent; “rather, USAID will assign contractors, while Public Works inspects whatever work is done for quality and standard.”
He said the Government through his ministry has lots of proposals for road construction and maintenance, but all are limited by how much the country can borrow; “even though the people have the money and willing to come and spend it and get paid later, we are in this extended credit facility with the IMF that significantly limits how much we can borrow.”