The Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hans Barchue, has sounded an alarm that US$5 million for the purpose of direct District Development remains “on ice as the 2013/2014 Budget elapses.”
Said amount was allotted in the National Budget for direct district development projects in the 73 electoral districts across the country.
In a Daily Observer interview at the weekend, Deputy Speaker Barchue expressed concern over the delay in implementing projects associated with said amount, adding, “Liberia strongly depends on district projects in order to develop its broken infrastructure.”
He disclosed that 26 projects in various counties had been identified by community dwellers, local authorities and lawmakers as projects that are ripe for implementation in their respective regions.
“The Liberia Agency for Community Empowerment (LACE) under instruction of a committee of the Legislature, conducted feasibility studies in the areas of concern and identified projects to be implemented,” Rep. Barchue indicated.
Since LACE completed the assessment process, Deputy Speaker Barchue declared, “Finance Ministry is yet to release the money for those projects and we are closing on this year’s budget with nothing being done to address said critical matter,” he stressed.
The Grand Bassa County lawmaker expressed frustration over the slow pace of development in rural communities, noting that rural dwellers feel completely disconnected from urban areas.
“The US$5 million was a pilot project introduced to make a way for other bigger interventions in the near future. The Finance Minister had assured us that the money was in a special account that has not been touched. LACE has been across the country inspecting the sites for these projects and as we speak, Finance Ministry is yet to release a single dollar for them. This act on the part of the Ministry is frustrating people like us, who are development-oriented and want rural areas to be lighted as Monrovia,” he said.
“These projects range from schools, clinics and bridges to markets and farm-to-market roads that are urgently needed in the rural communities. We’re not going to take this lightly because the development of the districts is paramount to the Legislature,” Deputy Speaker Barchue indicated.
As the close of this Fiscal period, June 30, approaches, Rep. Barchue pointed out, the plenary of the House is expected to invite Finance Minister Amara Konneh again to explain the status of the money.
He wants serious attention placed on the development of rural communities in order to develop the entire country.
He used the medium to announce several development initiatives instituted by his office in District #1, Grand Bassa County. According to him, 13 Digital Satellite Television (DSTV) set including generators and other accessories valued over US$9,000 were provided to district residents recently.
“The DSTV sets were provided to the district in order to give our people the opportunity to watch the Football World Cup from their respective communities. Our people have difficulties in getting to Firestone and other places for amusement, so we have brought it to their doorsteps,” he said.
However, reacting to Deputy Speaker Barchue’s claims, the Deputy Finance Minister for Budget, Mr. Sebastian Muah, confirmed that the money was on “ice” because of the present budget shortfall that the nation is experiencing.
Speaking with the Daily Observer late last night, Mr. Muah further stated that because of the shortfall, the money had to be diverted to other meaningful undertakings of the government.
He said the money had nothing to do with the lawmakers because the Constitution does not give them expending power. That power is the constitutional preserve of the Executive, which contains the Ministry of Finance and other expending entities of the government.
Commenting on LACE’s intervention, Dep. Min Muah stated that for the last two years, that agency has not shown a single project that it has completely done with thousands of dollars that it had received from the Ministry of Finance.
“Should we just be spending money when we can’t see any meaningful thing that has been done with the money? You people [journalists] need to go on a fact finding in order to verify for yourselves what I am talking about.
“Another thing, for the last seven years, we have been spending money in the name of county development. Go into the counties and see the developments that are there,” Min. Muah said.
He told the Observer that as Deputy Minister for the Budget, he was yet to receive any new plan from the LACE concerning any development projects to be carried out in the counties. His comments are in reference to Deputy Speaker Barchue’s, that LACE had since gone around the country and identified projects but the Ministry of Finance was yet to release money for those projects.