Senate Pro-Temp Albert Tugbe Chie says the pavement of the road from Buchanan to Pleebo, for which the amount of US$536 million is being sought by the government, is not the much-talked-about coastal road. “This is just the paving of the existing road that runs from Buchanan up to the interior to Greenville, Grand Kru and towards Pleebo.”
According to the Pro-Temp, who is a geologist by training, the possibility of a coastal highway soon, disclosing that such a venture would run into billions of dollars, considering the construction of over 75 bridges that are needed to connect those parts of the country. He was quick to say that the Senate is yet to receive documents from the executive on the terms of the US$536 million but said that body looks forward to receiving same.
But the Daily Observer has reliably confirmed that, contrary to what the Pro-Temp has said, the money in question being negotiated by the Government of Liberia is “For Funding the Coastal Corridor – Connection of County Capitals Road Projects”. The US$536 million road projects, according to sources, is intended to comprehensively address road connectivity across the country, a reliable source told the Daily Observer.
However, the Pro-Temp’s understanding could be a foreshadowing of how the legislature might receive the proposed loan proposal for their ratification.
He said the Senate has been informed that the Executive Branch of Government is presently engaged in talks with financial institutions for a loan to construct that crucial road segment, as well as other roads leading to Gbarpolu and Grand Cape Mount counties, at the cost of approximately US$536 million.
“It is our understanding that no loan agreement has been signed yet, and when it is it will be sent to the legislature for ratification. We want to assure the public that any loan incurred will be used in terms of good governance and for the intended purpose.”
The Pro-Temp’s take on the US$536 million road project issue grew out of a disclosure he made about confusion in some quarters over the effective management of the Road Fund, passed in 2017 by the 53rd Legislature, which he said is intended to be used to enhance the construction and maintenance of roads and bridges around the country.
He said one of the sources of the fund is a levy on each gallon of petroleum products that is imported into the country in the amount of “US$0.25 cents a gallon, which annually is aggregated to between US$25 million to US$30 million dollars that should be placed in an escrow account which would be collected by importers and turned over to government.”
Senator Chie disclosed that during the first quarter of this fiscal year, one of the importers, who questioned the legality of the transmission of the fees, complained to the Supreme Court and that the Court has placed a stay order on the process pending the dispensation of the matter by the full bench.
Public hearings on Dual Citizenship, other bills
Senate Pro-Temp Chie also disclosed that senate plenary has confirmed 245 of 690 nominees submitted by the executive branch of government for confirmation hearings, while 16 nominees are currently subject to confirmation proceedings.
Protemp Chie, who held his second press briefing since his ascendancy, told reporters at his Capitol office yesterday that for the past two and half months the Senate’s activities have been centered on confirmation proceedings.
“But there are some crucial bills in committee rooms; so the leadership of the senate has decided that the Senate holds its regular sessions on Tuesdays, where we will look at confirmation reports and other reports, but will reserve Thursdays when the senate plenary will turn itself into a working committee and will discuss crucial bills.
Among said crucial bills, the Grand Kru County Senator said, “are the Local Government Act, the proposed Land Rights Act, the Constitutional Amendment Provisions, a proposal on Dual Citizenship and the review of the Standing Rules of the Senate.”
Senator Chie said for the sake of transparency, the first four items will be open to the public in the Senate Chambers on Thursdays, while the Standing Rules will be considered in the executive.
“So starting this Thursday, we will deal with the proposal on Dual Citizenship,” he said.
Protemp Chie said the Senate is now preparing for the 2018/2019 National Budget, and that in accordance with the Senate Rules, the Senate will do its own budget and send it to the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) to be incorporated into the National Budget while looking at its framework.
He said the Senate welcomes the decision by the Executive Branch to set up a committee to review existing concessions, especially those that have now been in existence for over five years. “But we are urging the committee that has been established to work with the sector ministries and agencies to avoid duplicity in the process so that the committee can’t be reviewing and at the same time the agency is doing likewise,” he added.
He assured that the Senate will make its input after the review is completed and changes made to those agreements. “But it is important that we assure our local and foreign partners, investors, that the review process is for good faith discussions, and is not intended to digress from agreed terms in those agreements or to impose new terms,” he said.