-Because they have not benefited the people, citizen tells forum
Classroom teacher and civil-society activist Charles Harrison Teah of Cestos City, River Cess County, says because of the abuses that are prevalent in the execution of Legislative Support Projects, it will serve the country better if they are scrapped.
He spoke recently at the end of a one-week training of five community radio reporters from the River Cess Broadcasting Services Incorporated, in Cestos City.
The workshop involved how to report accurately on the use of the County Social Development Funds and how to monitor the use of the Legislative Support Project’s funds to ensure that they are expended to benefit the people.
The training was organized by the Liberia Media Development Program (LMDP) and Internews with funding from USAID.
He said the Legislative Support Projects Act and the law that requires executive appointees to resign two years prior to an election they want to contest must be repealed to ensure proper accountability.
He noted that the Legislative Support Projects’ arrangement has not been executed with accountability and therefore they have not benefited those they are meant to empower.
He told the participants that the Constitution empowers the Executive branch of government to implement the government’s projects and not the Legislative branch.
Harrison Teah said though Liberian leaders vow to defend, protect and uphold the country’s Constitution they eventually violate their oaths.
“Taking a huge portion of taxpayers’ money to individual lawmakers to undertake projects in their own name is unlawful and unjust to their people,” he said.
Harrison Teah explained the taxpayers’ money distributed among lawmakers is a way that leads them to glorify themselves and therefore the money could be added to the US$200,000 allocated to the County Development Funds.
He said lawmakers are fond of making promises to build roads and bridges but when they are elected, they discover to their horror that they are unable to live up to their promises.
“This situation has led to many of them being booed by their people when they have failed to honor their promises and that is the reason they introduced the Legislative Support Projects with the hope that they might fulfill their campaign promises,” he said.
Harrison Teah said the only safe outlet to ensure probity is for the law to be repealed because it is a violation of the Liberian Constitution that points out that “no one holding or serving in the other branch should serve or perform any duty in the other branch.”
“According to the Liberian Constitution all citizens are equal under the law, regardless of tribe, religion and traditional beliefs. But if the lawmakers say presidential appointees who want to contest in an election should resign two years prior to that election, then representatives who want to contest as senators, as well as senators who want to contest the presidential position, should also resign their posts,” he noted.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the five participants expressed appreciation to the organizers, LMDP, Internews, and USAID for the training. They promised to use the knowledge they acquired to monitor funds that come from the Liberian government that should be used to complete needed projects in the County.
It may be recalled that the Legislative Support Project (LSP) and the District Project Funds were created by the 53rd National Assembly and they are set aside for projects being implemented across the 73 electoral districts of the country. Among projects that they are expected to fund is the construction of schools, bridges, town halls, markets, roads, among others.
However, the exercise has come under criticism because earmarked projects are not completed to benefit the people. Most often the lawmakers present the projects as if they are their personal projects which eventually, whatever they do, will win some electorates in their favor.
The former deputy speaker of the 53rd Legislature, Hans Barchue was forced to clarify that projects under the Legislative Support Project (LSP) are not personal projects of lawmakers.
According to Daily Observer’s Nimba Correspondent, Ishmael Menkor, uncertainty surrounds the application of the LSP in Nimba County because some “of the projects have remained by name or are non-existent.” He reports that many across the County are confused as to whether the LSP is being used for its intended purpose or being used unilaterally by the members of the Legislature without the consent of the constituency they represent.
In Nimba County’s Electoral District 1, 2 and 3, several projects, including three schools, a market building and hospital, were erected and dedicated, while a mini football stadium in Karnplay since the election in 2011 has remained untouched. It is uncertain if monies reportedly used on these projects are part of the district project funds, which fall under the LPS or are self-sponsored development initiatives led by representatives of these districts.
For example in Districts 4, 5, 6 and so forth, there is no tangible development that the representatives of these constituencies can boast of as some of their so-called deliverables since they were elected in 2011, and sworn in in 2012. Rather they are constantly distributing bags of cement, bundles of 14 gauge zinc, and undisclosed amounts of cash to organizations and churches as a means of identifying with the people.
Hence many citizens feel that it would be better if the money that is allocated for LPS could be used for County Development Funds (CDF).