The office of Montserrado County Senator Abraham Darius Dillon is expected to receive the US$7,500 donated to the Montserrado County Health Team about a month ago to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
The amount is a part of the first $15,000 lawmakers received for Legislative Engagement or Project, and when Senator Dillon first announced receiving this money on his Facebook page, it sparked up contention in the public and the Senator, who has been an advocate for integrity in the Legislature, was heavily lambasted for having received the money.
Many demanded that he return the money. However, because this money -- a total of $30,000 per lawmaker -- was legislated, the Senator withheld it and decided to give a portion of the first $15,000 to the Montserrado County Health Team to fight the pandemic.
Having received and appreciated Senator Dillon for the donation that came at the time the third variant of the COVID pandemic was raging, the county health team then bounced back to state that it was not using the money but returning it to the Senator on the instruction of the Health Minister, Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah.
With no clear explanation why the County Health Team should not use the money, the Political Officer in the office of Senator Dillon, Abel Plackie, told the Daily Observer that after one month of holding onto the money without use, the county health team is returning the money today.
“We had an audience with members of the County Health Team, led by Dr. Yatta Wapoe on today, July 19, 2021, and they attempted handing the money that was in a brown envelope to our office, but we told them to return tomorrow (Tuesday, July 20) to return it finally,” said Plackie.
Plackie said they are surprised that money that was given to fight a disease that is claiming the lives of several citizens and the government through the Health Ministry would refuse it because it wants to politicize the donation.
“Okay, we will receive the money from them and use it for what we think it can be used for, but it is quite disappointing to see a government refusing money when it is begging other countries and organizations for money to fight COVID-19,” he added.
According to Plackie, Senator Dillon will use the money entirely on Montserrado County as was intended, and they will not regret receiving it from the County Health Team, “since it is being politicized.”
The last amount to total $30,000 has just been released to the lawmakers. Despite public lashes accompanying this money, lawmakers have consistently defended that it was passed and signed in the budget law and therefore it is lawful money.
“The Senator has made it clear on his Facebook page that he will use this money when he receives it in his account. The truth here is that the money was budgeted and passed into law. It is lawful money and Senator Dillon is not squandering public funds, just to clarify the public doubt about the Senator receiving the money. So, the office of Senator Dillon will use this money for the people of Montserrado County as it is intended,” Plackie added.
The $15,000 saga came to public attention when Senator Dillon disclosed that his office received this amount from the Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP).
Amid calls by the public for Dillon to return the money to the Government, he did not heed but decided to apportion some to the County Health Team amid news of the rise of a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the Health Team, which felt blessed by the gesture at first, was forbidden to hold the money and therefore return it to the Senator.