Information disclosed to the joint committee of the Liberian Senate and the House of Representatives on Ways, Means and Finance and Budget at the ongoing hearing of the draft national budget for FY 2019/2020 indicates that the Ministry of Public Works terribly failed to account for US$27 million allotted for road construction and rehabilitation in the country.
Appearing before the committee in the conference room of the House of Representatives at the Capitol on Monday, August 26, Montserrado County Electoral District #5 Representative and committee chairman, Thomas Fallah notes that it is disappointing and embarrassing that the Public Works Ministry, which heads the main pillar of the Pro Poor Agenda not to account for such amount, terming it as unacceptable.
It all started when the Deputy Public Works Minister for Administration appeared before the committee to justify US$40 million allotted to the ministry in previous fiscal year and to give reason while there should be increment in the fiscal year 2019/2020.
But Deputy Minister Joseph Todd could only account for US$13 million of the US$40 million allotted to his Ministry for the period under review.
Minister Todd totally went mute when asked to provide details, including documentary evidence of the remaining US$27 million. He stood mute, sweating profusely in the midst of air condition at the hearing.
Minister Todd had gone to defend allocation made in the draft budget for the Public Works Ministry and give performance report for the just-ended fiscal period. His appeal for increment of US$29 million to be added on the already US$40 million allotment fell on deaf ears.
The joint committee during the period of quizzing established that the Ministry headed by former Sinoe County Senator Mobutu VlahNyenpan had allegedly misapplied and could not account for US$27 million of tax payers money entrusted to him for national development.
Todd also could not give technical detail of the US$13 million spent by the Public Works authorities, but only told the committee and the public that the amount was used for road construction without stating clearly which roads or how many kilometers and exact location of the newly paved roads.
With his appalling failure to give account for the public funds, the Ways, Means, and Finance and Budget Committee set up an ad-hoc committee to investigate the Public Works Ministry on the lost USS$27 million and submit findings in days.
The committee may forward findings to the plenary of both the Liberian Senate and the House of Representatives for tougher measures.
The Ministry of Public Works is the first ministry since the ascendency of President George Manneh Weah to have failed to justify funding allotted for road construction across the country.
On July 22, the Joint Budget, Public Accounts, Expenditure and Audit Committee of the 54th Legislature announced the beginning of scrutiny of the 2019/2020 Budget in the tune of US$532 million, as part of its oversight and statutory functions.
The Legislature’s Budget Committee comprises members from the Committees on Ways, Means, Finance and Development Planning and Public Accounts & Expenditure, from the House of Representatives and the Senate.