LIBERIA: Lower House To Probe Over US$20m In Allocations For Executive Mansion Renovation
The plenary of the House of Representatives is expected to investigate over US$20 million in allocations made towards the renovation of the Executive Mansion in several budgets over a number of fiscal years.
Plenary made the decision following a communication from Grand Bassa County District #4 Representative Vincent Willie, requesting that body to setup a specialized committee to probe the budgetary allocations for the renovation of the Executive Mansion and to know the status of the building.
On July 26, 2006, the fourth floor of the Executive Mansion was gutted by fire while the country celebrated its Independence Day.
The Grand Bassa lawmaker said, since the unfortunate incident the legislature has been allocating money to renovate the building.
Willie indicated that the National Legislature has allocated over US$20,136,908.00 for that purpose.
Breaking down the total money the legislature approved for the Executive Mansion, Willie said in the 2010/11 budget, 973,496.00 was placed in there, while the 2011/12 budget captured US$1,230,078.00.
The Grand Bassa lawmaker said the 2012/2013 allotment was US$2,000,000.00 and in 2013/2014 some US$6,466,667.00 was placed in the budget, while in 2014/2015 and 2015/2016 budgets respectively the Legislature provided US$6,466,667.00 and US$3,000,000.00 for the same renovation process.
“We can consider it as a political dragon that is eating the Liberian people’s money,” he added.
According to him, the portion of the Liberian budget that is under the caption ‘Mansion Renovation’ is considered as “an eating spot for those who have access to that budget line.”
He further explained that since his ascendency to the district’s highest seat, the issue of allocation for the renovation has captured his attention and, being a direct representative of the ordinary people, he saw the need to raise the issue.
As a means of recovering the assets of Liberia, Willie said it is important for former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former Finance and Development Planning and Public Works ministers to be brought before the specialized committee to answer to questions on how the money was used during the time they were in the relevant positions.
“Most interestingly, fellow colleagues, the 2018/2019 National Budget also has two projections that were made for the next two fiscal periods which are 2019/2020 projection that is US$4,080,000 and 2020/2021 that is US$7,140,000.00,” he added.
Willie at the same time, requested plenary to see reasons to have those responsible for the Executive Mansion renovation to be cited to explain to the full plenary of the House of Representatives as to when the process of renovation would finish and that all budgetary appropriations for the renovation of the Mansion be halted until a reputable firm performs a forensic audit.
But following a motion from Lofa County lawmaker Clarence Massaquoi, it was unanimously voted upon by members of the House of Representatives that a specialized committee be set-up to investigate, invite all persons of interest, including former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, to know the status of the renovation and how the millions was expended and report back to plenary with report in one week.
However, House Speaker Bhofal Chambers said the committee will be announced on Tuesday, August 13.
In another development, Speaker Chambers has reaffirms support to the Staffers Union at the Legislature.
Speaking when he was officially welcomed to Liberia and honored by the Staffers Union, Chambers said the plight of the people of the 73 political districts of Liberia, whom they represent, is their paramount responsibility, noting that it is important to listen to their constituents.
The Speaker said it is the sole responsibility as legislators to ensure that staffers at the first branch of government get a better living condition and their benefits are settled on time
“No staff will be denied their entitlement; I will work along with my colleagues to meet the desire of staffers at the Legislature. We will not deny you your entitlement and benefits,” he stressed said.
Presenting the certificate to Speaker Chambers, the Deputy Clerk of the House of Representatives, Sayfurh Geplay, said he deserves recognition and commendation from his colleagues and every staff at the legislature for ably representing Liberia at the just-ended Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU) forum in the United States of America.
Also speaking, Sinoe County District#1 Rrepresentative, Matthew Zarzar, lauded the leadership of the Legislature under Speaker Chambers for his role in handling the affairs of the first branch of government.