Central Gov’t Owes Grand Bassa US$1.7 million, Impeding Development

BUCHANAN, Grand Bassa – Delegates at Grand Bassa’s ninth county council sitting have adopted a resolution to spend over US$500,000 on projects and programs in the county in the 2017/2018 budget year.

The meeting is an annual affair where delegates from the nine administrative districts and the three cities across the county assemble to deliberate on how to spend the county’s county social development funds. The event also provides an opportunity to review the utilization of past allocations.

None of the projects adopted at last year’s council sitting were completed due to the national government’s failure to provide the amount of US$519,250 allocated for Grand Bassa under the 2016/2017 budget year as the result of a budget shortfall.

For this year, the government has allocated US$533,333 for Grand Bassa’s county social development funds.

The delegates agreed to implement the following projects in the districts and cities:

The delegates also agreed to fund nine additional county-wide projects including support to Grand Bassa Community College, the Bassa Sports Association, repairs and maintenance of public buildings, the Bassa Youth Caucus, and support to rural women, among programs. Those projects amounted to over US$200,000.

During the 2014/2015 and 2015/2016 budget years, the national government owed the county US$2.4 million for both county and social development funds but agreed to pay only US$1.2 million due to a budget shortfall, with US$1.2 million outstanding. Of the US$1.2 million agreed under fiscal year 2015/2016, the national government has paid a total of US$1,174,333, with the balance of US$25,667 remaining.

Again, under fiscal year 2016/2017, the national government allocated US$519,250 but paid none to the county to implement its projects and operate its programs. In total, Grand Bassa is now owed US$1,744,917.

The money owed by the national government was a major concern for delegates, who worried that the new projects agreed upon in the resolution might not be completed if no funds are provided to the county.

Sen. Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence, who chairs both the Grand Bassa Legislative Caucus and the county council sitting, assured delegates that the government would pay the money to the county when there is an improvement in the budget.

However, the future of projects agreed upon in past resolutions is uncertain, as they can likely only be completed if the government makes available the US$1,744,917 owed.

The money released to the county from 2014 to 2016 allowed the completion of several projects, including two high school annexes, the city hall in Edina, the Owensgrove check point beautification project, and one junior high school in the fifth electoral district.

Unlike in the past, recent county council sittings have been relatively peaceful. Disputed project reports and alleged mismanagement of funds had always brought disagreements between the legislative caucus and the county administration. Those disagreements would lead to postponements of the meeting and a lack of the project management committee making reports to the delegates.

Such disagreements led former superintendent Edweda A. Cooper to resign after members of the county’s legislative caucus complained to the president about her. On another occasion, the former chair of the project management committee, Elizabeth Barwon, refused to make a report to the delegates.

On the contrary, the legislative caucus has praised the current superintendent Levi Demmah for what they say is his collaborative attitude and a willingness to ensure that projects are implemented when funds are made available.

Featured photo by Sampson David

Sampson David

Sampson G. David is a journalist with over eight years of experience. He is a deputy manager at the Diahn-Blae Community Radio Station, a correspondent of the Liberia Broadcasting System, and a sophomore student at Starz College of Science and Technology, studying Management Information Systems.

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