GBARNGA, Bong – On Monday, Bong’s leaders decided at the county council sitting to appoint a comptroller to manage the expenditures of Bong’s county and social development funds. Critics have called the move a violation of the Budget Law, which requires all members of the county’s Project Management Committee to be elected.
County councils are the highest decision-making bodies of each county. During each county council sitting, citizens from all parts of a county converge annually to decide on appropriations of the county and social development funds for the budget year.
Bong’s Sen. Yallah, who chairs the Bong Legislative Caucus, announced Abraham Kollie as the new comptroller for Bong during a sitting that many observers described as stage managed. Kollie is reportedly a 2011 graduate of Cuttington University and now a candidate for a master’s degree in business administration at the University of Liberia.
Yallah said no one applied for the position, and the county’s leadership had no option but to appoint Kollie to fill in the void.
However, Lawrence Plator, the former chair of the county’s project management committee, refuted Yallah’s claim.
Plator said he had expressed interest in the position through a written application but was shocked to hear the senator announcing that no one had applied for the job.
“Having said that, we will appoint Mr. Abraham Jutonue Kollie, a knowledgeable man reading MBA, to take charge as acting comptroller until we drag the next sitting to legitimize that,” Yallah said in his announcement.
The Budget Law notes that delegates attending the county council sitting should “elect a three-member project management committee once every three years, compromising: a chairperson, a treasurer, and a comptroller.”
Plator told The Bush Chicken that he is “consulting” to decide his next course of action against the county.
“The whole budget law was hack jacked today; in fact, I was surprised to have heard the chairperson of the caucus saying no one applied for the job,” Plator said. “It is false and misleading. I have my document with me. They just decided to manipulate the process.”
The former head of the Bong County Civil Society, Stephen Mulbah, was elected as chair of the project management committee, while John Mc’joe, reportedly the agriculture coordinator for Jorquelleh District Two, was elected as treasurer.
Unlike Kollie, both men were elected by delegates, even though their elections were unchallenged. Some delegates had earlier raised issues that the positions were not adequately advertised.
Moses Somah, a delegate from Boisien District, recommended that the elections be postponed to a later date until proper publicity is done for the positions; however, his proposal was turned down by Sen. Yallah, who presided over the sitting.
Aaron Juaquellie, the national program officer for the Foundation for International Dignity, said he considered Kollie’s appointment against the Budget Law.
“That is contravention of the law. My position is that, by law, we are not going to work with him…,” Juaquellie said.
Juaquellie described the county sitting as “business as usual” where delegates are manipulated by legislative caucus to make decisions.
He said it would have been much more logical and transparent had delegates from the various districts put forth their projects and be given the opportunity to explain the importance of those projects. Instead, he said the county’s leadership adopted a top-down approach where they proposed projects for the delegates’ approval.
Each of the 13 administrative districts in Bong received a US$40,000 allotment, with no specific determination of how the funds would be used.
A total of US$1,999,750 was allotted to different development projects, institutional support, and administrative cost for the project management committee and the county administration.
This is not the first time for leaders of Bong to violate the Budget Law; during the county sitting in 2012, the then comptroller, Emmanuel Diabolo, was unlawfully removed from his post by the caucus.
Diabolo took up the matter with the Supreme Court, which ruled in his favor and demanded that the county pay him US$7,000 in wages. The county made some payment to him in that matter.
Featured photo by Moses Bailey