River Cess Officials Violate New Budget Law at Council Sitting

CESTOS, River Cess – Officials in River Cess recently violated the amended budget law by signing the county’s resolution in the absence of delegates, on a separate date after the council sitting had ended.

The County Council Sitting is an annual meeting where delegates from 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.

The council sitting ran from Friday, December 7 to Sunday, December 9, but the signing of the resolution did not take place until Monday, December 10, when lawmakers and district commissioners met in the absence of the majority of delegates to pen their signatures. The action appears to violate section nine of the new budget law.

The officials also appeared to have violated the law’s provision that the resolution must be signed by heads of delegations and presiding officers of the sitting while the county superintendent or assistant superintendent for development would witness and majority members of the legislative caucus attest.

A signed copy of the resolution showed that except for lawmakers and members of the superintendent council, no head of delegates representing women or youth signed on the resolution.

The recent amendment to the budget law also restricts allotments for administrative cost to the Project Management Committee to not more than 10 percent of the funds allocated for the county in the budget.

In the 2018/2019 fiscal budget, River Cess received an allotment of US$207,666, 10 percent of which is US$20,766.6. However, the county allotted US$22,000 for the PMC’s operations, in apparent violation of the limit. The PMC administers and monitors the spending of the funds.

Amid these violations of the law, citizens of the county have raised alarm about what they believe is a clear disregard for the rule of law. Many have been calling to community radio stations to draw a connection between the poor management of the county’s development funds in the past to the current violation of the law.

A resident of Yarpah Town, Samuel Joe, expressed disappointment that despite the constant criticisms they receive about unethical behaviors, the county’s leaders continue to remain insensitive to their citizens’ concerns.

“We just talk for people to hear us, but nothing we can do,” Morris said. “We give them power for they and their family to get rich.”

Alfred Yarpah, a classroom teacher, said the commissioners should not be blamed for signing on the resolution in the absence of delegates. Yarpah said the commissioners were only acting on the instruction of the lawmakers for fear of losing their jobs (Commissioners are appointed by the president and cannot be dismissed directly by lawmakers).

“Some of our district leaders are afraid. They don’t want to be sacked,” he said.

Another aggrieved citizen, Amos Joe, is calling on the central government to not release the development fund to the county.

“Whether [the] government gives River Cess money or not, there is no development. Our leaders will enrich them and their family,” Joe said.

The River Cess Council Sitting was earlier planned to last for two days, but it ran an additional day, but the resolution could not be signed before the closing as the chair of the legislative caucus, Senator Dallas Gueh, unceremoniously adjourned the sitting on grounds that it would have been disrupted.

“We have information that people want to disrupt this meeting,” Gueh said. “I do not have security here; therefore, this meeting is adjourned to be continued tomorrow.”

Earlier on Sunday, Senator Francis Paye, a member of the caucus, had walked out of the sitting after an argument ensued between him and Gueh, nearly resulting in a fistfight.

The assistant superintendent for fiscal affairs, Elijah Kassaynee, told The Bush Chicken on Monday that he was taking the resolution to Senator Paye at his home to have him sign the document after his colleagues had already signed.

Featured photo by Eric Opa Doue

Eric Doue

Eric Opa Doue is a co-founder of Echo Radio Station, which does a series of programs in Bassa, Kru, and simple Liberian English. Under his leadership, Echo Radio was selected as one of the Moody Radio global partners for training opportunities in 2013 and 2014. Eric was one of a handful of reporters who received training from Internews in 2015 on humanitarian reporting during the Ebola outbreak in Liberia. He holds a diploma in Journalism, from the Ghana Institute of Journalism.

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