The Road Fund .. My Position

About a month ago, the Minister of Finance informed the public that the Legislature had given him verbal authorization to redirect the national road funds to other expenditure categories. First of all, The Legislature does not give verbal authorization, neither does the President Pro-tempore of the Senate or the Speaker have such authority to do so, as such action when legal, must be taken by majority votes in plenary supported by a resolution signed by the majority.

Therefore, authorization for the redirection of funds was never given because “verbal authorization” as claimed by the Minister of Finance does not qualify as legal authorization. There is no provision of the National Road Fund Act that grants the authority to the Road Fund Steering Committee or the Minister of Finance and Development Planning to redirect road funds for other purposes other than those provided in the Act; and there is no provision in the PFM Law of 2009 that supersedes the Road Fund Act.

Please also be informed that acquiescence by some donors for the redirection of funds in the Road Fund does not legalize the process. Such actions must go through an operational process to legalize it – tabling of the request before the Plenary of both Houses and the subsequent signing of an appropriate resolution by a majority of the legislators. We do not think that even those donors that, in principle, supported the redirection of some of the funds expected the Minister of Finance to flagrantly violate the law by arrogating unto himself the authority and responsibility that resides only in the Legislature.

My distinguished colleagues, while in transit yesterday on my way out of Liberia, I was informed of the vote by the Senate to support the action of the Minister to redirect the funds. It is clear that approving such transaction after the fact is wrong and may make legislators who approved such an illegal act criminally liable tomorrow.

We must revisit our actions to take responsibility of this matter by calling on Minister Tweah to give us a complete report on the expenditures and if the reports are proven to be correct, the Ministry must be instructed to replenish the road funds from the Government revenue in the next budget while the consequences of taking such unilateral actions are being considered.

In addition to this, we look forward to further investigation into the road funds collection process including the millions that are outstanding, particularly the status of the receivables that the General Auditing Commission (GAC) was unable to confirm during their audit of the Road Fund.

While the illegal redirection of funds is of serious and urgent concern, the Liberian Legislature must also be seized of the less than transparent process by which road maintenance contracts are awarded under the Road Fund. We deserve a complete report that will delineate the procurement process followed for each contract awarded, the value of money achieved during the execution of the contract, and the legal status of the contractors including their beneficial owners.

-Sen. Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence-


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