“SENATORS WHO APPROVED SUCH ILLEGAL ACT WILL BE CRIMINALLY LIABLE “TOMMOROW”…Sen. Karnga-Lawrence Opens up on Illegal Usage of Road Funds by Min. Tweah


By: Legislative Corespondent

Liberia): Bassa County Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence has indicated in a condescending view that  senators who endorsed the utilization of the National Road Fund by Finance Minister Samuel Tweah will be criminally liable for such illegal act.

On Tuesday, June 21, 2022,  members of the Liberian Senate endorsed a recommendation from its Public Accounts & Audits Committee on the utilization of the National Road Fund.

According the the Senate’s Public Accounts and Audit Committee report, Min Tweh legitimately used Seven Million (US$7,000,000) and not by himself as been speculated in parts of the country

The Committee’s report indicated that the US$7 Million was re-appropriated by the Legislature during the 2019/2020 recast budget to address critical National issues due to the outbreak of COVID.

Minister of Finance Samuel Tweh was recently linked to a General Auditing Commission (GAC) audit report covering July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020 which he made an unauthorized spending of the National Road Fund, something that prompted the Senate’s Plenary to mandate its Committee on Public Accounts and Audits to investigate the merit and demerit of the GAC Report in a timely manner and submit findings and recommendations to Plenary.

Min. Tweah during an appearance on Spoon TV indicated that he had a broad-based consultation with the Legislature and other stakeholders before making budgetary transfer from the road fund to personnel budget line to pay salaries.

“Let the public be informed that the Seven Million (US$7,000,000) reported by the Auditor General as owed the Road Fund was re-appropriated by the Legislature during the 2019/2020 recast budget to address critical national issues because of COVID”

According to the Committee on Public Accounts and Audit headed by Margibi County Senator J. Emmanuel Nauqua , the Committee was fully engaged with authorities of the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, Road Fund Management, Ministry of Public Works and the Auditor General during the Committee’s investigation of the road.

Reacting to the Senate’s decision Sen. Nyanblee Karnga-Lawrence  noted that members of the Senate should revisit their action and take responsibility of the matter by calling on Minister  Samuel Tweah to give a complete report on the expenditures and if it is proven that he used the road funds without authorization he 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” Sen. Karngar Lawrence said.

The Grand Bassa County Senator added “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”.

Responding to Min Tweah’s assertion that the Legislature gave him verbal authorization to redirect the National Road Funds to other critical national issues, Sen. Karnga-Lawrence clarified that “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, if such action is legal, it must be taken by majority votes in plenary supported by a resolution signed by the majority.

According to Sen. Karnga-Lawrence, 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 saying there is no provision in the PFM Law of 2009 that supersedes the Road Fund Act.

“Therefore, no 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”.

She noted that acquiescence by donors for the redirection of funds in the Road Fund does not legalize the process noting that such actions must go through an operational process to be legalized with both plenaries signing an appropriate resolution by majority of the legislators.

She added that the Minister of Finance violated the law by arrogating unto himself the authority and responsibility that resides only in the Legislature.

The lingering usage and redirection of the National Road Funds by the Minister of Finance and Development Planning has had mixed reactions from the public sphere. 

Critics believe that the Legislature yea the Liberian Senate’s action validates a cover-up for the minister misappropriation and redirection of the funds. Though the GAC Report clearly points out the funds usage, the Senate public accounts Committee report contradict said findings, that it was legal.

Initially, Min. Tweah noted that he got the approval of the international partners including the international monetary Fund (IMF) to redirect the funds to pay salary but later changed gear that he held consultations with members of the Legislature, which granted the funds usage.

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