By Martin K. N. Kollie
Exiled Liberian activist
When Abraham Darius Dillon chose to ride a US$40,000 car as a public official, “The Light” got dimmed. When ADD admitted that he took money from corrupt Albert Chie to finance his senatorial campaign, “The Light” got dimmer. When he sacrilegiously defended Musa Bility’s loot, “The Light” got blurred. When ADD lied about not flying business class, “The Light” became more blurred. The receipt of 30k, without any remorse for competing national priorities and public interest amid COVID-19 pandemic, has placed “The Light” in the position of Free Fall. ADD alias “The Light” is indeed in free fall. The fast fall or downward crash of “The Light” due to legislative gravitational force is a betrayal of public trust and confidence.
“The Light” is not only dimmed but it has gone off so soon. Capitol Hill is back in total darkness as it used to be before December 2020 Senatorial Elections. Must we remain silent because it is “CPP Dillon”? No, such politics is not only scandalous but stooping and stupefying. It is not Dillon’s responsibility to implement “Legislative Projects”. The Community Empowerment Act pursuant to Chapter 50B Title 12 delegates this responsibility to LACE and not any Lawmaker. ADD is violating this law and even the 2018 Local Government Act. Once more, we owe our utmost allegiance to Liberia and not to any politician.
Before Abraham Darius Dillon could secure a 9-year term as Senator of Montserrado County, he positioned himself as an “integrity czar”. In fact, he was overwhelmingly elected because he once preached mantras/slogans like integrity, accountability, transparency, openness, and public interest. ADD promised to be different from State criminals. He did not only promise to advocate against public waste and fiscal indiscipline, but to also rebuke exorbitant budgetary appropriations intended for greedy and corrupt lawmakers. This led him to even cut down on his monthly salary from US$15,000 to US$5,000.
When ADD was never a lawmaker, he is on record (Facebook screenshot) for criticizing Representative Acarous Moses Gray and other lawmakers for receiving huge amounts/appropriations (e.g. US$30,000) for “Legislative Engagement and Accessibility” while civil servants remained unpaid. This same ADD, who is now a Senator, is receiving $30k too while civil servants remain unpaid for several months. Isn’t this hypocrisy? This pathetic precedent does not only equate to hypocrisy, but it is also “A Promise Betrayed”.
Imagine for a moment, ADD rejected 10k out of 15k from his monthly entitlements, but he’s now receiving 30k for so-called legislative engagement which is even outside his entitlements. Furthermore, ADD also got 18k for “Loan Repayment” and an extra 9.5k for “Constituency Visit”. Why he did not tell the Liberian people about this too? The total amount received is a whopping US$57.5k amid COVID-19 and increased hardship in Liberia. It seems like the economy is no longer in the toilet after 8 months.
Do you know how much we just spent on 103 lawmakers for so-called legislative engagement, loan repayment, and constituency visit? A poor country like Liberia just spent US$5,922,500. Isn’t this $5.9 million a public waste especially when we cannot even procure a single vaccine or ventilator of our own during this global health crisis? Of course, it is. But ADD does not think that such exorbitant spending or profligacy is a public waste because he too received his share of this cunning cake. This is indeed a promise betrayed.
Let’s move to point #2.
I want to deal with two feeble arguments from ADD and pro-ADD fanatics:
1) “The Money is legal”
2) “It is in the budget”.
This is my argument. The money is “legally illegal” and here’s why. Lawmakers often use the National Budget as a “cash cow” to profiteer and racketeer. They put more money in the budget for themselves at the expense of public interest and later argue that “the money is legal” and “it is in the budget”. This self-seeking pursuit is called institutionalized corruption and such parochial precedent is legally illegal. Lawmakers are using the national budget to squander public resources in a smart way. This amounts to public waste and economic sabotage. There is no difference between “Legislative Engagement” and “Constituency Visit”. A visit of a lawmaker to his/her constituency is an engagement while an engagement is a visit.
Furthermore, there is a popular legal maxim that says, “Non autem omnia quae iuris est” which means in English “Not everything that is legal is right”. During very difficult times of national crisis, the action and inaction of public officials must be purely guided by expediency, morality, and humanity. The action of ADD to receive 30k while thousands of civil servants remain unpaid goes against these global principles and societal norms. The 10k that ADD cut from his salary, is it not in the budget or is it not legal too? But why did he do it? Because he was trying to take a practical stance against public waste. Unfortunately, he has backpedaled or reneged on those values that brought him to power.
It was “integrity” that brought ADD to power. But pro-ADD fanatics are now arguing “legality”. This is the real tragedy of Liberia. Why ADD did not announce the second 15k that he received? If a lawmaker begins to implement “Government-funded Projects” like ADD is doing, then who will play the role of oversight? Who will ask the hard questions in order to ensure the accountability of public resources/funds? Who will ADD fully account to for those monies that are intended for public projects? This is Conflict of Interest. ADD cannot be the referee (Lawmaker) and the player (LACE) at the same time. LACE should report to ADD and not ADD reporting to LACE. So, this is another reason why that money (30k) is legally illegal because ADD is violating the law on “who should actually implement government-funded project”. That’s not his function. His functions are: Lawmaking, Representation, and Oversight.
My Advice to Abe Darius Dillon:
Senator Dillon should not take advantage of the fact that because he has a 9-year term, so he can just do anything that is contrary to what he promised. History has a way to remind, rebuke, and reprimand. The people did not elect ADD to be like those State criminals. They elected him to be different and to make the difference. In 2009 Senatorial By-Election, ADD of the Liberty Party took 5th place with just 5.7 percent (5,148) of the total votes.
For ADD to have come to power as Senator of Montserrado County, he rode on two things:
1) The mass failure of the CDC-led government (Citizens in Montserrado remain largely disenchanted due to a number of objective factors in the context dialectical materialism);
2) The popularity of the CPP. The CPP has become a normal political good (YED>0) while the CDC has become an inferior political good (YED<0). The income elasticity of demand for CPP during the December 2020 Senatorial Election was greater than 0 and it is still greater than 0. The masses are demanding for CPP more while the demand for CDC has fallen below 0.
Since “Popularity” is a diminishing commodity in the context of Economics, I encourage ADD to not abuse this opportunity. He must remain “The Light”. He must stick and stay true to those high standards that he himself set. He cannot and must not neglect his own standards. This is my only interest that has led me to providing this brief critique. But as it stands, “The Light” is in free fall. And in all fairness, this is a promise betrayed.
When I voted for ADD, I did not promise him that I was going be silent whenever he does wrong. I did not support Dillon to incubate or to nurse his flaws. Count me out. What will Dillon say if George Weah too decides to take US$30 million for “Presidential Project”? Dillon has no moral to criticize Weah and the CDC-led Government because he too took 30k for “Legislative Project”.
In the midst of these egregious contradictions, the masses have been left in the state of bewilderment once more.
About The Author: Activist Martin K. N. Kollie is a Liberian activist in exile. He can be reached via email: email@example.com