By Bill W. Cooper
The Plenary of the Liberian Senate, yesterday, came to a standstill, following a shocking revelation from Deputy Finance Minister for Fiscal Affairs, Samora Wolokolie, that each of the 15 counties has received US$100,000 as County Development Fund.
The Deputy Minister, during Thursday’s sitting, however failed to justify or provide concrete evidence to substantiate his claims, thus angering the Senators and leaving the Senate Chamber in total disarray.
As a result, the Senators, through an overwhelming vote, kept under oath, Wolokolie, asking him to reappear before that body next Tuesday, with documentations backing what they described as a ‘grave revelation’.
The body further mandated the Minister to make available 35 hard copies of said document on or before Monday, prior to his reappearance, as he sits in on Tuesday to orally provide the details of the funds disbursed.
The lawmaker’s decision was triggered after Grand Cape Mount County Senator, Varney Sherman, informed his colleagues about the reported failure or deliberate refusal of the Ministry of Finance to disburse the fund in the 2023 national budget to all counties.
And based on the Senator’s complaint, the Plenary then took the decision to invite the Finance Ministry to respond to the allegation, as well as update them about the status of the fund.
But to the surprise of many of the senators during Minister Wolokolie’s appearance in place of his Boss, Samuel D. Tweah, the Deputy Finance Boss revealed that a total of US$1.5 million was given to those counties by the Finance Ministry.
This, he reiterated, that each county then received their share of the funds in the tune of US$100,000, maintaining that despite the doubts by the lawmakers, they and their local county officials who claimed to not have received a dime will later realize when the records show.
Even though the Minister’s revelation was greeted with shock from the Senators, Minister Wolokolie noted, “It is my hope that in time, we shall provide all of the evidence available to substantiate that the amount of US$1.5 million was disbursed to the 15 counties in the country”.
“And of that amount, each of them received US$100,000. So, either the Fiscal Superintendent or Superintendent, or the Senator, or whoever provided the information, will just be fair to us to make the public know that we did not provide misleading information,” he said.
Minister Wolokolie further indicated, “As a professional accountant, as a lawyer and as a statesman, I will not come before the Liberian Senate and give misleading information to the Liberian people that are ably represented by all you Senators in this building.”
“I also heard Senator Stephen Zargo mention and remind me that I’m a young lawyer; indeed I am. I have my professors sitting right in here as members of the Senate, and colleague lawyers sitting in here as well,” he said.
Wolokolie continued, “So, I will not come before the legislature, the Liberian Senate, or anybody of the legislature, and make misleading statements.”
It can be recalled that prior to the Minister’s revelation, Senators from Bomi, Montserrado, River Gee, River Cess, Lofa, Grand Cape Mount, Bong, and Grand Kru Counties, all rejected the Minister claims, lamenting that it was unfortunate to see the Minister lie under oath.
According to Sens. Snowe, Dillon, and Sherman, of Bomi, Montserrado and Cape Mount Counties respectively, among others, they are yet to receive such money reportedly disbursed, as claimed by Wolokolie.
Sen. Snowe maintained, “I just called my Fiscal Superintendent and he denied your information. My county has not received any county development fund.” And Dillon on the other hand said, “Mr. Minister, as a lawyer, we expected you to have appeared here with documents, not to just say the Ministry paid this or that without any proof.”
Did Minister Wolokolie Lie Over US$100,000 County Development Funds?
By Bill W. Cooper