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Senate Defends Tweah On Road Fund Usage

By Alex Yomah
The Liberian Senate on Tuesday voted to vindicate Finance Minister, Samuel Tweah from allegation surrounding the misuse of the National Road Fund in an amount of US$27 Million.
The Senate’s plenary decision followed a motion filed by Senator Numene Bartekwa of Grand Kru County in which majority senators voted yes to endorse the Committee on Public Account and Audit’s report justifying that the Minister is vindicated over allegation of chopping “said” Road Fund.
In the committee’s report endorsed by plenary, recommended future audit of Road Fund, the Road Fund Steering Committee, which includes the Ministry of Finance, should review and approve responses to audit queries from Auditor General; in which the Committee stated that any future audit of Road Fund should fully capture final budgetary appropriation made by the legislature to the Road Fund authority.
The Committee also recommended that the Public be informed, by this report, that the 7m 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-19.
However, the Public Account and Audit’s report, showed that little over $27m United States dollars was collected by Liberia Revenue Authority as Road Fund Levy for the period 2019/2020.
Out of that amount, $12m of the Road Fund was outstanding and not paid to the Road Fund Account and that amount, little over 14m was outstanding and not paid to Road Fund’s account by the Ministry of Finance.
Of that amount, 7m constituted Road Fund contribution to the national budget, that the remaining balance of $7,965,038 United States dollars is still due to the Road Fund by the Government.
But in response by the Ministry of Finance according to the Senate investigative report, indicated that even though LRA collected $27m as Road Fund revenue but only $22m was appropriated for the Road fund in the 2019/2020 national budget.
The Ministry stated that during the period under review, the impact of COVID-19 drastically affected government’s revenue generation for which the Ministry of Finance submitted a recast budget to the legislature of which many senators attested to.
The Ministry of Finance justified to the Committee that the approved recast budget for 2019/2020 reduced the Road Fund appropriation to $12m due to COVID-19 and that the Ministry of Finance, as a member of the Road Fund Steering Committee, did not participate in the audit of the Road Fund.
The Liberian Senate’s decision was triggered by public outcry and debate about the Auditor General’s report on the Financial Statement on Audit of the National Road Fund (NRF) covering July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020 linking the Minister of Finance to an unauthorised spending of the Road Fund.
Based on that, the Senate directed its Committee on Public Accounts and Audit to investigate the merit of the public concerns and the Auditor General’s report in a timely manner.
The public discourse on the matter was fuelled by the appearance of the Minister of Finance on a local radio in which he allegedly indicated that he had a broad-based consultation, including one with the legislature, before making budgetary transfer from the Road fund to personnel – budget line to pay salaries of public servants.
The Accounts and Audit Committee, owing to plenary’s mandate, invited the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, the Auditor General, the Road Fund Management and Public Works to ascertain the facts of the issues.
At the hearing held at the Senate, Auditor General informed the Committee that the General Auditing Commission conducted an audit of the Road Fund for the periods 2018/2019 and 2019/2020 and established amongst other issues that road- fund levy collected by the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) and deposited in the consolidated account were not fully remitted to the Road Fund Authority as required by the Road Fund Act-mainly for the fiscal year 2019/2020, the Auditor General emphasized the following matters which among other things, receivable due from Petroleum importers, outstanding commitments, management’s responsibility and Auditor’s responsibility.
According to the Senate Committee report, “The Detailed audit report of the Road Fund account derived many policies, financial, administrative and legal issues. These issues, as required by law, will be fully discussed at a public hearing organized by the secretariat of the joint public Accounts and Audit committee of the House and Senate and findings and recommendations therefrom submitted to both plenaries for decision and subsequent recommendations to the President as required by GAC Act.
Meanwhile, Montserrado County Senator, Abraham Darius Dillon took exception to plenary’s decision and filed a motion of reconsideration to revert the Senate’s decision.
Interestingly, Senator Dillon’s motion was undermined by similar motion filed by Grand Gedeh County Senator Zoe Emmanuel Pennoh but it remained unclear whose motion was recognized by the Presiding Officer of the Liberian Senate.

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