UNITY PARTY PRESS STATEMENT ON THE ALLOCATION OF US$10 MILLION FOR “COUNTY TOUR AND SPOT CHECK” UNDER THE BUDGET OF LACE FOR 2022

November 25, 2021

The Unity Party notes the presentation of the draft National Budget for fiscal year
2022 to the National Legislature by the CDC Government and wants to formally inform the Liberian people and foreign partners that the Party will, during the
coming days, be issuing its comprehensive assessment of the draft budget but-
tressed by appropriate recommendations on how best to achieve allocative efficiency and spur development in the country.
In the meanwhile, and considering the significance of the issue, the Unity Party
wants to register its deep concerns about the astronomical increase in the amount
allocated in the draft budget to the Liberia Agency for Community Empowerment
(LACE) for 2022. The CDC Government has allocated US$12,186,799 to LACE for
2022, an increase of over 859% over the Fiscal 2020/21 spent on LACE in the
amount US$1,270,211. A deep dive in the LACE budget shows that this huge in-
crease is explained by an allocation of a whopping US$10,000,000 (ten million US
dollars) to what is titled “County Tour Implementation  and Spot Check.” The allocation of such a humungous sum of money to a vague and opaque budget line is
not only suspicious and troublesome but also leaves significant room for corruption and diversion of funds by the CDC Government.
The allocation raises eyebrows for a couple of reasons. First, LACE is headed by a
well-known crony of President Weah, Mr. Pepci Yeke; and the enity is currently
being run with little or no oversight and has therefore become an attractive channel for high level graft and abuse. It is not difficult to deduce that the ulterior motive behind the huge allocation is to foster President Weah’s partisan political agenda and cater to his insatiable craving for self
glorification,
Secondly, it borders on callous insensitivity for the CDC Government to be allocating such huge amount to Weah’s County Tour at a time when the same Government has gained notoriety for its failure and/or protracted delay to fully disburse
to the 15 counties the meager sums allocated to them in the budget under the County Development Fund (CDF).

A nearly similar situation is obtaining with the disbursement of the Social Development Fund (SDF) to the few counties where major concession companies oper-
ate. (The Government reports that it spent only US$1,500,000 under the CDF in
Fiscal 2020/2021 and has budgeted only US$3,000,000 for CDF in 2022).
Furthermore, the CDC Government’s oversized US$10 million allocated to President Weah’s 2022 County tour appears even more unacceptable when the
amount is compared with the comical sum of US$150,000 (one hundred and fifty
thousand US dollars) the CDC Government has allocated to all cities across Liberia
for 2022 as well as the reduction of the 2022 allocation for the University of
Liberia from US$18,325,203 actual in FY 2020/21 to US$18,1000,000 in 2022, in
gross disregard to faculty, staff and students of the University who have been
clamoring for increases in salaries of UL employees and other priori9es of the
University. The huge allocation for Weah’s County Tour also comes against the
backdrop of a dras9c reduction in the budget of the Liberia Industries Trans-
parency Ini9a9ve (LEITI) from a FY 2020/21 actual of US$1,296,003 to US$490,849
for 2022 and very negligible increases in the budget to overall education and
health systems.
The asymmetrical allocations prove that the CDC Government has very little interest in practicalizing the concepts of decentralized development where counties
and sub-structures of the state are empowered to carry out development. The
CDC Government is unfortunately gravitating the country toward a situation
where what county and district stakeholders and their legislators want for their
respective counties and districts does not matter much, but what matters is what
the praise-craving President wants for a particular county or district. The CDC
Government complains about lack of money to fund development priorities advocated by other branches and sub structures of government, but can easily find an
abundance of resource for activies and projects that can be credited to “The
Weah Project.” In light of the foregoing, the Unity Party strongly calls on the National Legislature
to reallocate the bulk of the US$10 million allocated for President Weah’s County
tour in 2022 to help fund the critically needed increase in the County Development Fund for the 15 counties and the allocation for cities across the country. The reallocated funds from Weah’s County Tour and other sources could also help address the funding gaps at the University of Liberia and other critical institutions of
Government including the Judiciary where judges have been left with no option

but to the take the CDC Government to Court for slicing their salaries and allowances in breach of Article 72 (A) of the Liberian Constitution.
Given that LACE is being operated largely to satisfy the ego and whims of President Weah, the reallocation of the funds would prevent the repeat of abuse of presidential discretion, which President Weah clearly demonstrated a few years ago when he and Mr. Pepci Yeke chose to allocate half (300) of the 600 low-cost
housing units constructed from Japanese Government funding to Weah’s home-town Sasstown, Grand Kru County, while shamelessly allocating the balance half of the housing units to the rest of Liberia.
Finally, considering the very loose accountability and governance systems at LACE, the Unity Party calls on the General Auditing Commission (GAC) to conduct audits of all projects undertaken by LACE to ensure full accountability of public funds. In this regard, the Unity Party assures the Liberian people and friends of Liberia that the audit of LACE will be among the top priorities of the future Liberian government.

Signed: Mohammed Ali

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