Debate over the much publicized Road Fund again surfaced today at the Liberian House of Representatives with the country’s Public Works Minister Mobutu V. Nyenpan denying any knowledge of his ministry’s receipt of US$29m for road fund in the 2018/2019 Fiscal Budget; Minister Nyenpan also announced that a major cut would be carried out in the implementation of the MOPW’s major projects based on limited budgetary allocation, The ANALYST reports.
The Liberian legislature recently impeached former Associate Justice Kabineh Mohammed Ja’nneh for placing prohibition on a court action regarding the heavily contested road fund of which the government of Liberia claimed to have been robbed, and it appears the discussions over the lawmakers’ action has again resurfaced this time with Liberia’s infrastructure Minister Nyenpan rejecting receiving US$29M that some claimed was placed in the 2018/2019 National Budget for the implementation of major road projects by the Ministry of Public Works.
Minister Nyenpan was cited by the House’s Plenary Tuesday to provide explanation on the appalling status of roads across the country.
During a heated debate at the House yesterday, the Public Works Minister clarified: “On the issue of the road fund, I want to clarify and inform you here that our budget last year did not capture the road fund. Additionally, we did not receive sixty (60%) percent of our budget last year. Only forty percent (40%) of our budget we received, and I can only expect that you (lawmakers) think about it in this year’s budget you have before you. I hope you will consider the issue of the road fund before the passage of the budget.”
He also told lawmakers that the Ministry is sequencing its works based on available resources. “The Ministry of Public Works’ 2018/2019 Budget was put at US$47M,” Minister Nyenpan explained.
However, moments after he provided the information to plenary, some lawmakers detested his account of the road fund. “I am concerned about the issue of the road fund. I know and I am aware that this Legislature put US$29M in the 2018/2019 Fiscal Budget for the Road Fund. So, if the Minister did not receive it, I think he should tell us,” River Gee Representative Francis Dopoh countered.
“The 2018/2019 Fiscal Year captured the road fund and the Budget provided US$29M in this regard. The same amount is being appropriated for the 2019/2019 Fiscal Year. So, we need to be clear on this,” Rep. Dopoh further countered Minister Nyenpan, who also indicated that some projects would be dropped in the coming fiscal period due to the Ministry’s huge budget slice.
The Public Works Minister expressed concern that the MOPW’s budget has been cut by $US16M, nearly 20% of last year’s fiscal budget for the Ministry.
“Let me inform you that our budget has been sliced by US$16M right before your eyes,” he asserted, pointing out that last year our budget allocated to the Ministry was $US48M.
“The 2019/2020 fiscal budget, it has been cut down to US$32M. This means that we are going to reduce our priorities based on resources available to us,” Minister Nyenpan, former Senator of Sinoe County, intoned.
Announcing the MOPW’s potential cut down in projects and priorities at the Ministry, Minister Nyenpan said: “We like to repeat what we said earlier that the issue of bad road in this country is an issue of national emergency, which in fact, constitutes a threat to national security. The MOPW can only do what our budget allows us to do. The MOPW budget is being reduced by US$16m before your very eyes. Our budget is no longer at 48m. It is now 32m. This year, if the budget remains the way it is, then, there would a corresponding reduction in the number of projects that we have.”
He also revealed that the government of Liberia owes a contractor company US$8M for the pavement of the Dixville road, and furthered that the government would partner with the Management of Firestone Liberia to repair the damaged Du River Bridge in Margibi County.
“The Government of Liberia and Firestone-Liberia would do a partnership deal to do the Du River Bridge. However, the GOL will pay 60%, and Firestone would do 40%,” Minister Nyenpan disclosed.
“Relative to the Ganta-Zwedru road, the GOL is working along with the World Bank to pave this road. The road is about 225 kilometers. An issue was raised about the MDMC. MDMC was contracted to spot repairs on that road. We made an appeal to the MDMC to do some interventions. MDMC intervened, but we were not satisfied with that intervention. So, we contracted CHICO to redo it,” Mr. Nyenpan said.
He maintained that the Ministry has completed a detailed assessment of these bridges. “We have also determined the indicative costs attached to them. The both documents have been submitted to the PPCC for its approval, and this is where we are now. The indicative cost for the Cruzerville Bridge is USD318, 000, and the Indicative cost for Clay Ashland Bridge is USD225, 000.”
According to him, “We are putting in place some temporary measures,” noting, “We asked contractors to do a detour of log bridges while the main construction is ongoing. As soon as PPCC can give us a no objection then, we can go ahead with the tender.”
In the meantime, Nyenpan said the Ministry has begun carrying on some major repairs on the Congo Town back road, Jallah Town. Reconstruction of the road leading from Gabriel Tucker Bridge to the St. Paul Bridge landed on fatal ground. However, we have been engaged on the road fixing trouble spots, and this includes the Jallah Town road, which has now been resolved. Moving forward, we will do our best consistent with available resources. We will be sensitive and responsive,” the Public Works Ministry boss have said.
With respect to the issue of traffic lights across Monrovia, Minister Nyenpan informed the House’s Plenary that the issue is squarely centered on the lack of funds to support the repairs across major street intersections in the city.
“On the issue of the traffic lights, we put up a notice for the bid on October 9, 2018. Following this, a new contract was agreed for new traffic lights for 50 intersections across Monrovia,” Mobutu revealed.
“The cost for the traffic lights repair stands at USD132, 050. The contract also indicated that mobilization was required. After this, several vouchers were raised and sent to the Ministry of Finance for payment to enable the contractors to begin work. Up to today’s date, not a dime has been paid to enable the contractors to do their work,” Nyenpan further explained.
However, he said the MOPW made important inventions which allowed the company to start work in the absence of the agreed contract fee. “The Liberian contractor firm then commenced work in May, 2019,” he announced.
“Some of the areas in which the company started work include Rehab Junction, Catholic Junction, ELWA, and Somalia Drive. The contractors, without receiving any money, he installed four batteries at the Vamumah House and Capitol Bypass. The contractor can no longer continue with this work. When contracts are signed and whatever we agreed to as a government, we have to do everything possible to live up to it,” he advised.
He also to trashed media reports that his administration has failed to account for US$27M allegedly allotted in the previous budget for the Ministry. “How do I account for monies that I did not receive?” Minister Nyenpan puzzled in an interview with a team of legislative reporters at the Capitol.
Tuesday’s hearing should have also witnessed the appearance of Finance Minister Tweah to give explanation on the Ministry of Finance & Development Planning’s reported refusal to pay the traffic light contract fee.
Minister Tweah did not however appear before the House’s plenary due to lack of invitation by that body.
“The Finance Minister should have appeared along with the Public Works Minister, but he did not come here today because he was not served an invitation,” Chief Clerk Mildred Sayon informed plenary.
Meanwhile, plenary of the House of Representatives yesterday took a decision to cite Finance Minister Samuel Tweah and alongside Public Works Minister Mobutu Nyenpan.
Both men are expected to appear before that august body to provide separate testimonies on issues arising from worsening road condition in the country on the reported lack of disbursement of finance by the Ministry of Finance for the restoration of traffic lights across major intersections in Monrovia, a situation which has caused huge traffic jam and insecurity at night time.