Cape Mount County Development in Limbo -County Authorities Fight after BMMC Drops US$650K into SDF Account

Grand Cape Mount remains one of Liberia’s most resource-rich regions, blessed with arable land for many types of agricultural venture. The county is as well richly endowed with mineral resources that include high concentrates of gold, diamonds and iron ore. But despite these added advantages which most parts of Liberia are bereft of, Grand Cape Mount County citizens continue to decry the resource curse that continues to keep them in colossal poverty; not by providence, but from the alleged machinations of greedy politicians who are bent on holding the county hostage for their own gains. A case in point: Grand Cape Mount County Superintendent Aaron Vincent and Senator H. Varney G. Sherman are now ready set to battle it out in court over who is authorized to signature the county’s Social Development Fund (SDF), a development that will stall implementation of several earmarked projects under the SDF account recently topped up with $650,000 from the Bea Mountain Mining Corporation (BMMC) to Grand Cape Mount County (GCMC), The Analyst has gathered.

Superintendent Opens Up

Bringing the issue to light on July 19, 2021 through a straightforward communication to Senator Varney Sherman, Grand Cape Mount County Superintendent Aaron Vincent called on Senator Sherman to remove his (Sherman’s) name from the County’s SDF account, as his signature on the said account accordingly contravenes the budget law.

“Section 10 B of the budget law gives responsibility to the Project Management Committee (PMC) to preside over all funds, County Development Fund (CDF) and Social Development Fund (SDF) of the county, and collaborate with the county administration to implement projects agreed by delegates, representations of the people of Cape Mount to the County Sitting. It also clearly states the responsible parties of County Officials who are to be signatories to the CDF & SDF accounts,” Superintendent Vincent stated.

The GCMC highest local government authority also stated that Senator Sherman’s signature on the SDF account grossly undermines the offices and functions of the Assistant Superintendent of Fiscal Affairs and the Project Management Committee, because the Assistant Superintendent for Fiscal Affairs who advises his office on financial issues, by law should be (A1) signatory to all county’s accounts.

Superintendent Vincent also decried the exclusion from the project formulation processes the office of the Project Management Committee (PMC) whose responsibility is to preside, manage and implement all CDF and SDF, and the office of the county Engineer and or Planner whose responsibility is to derive blueprint and provide technical assistance in the implementation of county projects.

Quoting Section 10 B of budget law, Vincent said the exclusion of the two offices by Senator Sherman is evidenced by his usurpation of the functions of these established offices by Cllr. Sherman having contractors to present blueprint of projects designed by them to his (Sherman’s) office for approval which should not in any way be so.

“Honorable Senator, the SDF is a public fund that must be regulated in keeping with best financial procedure and practices, specifically the budget law of Liberia. We cannot usurp the function of these established offices and think we are doing the right thing. In view of the aforementioned, I request that you see reason to withdraw your signature from the account and allow the Fiscal Affairs Superintendent and the PMC Chairman to take charge as the law requires them to. Secondly, all other previous arrangements inconsistent with the budget law should be voided so as to allow the right thing to be done. It is my wish that you see this communication in good faith as I am advised to withdraw from said account provided you insist to maintain your signature and allow us to proceed the other way,” the GCMC Superintendent stated categorically.

Sherman Barks Back

Without mincing words, Senator Varney Sherman’s July 27, 2021 response to Superintendent Aaron Vincent was laden with accusations that detailed mismanagement of past SDF contribution from the Bea Mountain Mining Corporation, and as well, funds contributed by prominent Cape Mountainians that Superintendent Vincent allegedly mismanaged.

“Now, it is Section 15.1 of BMMC’s Mineral Development Agreement which provides for a Community Development Fund to which BMMC shall make annual contributions. Section 15.1(d) of BMMC’s Mineral Development Agreement expressly provides that the “Community Development Fund shall be administered by a committee consisting of not more than ten (10) members, half of whom shall be nominated and selected by the surrounding community and Government, and half by the Company”. Section 15.1(e) of BMMC’s Mineral Development Agreement provides that the “Community Development Fund shall be placed in an interest bearing depository account reasonably acceptable to Government. The budget for and the actual disbursement from the segregated account shall be public and shall be subject to the same audit procedure provided for expenditures by Government and as may be further provided by Law,” Cllr. Sherman stated.

“You might be unaware that upon the ratification of a Mineral Development Agreement by the Legislature and the approval of the ratifying law by the President of Liberia, that Mineral Development Agreement automatically becomes law. You might also be unaware that as a matter of general jurisprudence, a law of special application has precedence over a law of general application. Simply stated, the provision of BMMC Mineral Development Agreement is a law of special application insofar as BMMC’s operations are concerned and the provisions of BMMC’s Mineral Development Agreement have precedence over and above the Budget Law, which is a law of general application. And to amplify this narrative, please take note that portion of Section 34 of BMMC’s Mineral Development Agreement expressly provides that, in the event of conflict between this Agreement (BMMC’s Mineral Development Agreement) or the rights, obligations and duties of a Party under this Agreement (BMMC’s Mineral Development Agreement) and any other Law, including administrative rules and procedures and matters relating to procedure, and applicable international law, then this Agreement (BMMC’s Mineral Development Agreement) shall govern the obligations and duties of the Parties,” Sherman further noted.

Cllr. Sherman stated further that in order to minimize the politicization of the BMMC/Cape Mount Development Fund, the Cape Mount leadership, including Superintendent Vincent, decided that of the five persons to represent Cape Mount on the 10-Man Committee, one will come from the Legislative Caucus, one from the Superintendency and the other three will be apolitical eminent Cape Mountainians.

“It is on that basis that I was nominated from the Legislative Caucus, you, as the Superintendent for Cape Mount was nominated, and three eminent apolitical Cape Mountainians, in persons of Hon. Marjon Kamara (former Minister of Foreign Affairs and retired former Director General of the UN Refugee Council for Africa for more than 25 years), Mr. Momodu Metzger (who has tremendous experience in managing development funds for Liberia from foreign/international organizations) and Mr. Stephen Seimavula (who is the managing partner of PKF Accounting Firm) were nominated. BMMC was so satisfied with our nominees that BMMC in turn nominated its five (5) persons to the 10-Man Committee and signed the Memorandum of Understanding, negotiated by me, with the Cape Mount leadership for the management of the BMMC/Cape Mount Development Fund. BMMC wanted to make sure its contributions would be used for the purpose intended in BMMC’s Mineral Development Agreement, not in the manner in which its first contribution of US$100,000.00 (United States Dollars One Hundred Thousand) in 2013 was misapplied.

“As you are signatory to the Memorandum of Understanding between BMMC and the Cape Mount people (represented by the leadership of Cape Mount), you should be aware of some of the key control mechanisms of this Memorandum of Understanding to ensure that the money in the BMMC/Cape Mount Development Fund is expended for the benefits of the people of Cape Mount and that BMMC approves all expenditures. First item of this key mechanism is Section 3 of the Memorandum of Understanding, which provides that all decisions of the 10-Man Committee shall be made by at least six of them, and at least two of whom shall be representatives of either Cape Mount or BMMC. Another important key mechanism is Section 6 of the Memorandum of Understanding, which provides that for all disbursements from the BMMC/Cape Mount Development Fund, at least two (2) of BMMC’s five representatives shall approve and at least two (2) of Cape Mount’s five (5) representatives shall approve,” Sherman said.

Cllr. Sherman noted further that it is to his informed knowledge that many eminent Cape Mountanians are not satisfied with the management of contributions to Cape Mount during the tenure of Superintendent’s Vincent’s administration, which information he Cllr. Sherman brought to Vincent’s attention as recently as President Weah’s tour of Grand Cape Mount County.

“These eminent Cape Mountanians complain that each time they made contributions for any activity in Cape Mount, it was mismanaged and no account was given of their contributions; they made special reference to contributions made for the annual county sports tournaments. During President Weah’s tour of our county, some of these eminent persons refused to make contributions, which would be managed by your administration; they instead decided to set up their own committee to manage their contributions for the benefit of our county. BMMC is aware of these lapses and I would like to believe that they will be wary of subjecting the BMMC/Cape Mount Development Fund to the type of management that contributions to Cape Mount have experienced during your administration. I too want to give both BMMC and the Cape Mount people the confidence that the BMMC/Cape Mount Development Fund will not be subjected to the perceived mismanagement and misapplication as previous contributions have been during your tenure of office as Superintendent,” Cllr. Sherman alleged.

Legal Recourse

Cllr. Sherman has opined that the position of Superintendent Vincent can only be resolved by the outcome of legal interpretations of the issues raised, a situation that will stall implementation of the Grand Mount County SDF projects to be implemented under the funds received from BMMC.

“Since you have justified your position based on law and I too have justified our actions and decisions based on law, I think your conduct has precipitated a legal dispute, which can only be resolved by litigating it at a court of law. We should let a court interpret the law and make a decision as to which side in this dispute is right. That is, whether your assumption that the Budget Law should govern the BMMC/Cape Mount Development Fund and that the process adopted by us (the Cape Mount leadership) is a violation of the Budget Law and therefore legally illegitimate or whether our position that the process adopted by us is in compliance with BMMCs Mineral Development Agreement, a law of special application, and therefore legitimate. And since BMMC has agreed with us and participated with us in the process adopted by us, I shall invite them to join us in filing the law suit for adjudication of these issues. Of course, it is fair that we cease disbursement of funds for implementation of the projects submitted by the various District Development Councils or doing whatever else we are doing, including the drafting of contracts, to get these funds to the Cape Mount people until this dispute is adjudicated; and also, of course, this would mean that implementation of the projects submitted by the District Development Councils will be delayed by your action,” Cllr. Sherman averred.

As the ongoing saga unfolds into usage of the Grand Cape Mount County social beneficiation funds, The Analyst will follow the story is it unfolds.

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