National Road Fund Manager in Hot Water! -Legislature Ready to Grill Boniface Satu Over Diverted $7M
Amidst the hullabaloo generated from media reports that the Executive Branch of Government had collected $7 million out the National Road Fund revenues meant to rehabilitate and maintain roads in the country, but diverted the money towards the payment of civil servants’ salaries, in complete contravention of the Act that created the NRF, the manager of the NRF has come under heavy criticism and scrutiny from the general public. Joining the cacophony of discontentment, the National Legislature says it is preparing to haul in NRF Manager Boniface Satu so he can provide clarity on how the monies were diverted from the NRF account to serve another purpose allegedly with the approval of the Legislature.
According to Representative Clarence Massaquoi of Lofa County, “the sources of revenue intended to finance the National Road Fund and the usage of monies under the Fund are subject of the act creating the Fund. Monies collected are restricted to road maintenance and/or building of new ones. There is absolutely no way that stakeholders including the legislature can authorize anything outside of the law without amending the same.”
“The House of Representatives that I am a part of or its leadership at no time authorized directing proceeds from the Road Fund to anything else outside of the purpose(s) established by law. An investigation will certainly happen and the law, as it should be, will be blind,” Representative Massaquoi remarked angrily on Wednesday.
As for Montserrado County Senator Abraham Darius Dillon, the entire discussion around the Road Fund is confusing, given the conflicting statements issuing from key officials at the Ministry of Finance.
“Regarding the National Road Fund and reported misapplication of nearly 25M USD, Comptroller General of Liberia Janga Kowoh was on Spoon Talk a few nights ago and emphatically stated that the Legislature approved $7 million from the Road Fund to pay salaries of Civil Servants. Last evening, Finance Minister Samuel Tweah appeared on the very Spoon Talk and contradicted the Comptroller General to the effect that only few Lawmakers were personally contacted to get verbal consent to divert the Road Fund money to pay salaries of Civil Servants.
“As far as I know, in order to spend from national coffers, appropriation must be made by the Legislature. And said appropriation must be obtained by the required votes concurrence of both Houses; not by obtaining “verbal approval” of “few Lawmakers” as was said by the Minister of Finance during his appearance on the Spoon Talk radio show last evening. This is a clear violation of the law. It must not be allowed to slide.
“This is why I will join ranks with my Colleagues to impress upon Plenary to have the Minister of Finance and his Comptroller General to appear under Oath to tell the Senate how $7M of the Road Fund was diverted and how approval was sought from and obtained by the Legislature as alleged by the Comptroller General of Liberia,” Senator Dillon remarked.
The National Road Fund was created through an Act of the Legislature on December 12, 2016, and passed into law on January 26, 2017. The governance and oversight of the Road Fund includes approval of the Annual Road Maintenance Expenditure Program submitted by agencies authorized to undertake road and bridge works in Liberia; ensuring that road assets are sustained and that sufficient funds for both periodic and routine maintenance are allocated for this purpose; ensuring that each of the categories of national, sub-national and feeder roads have a sufficient share of the total budget such that these roads can operate as an integrated network; defraying the costs of loans approved by Government to extend the length of maintainable roads; and ensuring that the needs of the road users and those impacted by roads are considered in terms of safety, security and environment.
According to the Act, funds collected by the NRF through petroleum products percentage cuts, are to be used solely for the rehabilitation and maintenance of roads.
Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Kabineh J’anneh was impeached because he was said to have protected the interests of businessmen who were indebted to the NRF.