Saturday, May 11, 2013

Political drama unfolds in Gbarpolu County


By: J Patrick Kollie


 
On Saturday May 4, 2013, Gbarpolu County administrative building became a dramatic political scene when Superintendent Allen Gbowee began presenting a report on more than half a million dollars projects in the County on a flying sheet. The audience went wild and out of control as the county caucus chairman Senator Armah Zulu Jallah struggled to calm the noise down in order for the superintendent to complete his flying sheet report. When the noise finally calm down, superintendent Gbowee shamelessly concluded his report but the meeting took another direction as the caucus chairman announced that the meeting would be as practical as possible to allow citizens to participate and clear their chests of any and all grievances surrounding the county projects. The superintendent’s presentation was followed by what appeared to be a full scale press conference. Superintendent Gbowee took the heat from hundreds of citizens attending the meeting. He was overtly seeing confused and sweating as he struggled to make up some answers to please himself and his political force behind the scenes.

Saturday meeting was prompted by heavy suspicion hanging over the single biggest county project that cost usd $300,000.00 (three hundred thousand United States dollars) for the layout of Bopolu city ahead of this year’s Independence Day celebration to be co hosted by the western region (Bomi, Cape Mount & Gbarpolu counties). Funding for the city layout was allocated from the Western Cluster social development funds for fiscal year 2011/2012.

It was confirmed that the full amount for the city layout has been disbursed to Hon. Gbowee and his Development superintendent Hon. Yassah Karmo-Fallah but work on the projects remains at a snail pace as we move toward the Independence Day celebration. The million dollars question lingering the chest of thousands of Gbarpolu County residents is “what happen to the three hundred thousand dollars?”. Some citizens who could no longer bear the burden of keeping the questions on their chest raised up their hands to voice out their frustrations. As Senator Jallah promised to make the meeting as practical as possible, he allowed as many people as possible to ask what they doubted. Mr. Sam K Zinnah who represented Gbarpolu County senior Senator J.S.B. Theodore Momo asked Hon. Gbowee, “during your presentation/report you said the total number of streets you are working on is 12, are you telling this audience that you spent $25,000.00 on each street?”. While Hon. Gbowee was preparing to answer the question, Mr. Zinnah said “Hon. Caucus chairman, I’ve observed that the superintendent is giving his report on a flying sheet. for Superintendent Gbowee to preside over half a million dollars budget and come here with a flying sheet as a report is a joke and another attempt to violate our budget law. I recommend that you (Caucus Chairman) mandate the superintendent to go back and prepare a comprehensive financial report and then re convey this meeting.

Superintendent Gbowee was seeing trying to fight his way out of the embarrassing question and statement from Mr. Sam Zinnah. He stood up and pointed at Mr. Zinnah and said “but this man is on the scholarship committee”. The crow went loud again; some citizens asked the superintendent, what does that have to do with the question Mr. Zinnah asked? Senator Jallah asked superintendent Gbowee to sit down and allow the citizens to give their view on the project instead of trying to respond to questions in an attacking manner.

In about an hour, the audience exited the administrative hall and headed to the various project sites. At this point, citizens expected the project implementing companies to be present at the project review sites to answer questions about the various project. To the surprise of many citizens, no company representative(s) was/were seeing around, instead, all three members of the Gbarpolu County Project Management committee (PMC) were seeing defending the company instead of defending the county mega resources. Mr. Sam Zinnah was approached by the PMC chairman Desmond. Desmond said to Mr. Zinnah, “sir, I was very surprised at your statement in the administrative hall, you are part of the administration, how then would you be this critical?”. Mr. Zinnah responded, “I am entitle to my opinion.

 After conversing with the PMC chairman Desmond, the secretary of the PMC Mr.Varmah Moore walked bye. Mr. Sam Zinnah asked Mr. Moore, “sir, I understand you wrote against the awarding of this contract that the process was marred by fraudulent activities and that the company had no implementing history anywhere in Gbarpolu or Liberia, why have you suddenly become an advocate and defendant for the company?”. Mr. Moore got angry and began calling Mr. Zinnah a surrogate and a bag boy. Mr. Zinnah responded by saying “look Moore, the question is very simple, could you tell me why you have change your position?”. Mr. Moore continued in his anger mood without answering Mr. Zinnah’s question. Zinnah, in an attempt to establish some facts surrounding the project, asked Mr. Moore, “so who am I surrogate for or to?”. Varmah Moore said to Mr. Zinnah, “you spent all your life in the States only to come here and be bag boy to someone?”. Zinnah laughed and said to Varmah Moore, you are very limited so the only way out for you is to attack me personally. I am discussing issue here but since you want to go personal, let me tell you a bit about myself. I choose to come back home. I have the absolute right to do anything in the legal confines of the laws. Your action here shows that you have been bought by Naatehn and his disciples.

In my personal opinion, the main objective for political change in Gbarpolu now should be to secure democracy by instilling checks and balances, which have been absent throughout the infant county history. Such political system “in a way” would change all of Daniel Naatehn’s surrogates including the PMC from diverting the county mega resources to their loosing and back stabbing political games in Gbarpolu County.  In that case, they will no longer usurp so much power and wield such extraordinary influence over the fate of the majority and by so doing provide the conditions for sustained growth and development in Gbarpolu County 

The first task of Hon. Gbowee and his administration was to ensure equal and unhindered access to all information concerning the various projects in the County, which as the infant County history has shown have been the most contentious issue in the county’s  political life that to a large extend fueled the political tension in the county. Superintendent Allen Gbowee and his social disciple have either lacked a vision or the will to enforce whatsoever vision they had for the development of Gbarpolu County. The budget law, which should provide the framework for governance was disregarded and treated with discontent by the very superintendent and the County project management committee (PMC) who should have upheld it. Superintendent Gbowee and his remote control PMC have become more talkative than doers. They have demoted themselves from discussing issues to attacking personalities.

The need for political reform in Gbarpolu County Now!

The objective of political reform in Gbarpolu County now should be decentralization of  the Project management committee- giving more power to the six administrative districts to determine local policies and development priorities, including such areas as education, social infrastructure and human development, as well as the power to implement these policies such as forming their own budgets, financing developmental policies through their portion of county & social development funds and, collecting certain types of taxes etc.. the same local authorities should be held accountable for what happen in their district and they should be made less reliant on such remote controlled groups like Hon. Gbowee and his remote controlled PMC. Administrative districts should have a share in managing County assets on their territories and gaining incomes from it as well for financing projects. To avoid outright manipulation of local authorities like what happen after Daniel Naatehn’s so called payroll clean up, particularly Paramount, Clan and Town Chiefs, article 56, clause B of the 1986 Constitution be revisited and the power to remove these local officials be transferred to the National Legislature acting upon
a specific number of signatures of the local population in the respective localities of these officials, certified by the national election commission as valid. In this way, we might not have town chiefs coming to bring resolutions of support to Daniel Naatehn out of fear of their names being omitted from the payroll for not voting for Daniel Naatehn.

  

Owing to the rhetorical and political tactics now being performed by defeated Gbarpolu County junior senator Daniel Naatehn, it is recommended that a cap or restriction be placed on the number of persons to serve on the PMC and the way the selection of members is done. Saturday May 4, 2013 meeting in Bopolu City exposed the financial danger Gbarpolu County is currently faced with. It is now overtly clear that all three of the PMC members have ended up in the pocket of Daniel Naateh who is known for using cash violent to elbow his way anywhere to achieve his selfish political motives. This explains why superintendent Allen Gbowee have succeeded in abusing the system by, on several occasions, awarding bids to companies with no prior construction history even before these contracts were advertised, thereby undermining the development of Gbarpolu County.  

There’s unconfirmed report that with the exception of Jallah Mends-Cole’s construction company, most, if not all, of the construction contracts were awarded to   Mr. James Folokulah  the purported General Manager of Renewable Liberia, a one time staff in the office of former Senator Daniel Naatehn. Investigation has shown that Mr. Folokulah is not financially capable of owning such a company that he currently claim to own. From the initial stage of the bidding process, the PMC secretary was very objective in his decision or analysis. What cause Mr. Moore’s sudden change of position remains a misery to many Gbarpolu residents. At the end of the various project review, many residents believed that the PMC has loss it neutrality and that there’s a urgent need to either reshuffle or reconstitute the PMC to avoid further mismanagement of the County mega resources by the Superintendent and his administration.

 

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot Mr. ZINNAH for publishing such a report and hope you will continue to do more. I think the PMC needs total reform and also some accountability of projects that were given to them.
These are some of the corruptions that is ravaging our country and if these local corruptions are not treated or handled, can lead to destruction. This shows that, if people in the rural area are corrupt, how more about those that are handling bigger projects in the city???
Mr.Zinnah keeps up the good work. We have to stand for something and that what you are doing. God blessed you and give you the strength to do more.

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