Finance Minister Tweah Reportedly Tells Senate Committee He Got Approval From International Partners, Some Lawmakers To Steal $25 Million From Road Fund – FrontPageAfrica
MONROVIA – Finance Minister Samuel Tweah told members of the Senate Public Accounts Committee on Monday that a handful of lawmakers he had conversations with had given him the green light to divert $25 million earmarked for the Road Fund. national government for the payment of civil servants’ salaries. He also said he was authorized by international partners to embezzle money from the National Road Fund.
Min. Tweah reportedly made the revelation when he appeared before the Senate Public Accounts Committee on Monday behind closed doors to explain how he obtained authorization to embezzle the fund that was set aside by law specifically for maintenance/ construction of roads and bridges.
He appeared with the head of the General Audit Commission and officials of the Road Fund. The hearing was held behind closed doors but Senate sources said FrontPageAfrica that the minister told senators that he had obtained verbal approval from some unnamed members of the Legislative Assembly.
It is unclear, however, whether the legislature would take punitive action against Min. Tweah for violating the National Road Fund.
It was expected that a report on the committee’s findings would be presented on the floor of the Senate plenum during its Tuesday session, but that did not happen.
Finance Minister Tweah cited dire economic conditions as a major factor that forced the government to use the US$25 million.
The use of the fund, which Tweah now justifies, violates Chapter 2.2 of the Act establishing the National Road Fund, whose source of revenue is levied on motorists solely for the construction/maintenance of roads and bridges across the country.
The law states that “All NRF funds shall be held in the account of the Fund from which disbursement shall be made solely to finance the approved annual road maintenance expenditure program and directly related costs as required by the this law.”
The law, among other things, states that the primary purpose of the Road Fund is to ensure that the country’s road assets are supported and maintained periodically from funds raised from levies – which cannot be diverted for any purpose. – except to repair roads.
“It’s the government’s money and when the government faces challenges, it can decide how to solve them. Our administration started this law, corrected many errors and started to use the resources to maintain the roads. Salaries were current from 2018 until the time when in 2019 we ran out of budget support,” Minister Tweah previously revealed on SPOON Talk, a radio/Facebook talk show. “These challenges pushed us hard and, knowing that there were salary arrears piling up, we decided to enter the International Monetary Fund program,” he said.
He further explained, “It is the government’s money and when the government faces challenges, it can decide how to solve them. Our administration started this law, corrected many errors and started to use the resources to maintain the roads. Salaries were current from 2018 until when in 2019 we missed budget support,” Minister Tweah revealed.
A recent report by the General Auditing Commission showed that a fund in the amount of US$25 million was withdrawn from the National Road Fund account by the managers to finance the payment of civil servants’ salaries.
Minister Tweah’s action which was uncovered by an audit report and brought to public attention by FrontPageAfrica angered some lawmakers who openly expressed their disappointment and anger at the minister’s “breach” of the Road Fund Act.
Lofa County Rep. Clarence Massaquoi took to his Facebook and said the sources of revenue to fund the National Road Fund and the use of funds under the Fund are subject to the law creating the Road Fund.
He said funds raised are limited to road maintenance and/or new road construction and there is absolutely no way for stakeholders, including the legislature, to authorize anything. it is outside the law without modifying it.
“The House of Representatives of which I am a member or its leaders have at no time authorized the allocation of the proceeds of the Road Fund for anything other than the objectives established by law. An investigation will certainly take place and the law, as it should be, will be blind. Stop the big bluff… Return the stolen funds or go to regular jail. THE LAW IS THE LAW.
The money was not stolen
For Sen. Edwin Snowe of Bomi County, he agreed the Treasury Department broke the law but said it was done by luck, i.e. paying the salaries of civil servants. “The money was not stolen, it was transferred from the road fund account to the salary account and we all know that the salary of civil servants is a first priority for the government.
“There could have been a crisis of unpaid civil servants if the Minister of Finance had not made such an intervention. They should have informed the legislature and that’s where we’re holding them back, but to say it was misdirected, I disagree with that,” Senator Snowe said.