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Saturday, July 20, 2024

CIVIL SOCIETY THREATENS LEGAL ACTION OVER SENATE RETREAT EXPENSES SECRECY

Date:

MONROVIA – Calls for transparency and accountability continue to escalate in Liberia following revelations of the purported expenditure of over US$700,000 during the recent controversial Senate retreat in Buchanan. Adding to the chorus of voices is civil society advocate Martin Kollie, who has been exposing the secretive expenditure of the retreat. On Tuesday, June 18, 2024, Kollie reiterated his commitment to accountability and transparency, invoking the 2010 Freedom of Information Law to demand full disclosure of all financial documents related to the retreat.

In a concise statement, Kollie declared, “We have invoked the 2010 FOI Law to ensure that the Senate Leadership makes public ALL financial documents relating to their ‘retreat’. Pro-Temp Karnga-Lawrence is refusing. Next step, we are filing a complaint to the IICL and the Ombudsman Office.”

The controversy erupted following the retreat, prompting the Senate, under the leadership of Pro-Temp and Grand Bassa County Senator Madam Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence, to issue a press release on June 12, 2024. The release aimed to address the swirling concerns and misconceptions regarding the retreat’s expenses.

According to the Senate’s statement, the four-day retreat involved 108 participants, including Senators, security personnel, drivers, support staff, protocol officials, department directors, retreat secretariat members, and facilitators. The stated objectives of the retreat centered on setting the Senate’s legislative agenda with a strong emphasis on transparency and accountability, audits, budget decentralization, digitalization, and rule reviews.

However, the Senate’s attempt to clarify the situation did little to assuage public discontent. Critics argue that achieving such objectives could have been accomplished without incurring such a substantial financial cost, particularly amidst Liberia’s economic challenges.

Contrary to conflicting reports and exaggerated figures, the Senate asserted that the total cost of the retreat amounted to $50,000. This assertion has been met with skepticism, fueling further controversy and public scrutiny. Many citizens believe the actual expenditures far exceed the disclosed amount, heightening suspicions of financial mismanagement and accountability lapses within the Senate.

The recent allegations brought forth by Martin Kollie, suggesting each Senator received an additional $10,000 before the retreat, have only intensified public frustration and skepticism toward their elected officials. These revelations have deepened perceptions of governance malpractice and exacerbated the erosion of public trust in the Senate’s leadership.

As the Senate grapples with this escalating crisis, it faces an arduous task of restoring public confidence. The Buchanan retreat scandal serves as a stark reminder of the critical imperatives of transparency, accountability, and ethical leadership in public service. For many Liberians, this incident symbolizes broader systemic challenges within the country’s political framework.

The handling of this controversy will undoubtedly be a pivotal test for the Senate, potentially reshaping perceptions and expectations regarding governance and leadership in Liberia.

Socrates Smythe Saywon
Socrates Smythe Saywon is a Liberian journalist. You can contact me at 0777425285 or 0886946925, or reach out via email at saywonsocrates@smartnewsliberia.com or saywonsocrates3@gmail.com.

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