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Friday, July 19, 2024

CONFLICT OVER US$700K RETREAT COSTS PUTS SENATORS’ CREDIBILITY IN DOUBT

Date:

MONROVIA – Two Liberian Senators who have long professed transparency and accountability, Amara Konneh of Gbarpolu County and Abraham Darius Dillon of Montserrado County, are now under intense scrutiny. Their conflicting posts on Facebook regarding the controversial US$700,000 retreat expenditure have drawn sharp criticism, particularly from activist Martin Kollie.

Kollie, in a letter released today, highlighted the contradictions in the Senators’ statements, making a strong case against their claims. He emphasized the necessity of genuine transparency and accountability, stating, “It’s difficult to cover up. It’s so easy to identify their contradictions and inconsistencies. We have to STOP playing with the Liberian people.”

Kollie outlined several inconsistencies:

  1. Senate Spokesman Alfred Johnson stated, “The Senate used 47,000 USD for the 4-day retreat…”
  2. Senator Amara Konneh claimed, “…on a two-day retreat in Buchanan is inaccurate. The retreat cost $50k.”
  3. Senator Abraham Darius Dillon commented, “…Yes, 50k for 4 days for logistics, media, lodging, feeding, etc for 108 persons including Senators, Staff, Facilitators, Security, Drivers, etc.”

Kollie questioned the feasibility of the stated costs amidst rising prices, arguing that $50,000 could not adequately cover all the expenses involved, such as fuel, accommodation, and allowances for 108 participants.

Senator Konneh defended the expenditure by stating that the money benefited the Buchanan economy. However, Kollie countered, pointing out that the benefits were not evenly distributed and primarily served the Senators’ satisfaction while the majority of the population remained unemployed and struggling.

Furthermore, Kollie revealed having a copy of the retreat budget, which he claims includes substantial allocations like US$25K for accommodation, US$75,000 for feeding and drinks, US$25,000 for facilitators, and US$125,000 for Senators’ allowances. He questioned the necessity of such lavish spending, especially when critical health facilities in Montserrado and Gbarpolu lack essential drugs and supplies.

Kollie also criticized the choice of an expensive retreat venue, suggesting that a public building in Monrovia, such as the Ministerial Complex, could have sufficed, thereby saving public funds.

In his letter, Kollie asserted, “This budget year, a dime was not added in the budget to increase civil servants’ salaries but thousands of USD are being spent on merrymaking in Buchanan. SAD.”

Concluding his critique, Kollie called for a return to the principles of genuine change and accountability that the Senators had promised. “We VOTED for change and championed a new day, and CHANGE means CHANGE. We cannot pretend about change. We have to readjust and rethink as a new government. We are losing it,” he stated.

The controversy has sparked a wider debate about the use of public funds and the accountability of elected officials in Liberia, putting the Senators’ commitment to transparency under the microscope.

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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