As some civil society groups in Liberia try to play their part in seeing how government spends the taxpayers’ money, the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission Archdiocese of Monrovia Regional Office during the weekend held its regular County Development Agenda town hall meeting in Gbarma Town, Gbarma District, Gbarpolu County.
The JPC is presently working in four districts in two counties in the western part of Liberia, Bomi and Gbarpolu monitoring the counties’ development agenda with funding from Misereor Germany.
The Gbarma meeting on Saturday, July 6, 2013 brought together over sixty participants including paramount chiefs, clan and general town chiefs, women and youth leaders and other stakeholders in the district who are keys to the county development fund.
Speaking at the opening of the meeting the JPC Archdiocesan Regional Coordinator, Mr. Pilate Johnson lauded the citizens for their effort to have turned up for such meeting.
Mr. Johnson further explained that the work of the JPC is to monitor the county development agenda of the county. He said the lack of information to the people leads to misconception and perception of people towards their leaders.
Mr. Johnson said such a meeting by JPC is intended to bring the stakeholders of the county to discuss the development status of the county in an unfettered manner in that key decision makers like Project Management Committee, PMC and members of the legislature will come face to face with their citizens to inform them as to how the county development fund is being used. He also said the work of the JPC is to monitor the various projects being implemented under the county development fund and advocate for the people in terms of delays and quality of projects being delivered.
During the meeting, the citizens expressed frustrations over the Gbarma- Wesua Road which has been abandoned by KBI, a mining company working in the area due to the lack of funds after the initial euphoria over the ground breaking ceremony performed by Vice President Joseph Boakai in which the people were promised a modern road. According to the citizens, bridges on the road are damaged and no vehicle can ply the route. The citizens also lamented absence of functioning clinics and schools in the district. They said projects were failing because stakeholders were not involving citizens of the district in the planning phases of these projects.
Speaking on behalf of the Gbarpolu Project Management Committee, two officials, Comptroller Varmah Moore and Chairman, Desmond Boima clarified that not every project that was being implemented in the district was under the CDF. The construction of the town hall, radio station and a guest house were current projects being funded by the CDF.
They admitted to the people of Gbarma that the lack of information has caused them to think that the PMC was not working. The PMC officials told the gathering in Gbarma for the first time that local officials have agreed that the County Development Fund for every year be used for two districts at a time from which Gbarma and Kongba will benefit after the passage of the draft budget currently before the lawmakers.
For his part, Senator Theodore Momo, who represented the caucus, lauded the JPC for the initiative and described it as worthy gesture when it comes to the county development fund and other developmental pursuits in the communities.
Senator Momo informed the gathering that the legislative caucus of the county led by him was doing all it could to get the Weasua Road project on course again. He said they have engaged the Ministry of Education for the construction of a multilateral school in the district and he would personally ensure that earmarked projects are completed.
At the end of the meeting, the citizens thanked JPC for such platform to enable them come face to face with their leaders to inform them about development in the county.