By Timothy T. Seaklon & C. Winnie Saywah-Jimmy
The acting Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Amara Konneh, says any individual or entity found to have abused the public trust in the management and operations of fund allotted for the fight against the deadly Ebola virus will be prosecuted in accordance with the law. Acting Minister Konneh said the total estimated financial requirement to address the national response was initially quoted at US$2O million dollars, but rose to US$34.8 million when all implementing agencies submitted their three-month budget.
Minister Konneh said support to all health related interventions in this plan amounts to US$20 million, constituting 84 percent of the entire budget.
He said the Government of Liberia began the process with an initial injection of US$5 Million, made possible through a short term loan from the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL).
“We have since intensified our resource mobilization efforts both locally and internationally to secure additional funding for national response. In this direction, we have engaged our bilateral partners and donors to support this effort and we are receiving very favorable commitments both in grant and loan,” Minister Konneh noted.
He further disclosed that to date, through the Trust Fund, government has mobilized a total of US$5.7 million dollars consisting of US$5.6 and LD$9.4 million paid into the Ebola Trust Fund as donations from the government, private individuals and organizations.
On the expenditure side, Minister Konneh said after one month of implementation, approximately US$4.7 Million was disbursed to the various implementing agencies as indicated below, leaving an undisbursed balance of approximately US$1.1 million.
Minister Konneh said the Ministry of Health has received US$2.8 million, constituting 61.7 percent of the initial funding, as part of the government’s initial support to the health sector in dealing with the crisis.
He further disclosed that US$1.4 million has gone towards payment of per diem for deployed health workers; US$600,000 to procure 12 ambulances; US$300,000.00 as an advance on the construction of various treatment facilities across the country.
“We have procured vehicles and an assortment of motorbikes, generators and other goods and services to support the work of the Ministry. Please refer to detailed spreadsheet for disbursements to various agencies.The requested expenditure for September 2014, subject to evaluation, is US$5M, US$3.3 million (or 67.5%J of which was allotted to the Health Sector,” Minister Konneh added.
The acting Minister said as part of the government’s effort to fight Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), it has prioritized key activities within the Health and Security Sectors through the National Budget for Fiscal Year 2014/2015.
“We have to date disbursed US$6.2 million over the period July to August to the Health Sector, targeting the Ministry of Health, John F. Kennedy Hospital, Jackson F. Doe Hospital, Phebe Hospital and other county health centers and systems.
He said separately, government has disbursed through the budget a total of US$1,276,339.00 to the Security Sector and has also provided to five affected counties 556, 150.00 USD dollars from the county and social development fund to fight against Ebola.
“The President shares the public’s deep concerns about accountability around the use of these funds. We, therefore, want to inform you that we have a team of financial experts including staff of the MFDP and the Internal Audit Secretariat who are dedicated to ensure that all compliance issues are dealt with. Our processes for disbursement are phased so that full report is made of the first disbursement prior to release of the next tranche. Moreover, once disbursed to the implementing agencies, the General Auditing Commission is mandated by law to conduct a comprehensive audit of this fund,” he said.
Meanwhile, at the Liberian Senate yesterday, hearing news that Minister Konneh had been discussing the report of the National Task Force at the Ministry of Information regular press briefing became a topic of debate by senators apparently during their executive session.
Although it is not yet known if the National Task Force has submitted its report to the National Task Force as insinuated by District number 6 Representative Edwin Snowe yesterday but neither the Liberian Senate or the House of Representatives discussed any issue of the report or anything similar to an Ebola report from the National Task Force in its plenary.
But following their closed door session, one of the senators who had been raising serious contention was Bomi County’s senator Sando Johnson who said as far as they are concerned the report has not reached them therefore it has not been presented because by doing so at the Ministry of Information was a big error.
Senator Johnsons said the US$5 million was made available out of taxes to the National Task Force to fight Ebola by the National Legislature and for someone to suggest that the report in that direction should not be made to them or it is too early to present a report, he sees it as misdirection.
Senator Johnson said the National Legislature cannot say anything about the report when it is not before it and in fact the idea of receiving a report on the expenditure of the fund is not to spot out corrupt individuals but to inform the Liberian people correctly.
Senator Johnson said the government, especially on the Ebola fight, needs to inform the public because this Ebola fight is not a secret thing and those who are leading the task force are politicians who are only in the lead for name suggesting that they need to leave it to health practitioners.
He said a communication will be sent to the President to officially present to that body the report describing whatever was read by Minister Konneh at the press briefing as being merely done on his own. He blamed his colleague Representative Edwin Snowe for telling the President that the report should not be presented to the National legislature.
Rep. Snowe said to tell the President to report now is like giving an ultimatum which was not the proper way for doing it. Admitting on the Truth FM Breakfast Show, he said he asked the President if it was not early to make the report and she said no therefore they all had to agree with her in that direction.
He said the President informed him that the report will have the full compliance with the GAC and that the government has to work now as a unit and let the citizens call on them to keep their feet to the fire but the fight against Ebola cannot be won if their government is divided because one cannot be the advocate and leader at the same time.
He stated further that if they want to play national advocate role they should play it but if they claim to be leaders, they should play the leadership role and that is what the citizens need to call on them to do. He said the State of Emergency that is now in the country was voted for by two-third of the National Legislature and they must work as a unit because being divided now is like shooting themselves in the leg.
He said the citizenry has every right to be frustrated and disenchanted about what is going on and that should make them all passionate adding, “this is our fight as a unit and we as leaders cannot be there now to say the government has failed or we should as well resign from the government because it is us who have failed.”
Rep. Snowe said there are challenges and as a government nobody needs to tell them especially as this is the first time Ebola has reached this peak.