MONROVIA – The Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Executive Acarous Moses Gray, has termed as “lazy and deceptive” justifications being provided by some members of the Liberian Senate relative to the controversial US$3.6m budgeted for members of the National Legislature in the recently passed over US$800M recast budget for Fiscal Year 2022.
Lawmaker Gray is representing the people of district # 8 in Montserrado County on the ticket of the governing Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC).
He has been on record for making public the second batch of US$30,000 received by each member of the National Legislature.
The appropriation totaling US$3.6m in the recast budget for lawmakers has suffered huge public condemnations with many citizens arguing that the money should have gone towards developmental initiatives in their respective communities.
Following the disclosure made by Representative Gray, the Liberian Senate and Senator Abraham Darius Dillon, were constrained to clarify that no member of the Senate receive such amount.
But the CDC lawmaker claimed that it is unfortunate and a total disservice to the Liberian people for Senators to justify that they did not receive the amount in question because it was itemized under allocations made to the House of Representatives.
Representative Gray pointed out that though he did not name a particular lawmaker from the Legislature who received the money when he appeared on a local radio talk show recently, he has been subjected to multiple attacks from some members of the Senate, including Senator Dillon.
He noted that he cannot exactly tell whether or not members of the Senate has received their portion of the money that has already been budgeted, but he has received his share and will use it to carry out developmental initiatives in his district.
Representative Gray questioned the yardstick being used by Senators to deny that the money was not given them even though the National Budget has been passed into law.
“When the public document (the budget) captures US$3.6m dollars-and if anybody say they didn’t receive it, I think it is a disservice. It’s a lazy and deceptive intellectual argument by any Senator. There are certain item line which is a public record that benefits the entire legislature that is place under the House of Representatives or the Liberian Senate”.
He recalled that this is not the first time for a budgetary appropriation that benefitted both houses to be captured under one of their allocations.
According to him, the renovation of the Capitol Building-which is the seat of the Liberian Legislature-was previously captured in the budget of the Liberian Senate, but members of the House of Representatives also benefitted from the appropriation during the last fiscal period.
“If the Senators receive the money, I may not be in the position to know because sometimes the Senate gets pay different time. We do not send in our payroll or voucher the same time. But we got one person that all of us serve and it is God. God will judge us (if we receive US$30,000 or not). Let the Liberian people also be the judge. I know that the first US$30,000 we received came in cash in terms of deposit.”
Representative Gray denied reports that lawmakers, especially those from the ruling party received kickbacks to pass the recast National Budget.
He justified that the passage of the recast budget was necessary to address inadequate power supply at the Roberts International Airport (RIA), subsidize the provision of stable supply of electricity and the price of rice on the local market.
Hold them liable
Representative Gray further stressed the need for citizens to hold accountable lawmakers who made promises to reject or ensure that their benefits are used to carry on developments in their respective districts or counties.
According to him, legislators who made those promises to their respective constituents are now under pressure to act accordingly.
He bragged of being at liberty to receive all of his benefits and entitlements because he didn’t commit himself to rejecting.
“I did not make any commitment when I was campaigning in 2011 and 2017 that my legal legislative benefits, I will not accept it. Those who made those commitments should be held liable for accepting”.
Representative Gray noted that all Senators who are deceiving the public that they did not receive the money are playing “political tricks” and violating the passage of the budget which most of them voted for.
“You have made commitments to your people and you must fulfill them. I am prepare to bear whatsoever consequences for receiving the money; since it is a fiscal year, I will use the money wisely by spreading it across”.
Speaking further, Representative Gray stressed the need for a comprehensive audit of the National Legislature.
He noted that he will adequately propound on the need to audit lawmakers when a communication is proffer on the floor for legislative deliberation to do so.
No crime committed
Representative Gray was sometimes ago jeered at and booed by few of his constituents when he appeared at a local youth center in his district.
The protesting youths chanted anti-slogans, calling on the CDC lawmaker to provide their annual report and give account of the US$30,000 he claimed was given to all members of the 54th National Legislature.
Representative Gray disclosed that the incident occurred at the time he was invited along with another representative aspirant of the district.
According to him, residents who protested against him commit no crime by peacefully assembling and expressing their grievances of their representation.
He said while in the process of speaking some youths were engaged into throwing stones, something which prompted the arrest of four persons.
He disclosed that the men were later released following his intervention and a commitment made by them.
“You can’t be a super power and run behind children. We don’t want violence in district # 8. I called for calm and stopped others from retaliating”.
Representative Gray urged those seeking to remove him from office to caution their respective supporters against engaging into acts which have the propensity to spark violence or cause chaos in the district.
Meanwhile, Representative Gray has vowed to defend and promote the agenda of the CDC led government.
He noted that though he was vocal during his days as an opposition politician, he would not do nothing to badmouth the CDC led-government of President George Manneh Weah as long as his political institution remains in power.
“I am under obligation to defend the pro-poor agenda that will benefit the Liberian people and I have no regret for that. If that will cause unspecified consequences, I am prepare to bear that”.
“I will fight with everything that I can ever fight with to retain the presidency of the Republic of Liberia and I will not do for the opposition what they opt to do for themselves. So, if you say Acarous was criticizing the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf-led administration, I was opposition and I have transitioned from being an opposition to a member of the governing party that you voted for. And my duty is to execute the mandate and platform of the ruling party. We will not relent”.