Perhaps the first return notice to remind Liberians about the presence of their legislators on Capitol Hill is thenews of what seems to be ahalf of million budget reported in a local daily(New Democrat) in Monrovia Thursday, January 10th to ensure a general clean-up only for the wing of the House of Representatives.
What the paper captured and reported is an amount of US$500,000 reportedly allotted by the House Standing Committee on Rules, Order & Administration chaired by Montserrado County Representative Edwin Snowe.
Committee Chair Snowe neither confirmed nor denied the amount mentioned according to the paper; instead he referred the writer to a member of the Committee, Representative Josephine Francis who has the mandate to spearhead the clean-up exercise. Representative Francis too has kept the information regarding the US$500,000 for the House’s clean-up close to her chest thus indicating bureaucratic bottlenecks.
Assuming the exercise is in good reliance, which one would suppose it is, there should be no reason to refrain from giving every relevant piece of information to the public because what the House seems to prove is decency. Now, in news gathering, when interviewee refuses to provide clarity on a particular issue the writer tends to believe that there is something to hide hence there are speculations to constrain the news maker to clear the air. Hoping this should not be the case.
Another feature worth noting in the publication is the firm the contract was awarded which is B.J Cleaning Services, allegedly co-owned by a member of the Snowe’s Committee who is also believed to be an influential lawmaker. Against this claim, Clean-up Chair Francis who said she could not give information on the amount set for the exercise was able to clarify that she was not aware of the claim, but that a vetting process took place and the company in question won the bid and was given the contract. Granted J.B Cleaning Services is co-owned by a lawmaker who is also member of the Snowe’s Committee; obviously the issue of concern would be ‘conflictof interest’ which seems to be an element of corruption.
Again, questioning how realistic it is to expend US$500,000 on only the House’s Wing brings to the table the amount of work to be done. As a matter of fact, seventy three offices, staffers’ offices and other facilities of the Lower House are assumed to be focused in the exercise. However, the question to ask is, are we talking about painting, renewing desks, chairs, window curtains, rugs or what? For the sake of clarity, the committee that gave the go ahead needs to provide information on this because whatever money that is expended on that political theatre is tax payers’ money that should be given account of. The lawmakers are equally accountable to the people who elected them so much so that their activities worth monitoring.
Whatever the case, the news of US$500,000 clean-up exercise at the Lower House on Capitol Hill simply introduces the return of the 53rd National Legislature from ‘Agriculture Break’ to begin legislative business for 2013. It is hoped that the Lower House would adequately inform the public on how much is really being decided for the exercise and the specifics being covered to exhaust the amount. Let there be no inflation of financial costs of operational activities that could benefit some people at the expense of others. Indeed, cleaning the House’s Wing before resuming 2013 legislative business is laudable once it is not influenced by undue benefits and unscrupulous intent on the part of someone using the opportunity available to sow the seeds of distrust and bad governance Liberians claim to fight against in the country’s new political dispensation.