-Dillon justifies US$15k for “Legislative Project…”
MONROVIA – Amid incessant public outcry over members of the Legislature recently receiving from the Executive Branch a whooping US$15 million dollars, for legislative engagement and accessibility, Montserrado County Senator Abe Darius Dillon says he will not return the money.
Several Liberians, both at home and those in the Diaspora have frowned on the lawmakers’ receipt of the US$15k, which is the first installment of a total of US$30k, Senator Dillon says is a budget line item in the National Budget.
Addressing a delayed press conference at his Capitol Building office in Monrovia, Liberia Tuesday, Senator Dillon justified receiving the money, arguing that in spite of varying views from the public, some of which he said are contending that the US$15k is not budgeted at all, is not true.
“Some argument is that this money issue is not in the budget at all, it is not true. It is budgeted for,” said Dillon, who added, “We want to make it clear that this money is not personal benefit for lawmakers. It is not added to our personal benefit.
Dillon further argues that the money is allotted in the National Budget in a specific budget line item that was passed into law for legislative engagement and public accessibility, adding, “That money has not been given for the last two [to] three years. This is the first time it’s being provided. This is the first time; you in the public have gotten to know, because we announced it.”
“Some people have been made to believe that this money is added to our personal individual benefit that we can use it anyhow. This money is in the budget,” Dillon maintained.
“But if it is wrong and we legalized the wrong, then, we don’t get to correct it if you the employers of the people don’t know to find out what is wrong. If we don’t expose what is happening in the dark, you do not get to know,” Dillon further justified why he received the money that has sparked mixed reactions in many quarters at home and abroad.
“I think now that it has anger the public and everybody knows, we now go back to the drawing board and do it better – do it better in the spirit of transparency, accountability and good governance,” he stressed.
He said though there are two schools of thoughts on the money issue; disclosing one school of thought wants lawmakers to return the money while the other is saying otherwise, he will not return the money.
Dillon: “Give the money back, no don’t give the money back – so I have decided, as disappointing as it may sound to some people, we will not return the money.”
Concerning the two schools of thought regarding the US$15k, the Montserrado senator, who is referred to as “The Light”, for his stance on matters of integrity, said the fact that the barrage of condemnations and sometimes, consolation being thrown at him, says one thing to him; that the country is looking up to him with hope, and that the country has decided he would be used as a compass for integrity into public service, adding that he will instead use the money for the construction of a public library for Montserrado County..
“We will turn the money over through a communication to LACE(Liberia Agency for Community Empowerment) and we will ask LACE to join us through the Superintendent of this county to find an ideal parcel of land where we will begin the construction of a public library – that land will not be in my name, it will be in the name of Montserrado County and it will become a property of the county,” Dillon disclosed.
He continued: “I’m prepared to transfer that money today, tonight, tomorrow morning, at any time. But I will do so after my consultation with LACE. I will do so because we want to account for the money – and now that the public is unhappy with what we do and how we do it, it’s time for us to go back to the drawing board to do it the right way.”
Dillon, who said for his personal view there should not be any budget line item for legislative project, said for members to go back to the drawing board to do what’s right regarding the dishing up of US$30 million for legislative engagement and accessibility, it will take courage and more agents of change, saying, “and so we just want to let you know that we have followed your views, we have followed your concerns. We too, are concerned. If we hurt you by taking this money, we are sorry. But the money was not taken with no intent for me to go to Barnersville(the community where he resides) with it.”
“The people are suffering. The people need attention, we know that, but when our action will bring something positive to our people, then let’s achieve,” he said, indicating, “I think the public library – the size may not matter, but something done to give Montserrado County a public library, not full of books, but you can digitalized it.”
Dillon averred that there are already indications that some of his friends at home and abroad are committed to begin donating computers toward the digitalization efforts of his proposed public library for Montserrado.
“Fifteen thousand dollars probably may not be enough to construct and complete a public library, but 15 thousand dollars, in my view, is a start,” said Dillon, who told his supporters, “We want to say to our supporters home and abroad that we don’t intent to hurt you or let you down. We are humans as well. We will pick up from wherever we may slip. Not with any intent to do otherwise. Sometimes you have good intentions, sometimes it ends up bad, it doesn’t mean that your intention or motive was bad.”
To his supporters who are peeved with him over his decision to receive the controversial US$15k and the subsequent decision to use same for the purchase of a land and the construction of a public library thereon, Dillon said he is sorry if they feel let down by his decision, but was quick to point out that he is sure, in the long run, when he succeeds in constructing a public library for Montserrado through LACE, those whoare frowning at him today would appreciate his decision then.
Howbeit, according analysts, who preferred remaining unanimous,Dillon’s decision not to return the money indicates a snub to the leader of the opposition Alternative National Congress (ANC), Alexander Cummings, who had earlier called on lawmakers, including those from the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) to return the money.
Both men are top-ranked executives of the CPP – Dillon said it’s unfortunate that Cummings and others of the CPP will make statements such as the recent one coming from the ANC political leader, without firstly conferring with their lawmakers to hear from them why they take certain decisions at the Legislature.
Meanwhile, according to a communication widely circulated via Facebook, and believed to be issued by LACE, the entity has disclosed that it would not accept the US$15k from Senator Dillon, for the implementation of his proposed public library project.
In the communication, LACE among others indicated that the regulations governing the operations of LACE and the stature creating the entity prohibits it from executing projects for individual legislators.