Bomi County – A LAVI sponsored investigation has revealed that a blame game has halted the release of Social Development Fund (SDF) from Sime Darby to Bomi County for the past four years.
LAVI is the Liberia Accountability and Voice Initiative, a non-governmental organization (NGO) working with civil society partners to report on the management of Liberia’s Natural Resources with focus on its benefits to affected communities and the country as a whole.
In its findings from Bomi County through a team of specialized investigative reporters, it has been established that Sime Darby, a Malaysian Palm Oil Company operating in Western Liberia (Bomi and Grand Cape Mount), has not been able to release unto Bomi County its share of a social development fund of ten thousand United States Dollars (US$10,000) since 2014 to present due to the lack of available account to transfer said cash.
According to Sime Darby’s Public Affairs Director, Samwar Fallah, the company has not been able to release its annual obligation to Bomi due to the failure of authorities of Bomi to open an extra account for said amount for the period under review.
Mr. Fallah assured citizens and authorities of Bomi that once there is an established account for the said fund, the company will immediately make the necessary transfer to the county.
The Sime Darby’s Public Relations Officer’s clarification comes amidst growing concerns over the whereabouts and or benefits of the direct social development fund the company is to pay to the county on an annual basic as per the concession agreement giving right to the company to operate in the area.
Citizens of Bomi who recently spoke with reporters in Tubmanburg, Bomi County, said they were deeply disappointed in the leadership of the county for their reported failure to open an account for the fund, something they said has resulted to the stalling of developmental initiatives in that part of the country.
“No one knows what our leaders are doing with the money that is coming from Sime Darby toward the development of the county”, one angry youth told reporters.
Another concerned youth in Tubmanburg, Mustapha Sheriff told reporters in the county recently that all he has heard over the years is the reported failure of Bomi authorities to open an account through which the said fund could be transferred but to no avail.
“The only thing I have been hearing is Sime Darby is ready to pay the ten thousand United States Dollars in question, but our leaders have failed to open account for the fund because of perceived disunity amongst some members of the Bomi Legislative Caucus and the Superintendent on the other hand”, Sheriff pointed out.
When contacted, Bomi County Superintendent, Samuel Brown confirmed the information saying, no matter how many years the issue of the money in question takes, Sime Darby will one day pay what she owes the county.
The Bomi County Superintendent alleged that the company was earlier on approached on the matter aimed Sime Darby transferring the fund to the County’s General Account, but said request was rejected on ground that the company wanted separate account for the fund coming from her.
He did not however comment on the issue of reported disunity amongst them at the county leadership level, but asserted that he knows that one day the said amount will be paid adding that the delay of the transfer of the cash will further boost development in Bomi in the not too far future since in fact the money is in a save hand.
For his part, Senator Morris Saytumah of Bomi County he is aware of the existence of the situation, but said that it is one of the issue that existed prior to his election in 2014 and they are all struggling to resolve the matter.
“You know, it is just three years now since we came to power and that one of the sticky issues we came and met on our desk as leaders of the people and we will do all we can to lay it to rest”, Senator Saytumah told reporters.
The head of Bomi County Civil Society network, Boima Sando in an exclusive interview also confirmed the report saying, his network has engaged the leadership of the county, but the issue continues to be a nightmare and an unresolved.
Established in 1956, Bomi County is one of the underdeveloped counties amongst peers despite the extraction of huge mineral quantity from the county (the famous Bomi Hills) prior to the country’s 14 years of civil wars and modern day concession agreement for the county.
Esau Farr/Freelance journalist; 0886838175