…Hon. Bernadette Lahai
By Samuel J. Kargbo
President Ernest Bai Koroma has instructed Members of Parliament (MPs) to divert Constituency Development Fund to the fight against the dreaded Ebola virus, according to the embattled Minority Leader of the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party, Hon. Dr. Bernadette Lahai.
Speaking to Concord Times in an exclusive interview at her office in Parliament yesterday, Hon. Lahai said: “Henceforth all monies for constituency development should be utilized by MPs to fight the Ebola as it has been proclaimed by President Koroma [that] until we defeat Ebola before those monies are spent for the usual purpose.”
She however did not disclose the exact amount of money government has disbursed to lawmakers, and what exactly the latter have done with the said monies as part of the Ebola campaign.
Indeed the government of Sierra Leone said last week that Le25.9 billion was needed to tackle four components of the Ebola Response Plan, which include clinical management and coordination, social mobilization and awareness raising, surveillance and contact tracing, and provision of logistical support to Ebola victims, with various UN agencies taking the lead.
The government said there was still a gap of more than Le18 billion, while the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Sierra Leone, David McLachlan, on Monday (18 August) launched an appeal for an additional US$18.13.
Dr. Lahai explained that lawmakers from Kenema District and descendants from the district have formed an emergency Ebola response task force to respond to urgent cases in the district, which is one of the epicenters of the virus. She said the task force is tasked with generating resources, logistics, and sensitize residents in the district.
She said that few members of the task force paid an assessment visit to the district headquarters, Kenema, last week, where they held fruitful meetings with the Resident Minister, Maya Kaikai and other stakeholders in the district.
She was ambivalent to confirm whether houses quarantined are not receiving sufficient food.
“World Food Programme (WFP) and the government are providing food to the quarantined areas. But the problem is, WFP provides bulgur, oil and beans and the staple food for Sierra Leoneans is rice, which is why people are grumbling,” Dr. Lahai said.
Lawmakers are most often than not reticent to state the exact quantum of money they receive as part of the so-called Constituency Development Fund, and it is almost impossible to quantify how much such money is utilized for development in the 124 constituencies.