WFP Speaks Out - Sets Record Straight On US$9M Saga

WFP Speaks Out - Sets Record Straight On US$9M Saga

The World Food Programme (WFP) through its office here has provided further clarity over the contentious US$9M that it allegedly charged the Liberian government for the distribution of assorted food items intended for stimulus package for vulnerable Liberians.

Contrary to earlier statement from the Rome’s Headquarters of the UN food agency that it charged the government six percent of the total as administrative cost, the local office of WFP in Monrovia explained that in addition to that amount, US$7.8Mis strictly intended for operational cost.It can be recalled that while appearing before the Liberian Senate in what is believed to be his last appearance before that august ahead of the much-publicized stimulus package distribution, Liberia’s Minister of Commerce and Industry asserted that only US$20M will be used for the purchase of food, while US$9M will be used as operational cost in the process.

But the Minister, who is also the Chairperson of the food distribution, fell short to provide detailed explanation of the operational cost.According to the Commerce Minister, the World Food Program (WFP) will has informed the distribution committee that it will use sea transport rather than road because of the deplorable road condition in the South Eastern part of the country.“As was previously agreed, the proposed US$35M budget for the project has been reduced to US$30M. And of this amount, the World Bank is contributing US$5M. WFP is being contracted to lead the distribution process due to its expertise in that area,” said the Minister.

“Out of the US$30M, only US$20M will go to food cost while US$9M will go toward the operational cost,” Minister Tarpeh among other things added.This somewhat angered several of the Senators including Grand Cape Mount County Senator Varney N. Sherman, Gbarpolu County Senator Daniel Naathen expressed mixed view why US$9M would be used for expending US$20M.The Senators contended that it would be illogical to use such a huge amount that could further make impact the economy to carry out a US$20M process, and as such.“I thought this money could have been expended in the most efficient way but what I see here minister is the most inefficient and inappropriate use of resources and I ask you to reconsider because it is not too late,” Senator Sherman.

The Grand Cape Mount lawmaker pointed out that the idea does not make economic sense.“I would have thought this money would be used to impact our economy by providing food in the most inexpensive way,” he stated.Sen. Naathen of Gbarpolu, who also the Chairman of one of the country’s major opposition political parties, the Alternative National Congress (ANC), indicated that there is no rationale in spending US$9M for a distribution that is valued at US$20M.

“We made a serious mistake to have told the Liberian people that we will use US$M of needed resources to buy food. Now, the food basket is suggested both imported and locally produce food. But right now, the producers of rice in Liberia are replanting what they produce the last season they don’t have sufficient to eat or sell. We don’t have storage for locally produce rice. It is raining season, it not possible to produce red palm oil. The planning for the food basket was poorly decided this is a waste of resource,” he intoned.

“I think we should revert our decision and decide what impact nine million will have on the country because there is no rationale in spending USD$9 million to spend USD$20 million.”Similarly, embattled Montserrado County Senator Abraham Darius Dillon, alias “Abe” also took to facebook to criticize the government’s proposal.“Out of the [US$30M for free food], nearly [US$10M]; (1/3 or 33%) to be used for unexplained administrative costs.Something is fishy,” posted the Montserrado County Senator.Accordingly, James Belgrave, Communication Officer for the WFP in Rome, in response to a FrontPageAfrica inquiry Monday, dismissed suggestions that the WFP is charging Liberia US$9 million to distribute food to Liberians during the COVID pandemic lockdown. To the contrary, Mr. Belgrave said, the WFP is being allocated only a small percentage, “around six percent.

Said Belgrave via email: “WFP is not charging US$9 million to the Government of Liberia – any suggestions to the contrary are totally unfounded. In Liberia, the Government-led COVID-19 Household Food Support Program (COHFSP) has a total budget of US$30 million. This comprises the cost of the food basket (rice, beans and vegetable oil) as well as the costs of storing, transporting and delivering the assistance to vulnerable households targeted under the programme. A very small percentage of the budget (around 6%) goes towards meeting essential minimum costs for WFP to deliver its life-saving assistance – this is standard across all the countries where WFP works and is in line with international standards of aid delivery.”

However, on the backside of this, the local office of the UN food agency, WFP-Liberia, has provide further clarity around the US$9M, that somewhat exonerates the Liberian government.In a statement released Wednesday, June 17, 2020, local office provided a breakdown in the region of the US$9M, which the international office fell short to provide.

The UN agency local office statement pointed out that the total budget of the COVID-19 Household Food Support Programme (COHFSP) is at US$30M, which include the cost of the food basket (rice, beans and vegetable oil) as well as costs of storing, transporting and delivering the assistance to vulnerable households targeted through this programme.“These account for US$25 million directly from the Government of Liberia and US$5 million from the World Bank. WFP understands that the Government has transferred the amount to WFP’s account as per the signed Memorandum of Understanding between the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) and the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP),” said the statement.

“The value of the food is estimated at an approximate total cost of US$20.4 million, pending the final award of all contracts to suppliers. The portion of the budget that constitutes the costs of storing, transporting, and delivering the assistance (or operational costs) is estimated at US$7.8 million. These costs include in-country transport cost, costs for cooperating partners supporting the programme, food safety and quality control, casual labour services, household enumeration/registration, among others. LISGIS’ enumeration exercise will cover over 500,000 households at less than US$ 3.4 per household,” WFP furthered.

According to WFP, around six percent of the budget goes towards meeting essential minimum costs for WFP to deliver its lifesaving assistance, which it says is the standard across all the countries where WFP works and is in line with international standards of aid delivery.“These include allocations toward the support costs of the Liberia Country Office directly linked to the execution of the programme (e.g. applicable rental costs, back office staff costs etc) and allocations toward the support costs of WFP Headquarters/Regional Bureau in their oversight and support function, called Indirect Support Costs (ISC). Together, these can be referred to as the administrative costs,” noted WFP.

“Resources from the COHFSP budget are independently managed by the WFP and not by the Government of Liberia. Government entities will receive resources for specific food-related tasks, such as enumeration, which LISGIS is leading, or communications and security through WFP’s accounting and financial,” the WFP added.

 

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