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Saturday, December 2, 2023

LIS Justifications and Cautions Series 03: Spotlighting Rep. Fallah! Cautioning Members of the Incoming 55th Legislature!!

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Should Rep. Thomas P. Fallah Continue to Serve as Ways and Means Chairman in the 55th Legislature?

Rep. Thomas P. Fallah began his representative journey in 2005 after segment of Paynesville residents in Montserrado County elected him.

He took seat on January 16, 2006. He retained his seat in 2011 when the people of District 5 re-elected him.

Again, in 2017, his constituents approved his re-election bid by voting him into office.  This means for eighteen (18) long years he enjoyed the confidence of his constituents.

Rep. Fallah’s life is what one may term God’s blessing, for the mere fact that he was not one of the notables in society.

In fact, to put this more aptly, the goodness of God was shown him. Many describe him as a former “plank dealer.” That is, he sold wooden planks as means of survival.

Epitomized in the life of this Representative is the adage, “from grass to grace” which conveys God’s bountiful blessings upon his life.

However, after the 2017 elections majority of his constituents grew disenchanted with him as was glaringly and vividly conveyed in his results from the 2020 Senatorial Election.

Rep Fallah developed himself into a “powerful” lawmaker, of course from a popular party, then; thus yielded the obvious dividend.

Fast forward, Rep. Fallah ascended to the second most powerful position in the House of Representatives, next to the Speaker, the Ways, Means, Finance and Budget Committee as its Chairman.

As wise older man once said, “if you want to see someone’s true colors, give him money and/or power.” Rep. Fallah, in addition to now earning far more than what he was receiving from his daily hustle, began to enjoy fame.

He then became the chief custodian of the finances of the House of Representatives.

As Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, he was a permanent member of the Joint Legislative Modernization Committee (JLMC).

Actually, Chairpersons on the Ways, Means and Finance Committees of the House and Senate as well as Chairpersons on the Committees on Rules, Order and Administration of the House and Senate became immediate members of the JLMC.

This is why in the modernization document, as attached, one will see (then) Senator Sumo Kupee and Rep. Emmanuel Nuquay (now senator), who served as Chairpersons on Ways, Means and Finance Committees of the Senate and House were members of the JLMC.

Also, former Senator Clarice Jah and Rep. Edward Forh, who were Chairpersons on Rules, Order and Administration for the Senate and House served as members on the joint committee on modernization (booklet attached).

In addition, as stated in previous write-ups, the Modernization Committee was (and is) charged with making the Liberian Legislature 21st Century compliant.

Though each House has its modernization chairperson, in the wisdom of the Legislature, as strategic as both Ways and Means Committees are to the workings of the Legislature, they were quite vital to modernizing the institution.

Sadly, Rep. Fallah as Ways and Means Chair, since lost track of one of his key internal responsibilities – modernization of the legislature.

He definitely got consumed by what many term as “self” and can hardly show any progress under his chairmanship attributive to the growth and enhancement of the House of Representatives’ administration.

Rep. Fallah walloped in self-seeking drive as evidence of the protest votes against him in his district during the 2020 senatorial election.

As a matter of fact, what many term as referendum against Rep. Fallah was held during the Midterm Election in 2020. It was like a referendum on the legislative continuity of the Montserrado District 5 Strong Man. From those results, Rep. Fallah knew that his district and the entire Montserrado County had ruled him out of continuous representation, as he was embarrassingly humbled in a humiliating defeat at the hands of Senator Darius Dillon.

For fear of being an actual victim of said referendum, Rep. Fallah crept to his county/district of nativity, Lofa County District 1.

At this point let me apologize for stating in one of my previous notes that Rep. Fallah won District 3. It is actually Mr. Momo Siafa Kpoto who defeated Rep. Clarence Massaquoi in District 3.

That said, it is safe to state that Rep. Fallah’s strategy to seek political refuge in Lofa’s District 1 paid off, as he knew fully well that Montserrado District 5 could not have re-elected him.

The citizens of District 5 in Montserrado were so adamant in their opposition to re-electing their current Representative to the extent that the candidate he supported on his party’s ticket, Mr. Eric Vaye, was defeated by more than 3,000 votes.

Just as how majority of Rep. Fallah’s constituents in District 5 felt and still feel, is exactly how most legislative staffers feel concerning his behavior in placing self above institution. These feelings are quite justified.

A man who many saw at one point in time positioned at the base of the socioeconomic ladder, witnessed and benefitted from a total of more than 612 Million United States Dollars (far more than half a billion USD), in 18 years, and nothing transformative to show for such stupendous amount at the Capitol, just sucks!

From assets in Monrovia and Lofa County, owned by Rep. Fallah that have been paraded on social media at different time intervals, Rep. Fallah is believed to be one of the wealthiest (at Liberia and legislators’ standards) lawmakers in the history of legislative earnings and assets.

Good! But, how has he used such developmental prowess in improving (central) administration of the House of Representatives, the very place from which he became this wealthy as many think… especially after becoming Chair on Ways and Means?

With more than an astonishing 271 Million United States Dollars appropriated to the 54th Legislature, Rep. Fallah exuded managerial control over a staggering US162,626,040 million United States Dollars (162m+) appropriated to the House of Representatives in just six years.

Sadly, managing more than US162m, Ways and Means Chairman Thomas P. Fallah and the House of Representatives have been unable to purchase a single staff bus in six years; no WiFi/internet, no website, no national email domain (.gov.hor.lr), nothing of such; just almost nothing to enhance professionalism.

Apart from the Finance and Procurement Departments from where payments and gasoline coupons are received, nearly all other departments under the House are almost non-existent.

Even the Capitol Security Service men and women serving with the House of Representatives do not even have befitting uniforms, not one set; least to talk of two for change when necessary. One wonders what do these people do with all this money?

Meanwhile, Rep. Fallah and his colleagues on the Ways and Means Committee have everything they need, while the institution lacks nearly everything it needs. Patriotism is a strange word and perhaps a taboo for these legislative leaders.

Now, interestingly, the leadership on which Mr. Fallah serves, with the exception of the Deputy Speaker, all core leaders of the team who were elected by their people in 2017, were rejected by their constituents.

The likes of Speaker Bhofal Chambers (legal challenge) and Representatives Acarous Moses Gray,  Chair on Executive, Johnson Gwaikolo, Chair on Rules, Order and Administration, Kanie A. Wesso, Chair on Judiciary, and many others all lost their return bids.

Rep. Fallah does not fall in this category as he fled to seek electioneering refuge in District 1, Lofa County.

Had he contested in Montserrado District 5, those who elected him in 2017 would have rejected him again as they did in 2020.

For the 2023 elections, Fallah escaped the foreseen and took cover in Lofa. Smart move though, one may think!

By the voting out of nearly all the House of Representatives core leadership’s members, suggests that the Liberian people do definitely desire a new team, void of the likes of Rep. Fallah whose accountability, transparency and openness credentials have been appalling, to say the least.

It shows the people are craving renewed vigor who would serve as agents of good governance in the promotion of accountability, transparency, openness and tangible checks and balances.

In view of all stated points herein, may I say congratulations to Rep. Fallah for his re-election; but he must however be categorically retired from the Ways and Means Committee, and not to head any committee that deals in finances such as the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in the 55th Legislature.

In conclusion, I would say: like Speaker Chambers, like Ways and Means Fallah! Both belonging to the 18-year-service legislative fraternity. One is serving 18 years and as Speaker in the last six years of the 18, with nothing to show for legislatively.

The other (Rep. Fallah) is serving 18 years, and in the last six of the 18 serving as Chair on Ways and Means; also, nothing to show for it.

These two most powerful positions in the House of Representatives occupied by both men who are witnessing in total appropriations of over US612 million between 2006 and 2023.

Out of that amount, over US271 million in appropriations for the 54th Legislature in which they are serving, and US162 million for the House of Representatives alone which they head.

Yet, nothing much to show for those amounts from 2006 to 2023, particularly, between 2018 and 2023, but utter neglect and abandonment of the modernization plan. So sad!

Luke 12:48 states, “…For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.”

I am certain the Quran speaks of stewardship as well.

Unfortunately, almost exactly where these two leaders met the legislature (in this case the House of Representatives) 18 years ago, is exactly where it is under them – no internet, no website, no training, no financial audits, no internal audit department, no standby generator, no direct budgetary support for their (uni-cameral) departments, just nearly no anything.

Oh lest I forget, untidy/unsanitary bathrooms! MAY GOD ALMIGHTY DELIVER THIS COUNTRY!

On this basis, our caution to the incoming 55th Legislature is that Rep. Fallah’s reign of leadership, especially as Ways and Means Chair must end with this 54th Legislature. AND THE COMMITTEE BE AUDITED!

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