Monrovia – The George Weah-led administration, new of course, seems to be finding difficulties with logistics especially, transportation in the wake of refusal of former officials of government to return their assigned vehicles, despite two ultimatums by the President.
“You cannot have a government official going to work inconveniently without a vehicle; we can’t have that happening while a former government official is refusing to turn over the vehicle.”
“The time that the President gave expired on Friday so the operation getting it by force would be launched by Monday,” said Lawrence Fahnbulleh, the media officer of the special presidential task force formed by President George Weah to retrieve state owned vehicles from ex-officials of government.
On February 23, President Weah issued a second two-week ultimatum to officials who served in is predecessor’s government, notifying them that their failure to return the vehicles would trigger some forceful measures.
In his February 23 ultimatum, President Weah urged those who claim to have purchased the vehicle under the government’s buyback policy to submit the vehicles to the task force for verification.
The Liberia Revenue Authority has a three-year depreciation policy for vehicles including Government of Liberia vehicles.
The government of Liberia has a buyback policy that her vehicles can be bought after they are depreciated based on the 2011 amended Liberia Revenue Code section 204b.
The Public Finance Management Act of 2009, Part V.5 states, “The conditions and terms of disposal or sale of immovable or movable assets shall be determined by the General Services Agency”.
Witch Hunt Creeping In?
A source familiar with the operations of the Special Task Force confided to this paper that some specific ex-officials have been targeted for collection of vehicles, even if said vehicles were legitimately purchased from the government through the buyback policy.
According to the source, the task force is aware that some members of the Judiciary, the former Police high command and even the Madam Mary Broh who heads the GSA all bought vehicles from government, but none of them is being pursued by the task force for verification or collection.
Last week, the head of the President’s Delivery Unit of the previous government, Dr. Clarence Moniba, fell prey to the forceful collection of vehicles after he was surrounded by seven armed men.
Dr. Moniba is the son of former Vice President Harry F. Moniba of Liberia from 1984 to 1990.
An eyewitness told FPA that Dr. Moniba was stopped in the Red Light commercial district by the armed men who surrounded his vehicle and demanded him to present all the vehicle’s particulars.
“Dr. Moniba presented them all of the documentations including the purchase receipt, tax clearance, registration, insurance etc."
"They still insisted that they take the car and therefore placed one armed AK 47 officer in the car to take his family home as his mother and young child was in the car with him.
“They followed Dr. Moniba with two additional vehicles,” the eyewitness said.
FrontPageAfrica gathered from family sources that Dr. Moniba purchased the vehicle under question from the GSA under the government’s policy about two years ago when he served as head of the President’s delivery unit.
His assigned government vehicle was turned over to the GSA as he left office. Former Minister of Transport, Angella Cassell- Bush and the former Mayor of Paynesville City are said to have fallen prey to the task force in similar manner.
Use of Arms Defended
The media officer confirmed reports that Police officers assigned to the task force have been using guns to carryout the mandate.
He said members of the taskforce need protection as some members have been receiving threats from some ex-officials.
“Those who are doing this job need protection because they’ll border with resistance, even the chairman, Hon. Benedict E.E. Reeves, has been threatened, he has been threatened by those who are in possession of government vehicles,” he said.
Releasing Red List
Mr. Fahnbulleh refutes allegation of witch-hunting and said the task force has been unable to obtain a complete inventory of vehicles from the GSA, though the Director General in Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s government was retained by President Weah.
Fahnbulleh said through intelligence, the taskforce would be releasing a red light of ex-officials who are still in procession of government vehicles by Monday, March 12 or Tuesday, March 13.
“The chairman would be giving the red list by Monday or Tuesday; people who’re hesitant to return those vehicles would be named and shamed."
"We’re not going to compromise this. The President’s ultimate has expired. We’ll use force if we have to,” he said.
He urged ex-officials who bought vehicles from government to take the cars to the grounds of the Executive Mansion for verification, after which if they are found to be legitimate, a clearance sticker would be issued.
“The assessment team would look at your document and if your document commensurate with the car, then you can have you clearance. You can’t have a Prado being bought in 2018, January 18 for US$300.
“It’s not about targeting former government officials, but for you to buy Toyota Prado for US$300 from GSA, the possibility there is that it wasn’t done in the proper means,” Mr. Fahnbulleh said.
According to him, a turnover request was made to a former Deputy Minister of Agriculture who has three vehicles in her residential compound, but refused to turn the vehicles over.
Mr. Fahnbulleh, however, failed to mention the name of the former Deputy Minister.
He lamented that there have been instances where individuals in possession of government’s vehicles extracted essential parts in order to the make the vehicle look road unworthy.
However, he said, the in ‘Operation Getting It by Force’ would not compromise any vehicle suspected of belonging to the government.
Getting Interpol Involved
Mr. Fahnbulleh further told FrontPageAfrica that the task force is stepping up its game with the involvement of Interpol to help retrieve vehicles believed to be running commercially in certain some border towns in Guinea.
“We have intelligence that in Guinea there are some government vehicles especially, the Land Cruisers running between the Liberian border and Guekedou.
“We’re writing the Interpol so that the Interpol can launch an investigation. We’ll retrieve all those vehicles and they’ll be used for the proper cause,” he said.