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Future of Liberia’s Infrastructure in Shambles Pro-Poor Gov't First Major Project

Future of Liberia’s Infrastructure in Shambles Pro-Poor Gov't First Major Project

As Liberia’s celebrity President His Excellency George Manneh Weah breaks ground for the construction the government’s first major infrastructure project, the proposed state of the art 250-bed Military Hospital, Liberian architects and engineers are outraged and agitated as the project ignores industry standards, professional ethics and compliance regulations, which signals a debauched approach that hollows the future of sustainable infrastructure development, introducing a new formula for daylight corruption. 

 “There’s nothing I believe in more strongly than getting people interested in doing the right thing, leading by example, and setting the pace for the sustainable infrastructure development of Liberia” – Garmondyu Zogar

A Revit-generated rendering of the new military hospital with the hashtag #PromiseKept, has received numerous criticisms as an artful subterfuge and deception of a “modern hospital”. Many say it looks like an elementary school, some say it appears like orphanage home and others describe it as a private motel. 

The new Military Hospital, barely 1,000 Sq. meters is presumably designed by an unknown apprentice, unrecognized by the Liberian Institute of Architects and the Engineering Society of Liberia, as such making the health facility a “HAZARD” rather than a therapeutic environment. 

Rumors circulating social media reveals that an overwhelming amount US$200,000 was used to conduct the feasibility studies that gave rise to the so-called “state of the art” hospital pictured above (A). 

If this is true, why is nobody questioning it, despite evading the codes of practice of the industry? Why is everybody afraid to even mention anything regarding this? Do you know what can be achieved with US$200,000? 

With $200,000.00 US dollars, the Government can construct 2 (two) Early Childhood Development (ECDs) Schools as per the Ministry of Education’s minimum standards. The same amount of money can construct up to 10 (ten) low cost homes, or even fund about 25% of the construction cost of the “New Military Hospital” itself. 

Until now, it is unclear on how the consultancy services for the design and feasibility study were procured, violating Part 1 Section 1 of the Public Procurement and Concessions Act 2005.

Moreover, there was no involvement of the Infrastructure Unit of the Ministry of Health, clothed with the authority of spearheading, reviewing and approving all medical facilities in compliance with the relevant “Standards for Health Infrastructure 2013” as sanctioned by the National Health Infrastructure Policy.

Worse of all, authorities at Ministry of Public Works seem to have no clue about the design, but choose to remain silent, with the apparent fear of losing their jobs when they speak out. 

The details behind how the project slipped through all these institutions, remain the million-dollar question. 

So, the question is, what is the process of designing health facility in Liberia?

Design considerations for health buildings are very different from normal residential and commercial buildings because of the high risk of infection they pose, so they must be engineered to meet minimum requirements for safety and functionality, according to the World Health Organization. 

The National Health Infrastructure Policy requires a collaborative approach in ensuring that health facilities meet fit-for-purpose design solutions derived from informed decisions that are appropriate for the partners and end users. 

At the primary and secondary levels of healthcare, the Ministry of Health has “prototype design standards” that have been in use for the past 10 years, but at the tertiary level of the referral chain, hospitals must be designed by the services of experienced local or international firms depending on the specific needs of the donors or funding agency. 

In the case of the ongoing 350-Bed Maternal and Pediatric Hospital (New Redemption Hospital) construction project in Caldwell, Lower Virginia, Montserrrado County (Pictured B), an independent internationally acclaimed design firm (MASS Design Group) was hired by the World Bank with a mandate to work with licensed local architects.

MASS then consulted the services of AEP, a reputable local design firm whom together with Engineers from the Ministry of Health constituted the core technical team for the project. 

The team then consults the Ministry of Health “Case Management Committee”, which is comprised of experienced specialist doctors, develop the “Project Brief” which serves as the guiding tool for the facilities, services and level of sophistication required for the project. 

The core technical team headed by MASS then ensured that all interested-parties including the Ministry of Public Works, Ministry of Lands Mines and Energy, Liberia Electricity Corporation and the Liberian Fire Service among others, made their contributions to the design in fulfillment of local standards and codes of practice; and this is how, it is assumed a “state of the art” hospital facility should be designed. 

Similarly, the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), over the last 12 years, has been a good implementation partner to the Ministry of Health improving the quality and resilience of existing health facilities across Liberia. 

The President's recent meeting with UNOPS, brought some relieve hoping that the government could make use of their experience for the Hospital Project but sadly, the “guess work” design has been posted and celebrated as the first Military Hospital in the making. 

While we laud the commendable effort of the Pres George Weah as he demonstrates his unique energy to improving the lives of the people of Liberia through the "pro-poor agenda for transformation”, allowing this project to continue sets a bad example for future projects.

Imagine if the feasibility study of a “Health Center” now dubbed as a “state of the art” hospital costs $200,000.00 USD, How much would the feasibility study of a 1,000 Kilometer road cost? 

As an expert in the field, I strongly recommend that the Government of Liberia sees reason to halt proposed 250-Bed Military Project until the right thing is done. It is better late than never, let’s put an end to this shame while we can. 

The lain attitude from exhibited by technical arms of government including the Ministry of Public Works, Environmental Protection Agency and the Public Procurement and Concessions is not healthy for the development of our country.

It is fiduciary duty to ensure that the project is implemented under the established standards and regulations of Liberia, regardless of the fear of securing jobs. I also call on the leadership for the Liberian Institute of Architect and the Engineering Society of Liberia to step in and make sure the project is done in the right manner. This is how, we will together build a prosperous Liberia. 

About Author

Garmondyu Zogar, Liberian, is a built-environment professional who has worked the World Bank, United Nations, Liberian Government and many reputable international firms providing technical services in senior technical positions implementing healthcare and education infrastructure projects in Liberia and Sierra Leone. He is currently a Chevening scholar at the University of South Wales reading masters in Safety, Health and Environmental Management in the United Kingdom. He also holds a Master of Engineering (honors) degree in Architecture and a BSc (magna-cum laude) in Building Construction Technology, with seven (7) professional certificates.

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