Bong County Technical College Constructs Duplex – Completion on Hold
Monrovia – The education system of Liberia continues to be something of major concern as the quality of education is low and facilities below par.
There are only two state run universities, the University of Liberia and the William V.S. Tubman University in the far south eastern part of Liberia.
Even the University of Liberia is facing facility constraints despite support by the Chinese Government with the construction of the Fendall Campus of the university.
On the main UL campus on Capitol Hill, there are limited numbers of classes and students have to fight for chairs and some end up standing at windows to take lectures.
The University is facing these numerous problems due to the high demand for tertiary education and the influx of students from the various counties. Knowing the constraints, the Government of Liberia pushed the establishment of community colleges in the various counties.
The Nimba, Grand Bassa and other counties all have community colleges but the Bong, it is a Technical College meant to have programs in engineering and other technical course.
Currently, using a high school building for classes, authorities of the county including the college administration embarked on the construction of a complex to accommodate the growing number of students.
In the city center is situated a huge duplex which if completed could be one of the largest in terms of facility in the country to provide tertiary education.
The facility layout done by Chinese contractors is exotic with the building having several different compartments such as separate libraries for different colleges and other sections.
The classes are larger than the size of an average Liberian university or college classroom with an entire administrative complex component for administrative offices.
During FrontPageAfrica visit at the construction site, it was gathered that the work is currently at a standstill due to lack of funding to continue the process.
The county is no longer enjoying social development fund at the same level like it was done during the years when the prices of commodities from the extractive industry mainly iron ore was in high demand on the world market.
World Steel giant company Arcelor Mittal which provided US$500,000 annually to Bong County as social development fund is no longer providing that amount due to the impact of the global decline in the prices of commodities which had led the company to slow down its operations.
During the year 2015/2016 according to the fiscal outrun report from the Ministry of Finance and development Planning, Mittal provided no funding to the county for the fiscal year.
Raising money to continue the project is proving difficult for the county and construction work on the technical college is now at a standstill.
The big dream of having a facility comfortable and capable of accommodating hundreds of students is gradually fading as students have already started using the building while construction is no longer ongoing due to lack of funding.
Many are worried that if the Government does not step the project will remain stalled. In the current draft 2016/2017 national budget, the College is allotted an amount of US$ 980,000.
It is projected that Mittal will provide $255,750 to the county for the fiscal period 2016/2017 but it is likely that the amount will be paid to the county like the case of the 2015/2016 budget when the government projected that Mittal would have made payment of US$500,000 to the county but the company did not pay a cent of that amount as it is recorded in the fiscal outrun that Mittal paid $0 to the county.
Representative George Mulbah of Bong County told FPA that the issue of the building has always been politicized and it is serving as hindrance to the project.
He says the last disbursement of US$1.8 million should have completed the ground floor of the building to make the place available for use by students but noted that the contractors did not focus on the ground floor but other areas that were not necessary at this time in complete violation of the agreement reached.
“Currently there is an investigation ongoing as to how funding has been used for the construction. That investigation will also take into consideration an audit of the school account and funding for the project”, he said.
Representative Mulbah said the report of alleged mismanagement has overshadowed some of the relevant efforts that the county leadership has made toward the building.
“We can boast that this is biggest and relevant use of the County Social Development in Liberia, the building under construction we have always said was underestimated, through there are some lapses by the contractor, which has slowed the job, we strongly believe that if contractor had focused on using the US$1.8 million on the ground floor, the story would have been different than it is today”, said the lawmaker.
The construction of the college has also been stalled by the suspension of Dr. Johnson S. Flomo March by President Sirleaf.
After the President suspended by the head of the college, an interim administration was appointed with a sixty-day mandate
A recent recommendation by the Interim Management Team (IMT) of the Bong County Technical College calling for an extension of its mandate by six months is generating mixed reactions, with many describing the call as a mockery to the progress of the college.
The interim team recently requested for extension of its mandate by another six months something that caused uproar in the county.
Headed by Dr. Roland Massaquoi, the three-man committee has never been short of controversy as claims of witch-hunt and whopping salaries to committee members are dogging the existence of the committee.
The ongoing rigmarole is causing delay in the completion of the duplex which could help to provide and alterative to the limited number of good tertiary education facilities in Liberia.
Politics has over the years proven to overshadow all activities in Liberia which many blame as one of the major reasons for the backwardness of the country.