Liberia: Uproar in Bong County over Controversial Allot of US$149,000 for Renovation of Superintendent’s Compound

US$50,000 was initially allocated for the renovation of the Superintendent’s compound while had been a den for criminals over the years

Gbarnga, Bong County – An increase from US$50,000 to US$149,000 by the leadership of Bong County for the renovation of the superintendent’s compound has sparked uproar in the county, with citizens threatening to halt the renovation work until the superintendent can give reasons for such increment.

During the November 2018 County Development Sitting, citizens of the county agreed through a resolution to allot US$50,000 to renovate the superintendent’s residence after the entire building was deroofed by a violent storm in January 2018.

Last week, Steve Mulbah, head of the Project Management Committee, announced on a local radio station that Madam Walker had agreed to increase the amount to US$142,000 because of the damage done on the building.

“The superintendent of the county has decided to increase the amount of the project from US$50,000 because there is more damage done on the project than first feared,” Mulbah said.

Allocations for projects are usually apportioned through an annual county development sitting. Mulbah, however, didn’t give reasons why the decision to increase the amount by US$99,000 was reached without a county sitting. “Well, I can’t explain further,” he said.

The county leadership’s failure to explain the reasons for the increment in the cost of the project is sparking uproar. Samuel Elliot, head of the Liberia Motor Transport Union Bong County branch said citizens of the county would lead a demonstration until there is an explanation from the leadership of the county.

“We won’t sit here for this to happen. You can’t increase a project by US$99,000 without giving any explanation. We will halt the renovation of the project through a civil protest,” he said.

‘I am not aware,’ Supt Walker

Madam Esther Walker told FrontPageAfrica that she is not aware of the increment in the allotment

In her response to a FrontPageAfrica inquiry, Walker said she was not aware of the allocation of additional funds as claimed by Mulbah. “Go and ask the man who’s making all the claims that the county has allocated additional fund for the project,” she said.

“What know nothing about what Steve Mulbah is talking about,” she added.

But Mulbah in his response accused the superintendent of using him as a scapegoat to protect herself. “Insinuations by the superintendent that she doesn’t know how the project was awarded to JEAMCO, the company undertaking the project, is false,” he said.

Local contractors cry foul

There are also concerns as to why the county chose JEAMCO when other companies like Sesay Brothers Construction company and the Korla and Sons Construction opted to carry on the renovation for a much smaller amount.

Breach in PPCC regulations

In the wake on the ongoing renovation of the superintendent’s compound, concerns also being raised about why Superintendent Walker opted to reward the contract to a vendor when the process to review bids from contractors were ongoing.

Bong’s Assistant Superintendent for Development, Anthony Sheriff, who is the head of the bidding process slammed the decision and said a contravened the PPCC act.

He said: “This is totally against the budget law. I didn’t know anything about how the contract was rewarded to JEAMCO. In fact, bids for the contract are being reviewed for the awarding of the contract and I was very surprised that the county has awarded the contract to a vendor when the process is still underway.”

Cooper Kollah, head of the Korla and Sons Construction Company in Bong County, said they were not given due relevance during the process. He claimed that local contractors were ignored by the county administration. He said: “We are in shock.” 

Superintendent Walker told FrontPageAfrica that JEAMCO agreed during the bidding process to pre-finance the work, something she claimed local contractor failed to do.