Liberia: The Weah-Led Government’s Double Standard Vs. The Press
SINCE JANUARY when the George Weah-led government was inaugurated, the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning has made an unwritten policy of declaring advertising debts incurred from the era of the previous government headed by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as bad debts which the MoF has refused to pay.
THE REVELATION BY FrontPageAfrica today, showing the ministry’s payment of US$182,000.00 to Rocktown Tools and Equipment Corporation of New York, USA as a result of court orders for debt owed them by the Ministry of State for the supply of items for the Charles Taylor government shows a double standard on the part of the current government.
PAYING AN OLD debt marred with lingering and unexplained questions from an ugly period in Liberia’s history against recent legitimate debts owed media institutions speaks volumes.
THE PAYMENT TO Rocktown is among a trail of vouchers obtained by FrontPageAfrica showing a trend in which virtually all vouchers and payments run through the president’s office.
IN THE MEMO DATED September 24, 2018 being released today by FPA, Finance and Economic Planning Minister, Mr. Samuel Tweah approved a payment of US$182,000.00(One Hundred Eighty-Two Thousand United States Dollars) to a purported US-based construction company which, FPA probe has found, has been inactive since 2003 when the country had just emerged from civil war and led by Charles Taylor.
THE MINISTER WRITES:
“I have the honor most respectfully to present my compliments and wish to inform you that the Department of Economic Management is requesting an allotment through the Debt Management Unit, in the amount of US$182,000.00(One Hundred Eighty Two Thousand United States Dollars representing payments in favor of Rock Town Tools & Equipment Corporation of New York, USA as a result of Court Orders for debt owed them by the Ministry of State for the supply of the following: Executive Mansion Tower Light, 80,000.00; Suburban Vehicle, US$14,000.00; Public Works 125KVA Generator, US$33,000.00; Gillette Generator 225 KVA, 84,000.00; Whisper Watt, 150 KVA, 55,000.00, 2.6” Trash Pump @17,000.00, US$34,000.00 and filing of complaint, US$200,00.”
FPA HAS UNCOVERED THAT the company was registered in August 1999, at New York’s KINGS County with company number 2406154 and located at the address 576 Third Avenue Brooklyn, New York, 11215. Today, the company is unlisted and does not exist. Its only mention is that it has been inactive – dissolution by proclamation / annulment of authority since June 25, 2003. In fact, a new company, My Tool Rental, now operates at the address listed on the voucher for payment, confirming that Rocktown, as a company, no longer exist.
THE FAILURE of the MoF to pay media institutions monies owed from the previous government points to an unwritten policy by the administration to strangulate and the free press into submission.
AN UNFAIR tax policy forces businesses to regularize their tax-payment status every three months but even when media businesses submit bills for payments to government entities, they are kept for long-periods until the tax clearance have elapsed.
TO THE DISMAY of media houses, they are then demanded to submit a new tax clearance after the one previously submitted expires.
THIS IS A TRAVESTY OF JUSTICE and a clear attempt by the Weah-led government to strangulate the press.
THE GUNS OF WAR MAY be silent but actions like these are just a new way of pounding media institutions into submission.
IF THIS IS AN OVERSIGHT on the part of the government, it must be corrected.
THE PRESS has an important role to play in any functioning democracy, using archaic means of iron fist threatens Liberia’s bourgeoning democracy and makes this government no different from those of Liberia’s ugly past.