Liberia: Anti-Corruption Vice Chair Embroiled in Corruption Scandal at National Port Authority
MONROVIA – FrontPageAfrica has obtained documents that suggest that the co-chair of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), Cllr. Kanio Bai Gbala, is allegedly involved in the corruption web at the Port of Buchanan; as the Managing Director and Deputy Comptroller of the National Port Authority are expected to face the anti-graft house on Tuesday for questioning.
Sources and documents in possession of FrontPageAfrica (FPA) reveal that Cllr. Kanio Bai-Gbala along with the Managing Director of the National Port Authority (NPA), Mr. Bill Tweahway, the deputy Comptroller, Christian Brownell and Hamed Sikidi Fofana, the former Executive Director at the Central Bank of Liberia, established a company and allegedly used funds from the port and purchased a loading machine (966 Loader) for their company and awarded the loading contract to themselves.
The loader costs US$65,000.
“Bill Tweahway has 60% share in the company, Cllr. Kanio Bai-Gbala was given 10% share, Deputy Comptroller Christian Brownell was given 15% share; while Hamed Sidiki Fofana was given 15% share. So, from the time the company was founded, they had a single machine and each time a vessel is in port, it will be used to do the loading and their invoices will be sent to them,” a source within the Freeport of Monrovia informed FPA.
Mr. Tweahway did not respond to FPA’s inquiry while Mr. Fofana and Brownell could not be reached up to press time for comments.
However, Cllr. Gbala denied being a shareholder of the company – Creative Developers Inc. (CDI) but stated, “I bought shares in Creative Developers on behalf of my younger sister, Zarylee Gbala upon being invited by my friend Sidiki Fofana who established the company and is the CEO.”
Why the Company Was Formed
FPA investigation discovered that SINOTRANS, a Chinese company that provided vessel loading services at the port of Buchanan, pullout based on the management of the National Port Authority’s refusal to pay their service fee.
Mr. Tweahway was then advised that instead of paying US$8 per cubic meter to a company, the port could earn that money by buying and operating its own machine to perform the service; which would then generate additional revenues for the port.
Mr. Tweahway bought the idea; however, instead of purchasing the machine for NPA, he and his cohorts instead hurriedly formed a company (Creative Developers Inc) and on August 20, 2020, the NPA entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the newly formed company for handling services at the port of Buchanan.
CDI, according to the MOU, is responsible for performing log-handling services on behalf of the NPA within the port of Buchanan, Grand Bassa County.
CDI is also responsible to discharge logs from or load logs to vessels within the Port of Buchanan.
Both CDI and the NPA agreed that for every loading from the pier/log field to the ship, the NPA shall charge the amount of US$8.00 per cubic meter. Out of said amount, the NPA shall remit to the CDI the amount of US$4, no more than seven business days after receipt of the payment.
FPA has in its possession several CDI invoices amounting to hundreds of thousands of United States dollars for service provided.
‘Exploitation’ of Companies
FrontPageAfrica’s investigation discovered that at some point, CDI’s 966 loader machine broke down and the NPA asked companies to use their own loader and that a percentage of the fee would be remitted to them. However, the NPA failed to fulfill its side of this bargain as CDI was still pocketing the service fees.
The breaking down of the machine began to cause embarrassment for the port in Buchanan and the shippers began to file protest.
One of such protest came from Ballore Ports who expressed their dissatisfaction over the services at the port. In March this year, they complained that since the malfunction of the loader, there have been huge delays and very low productivity to their cargo operations.
“Such action is totally unacceptable and damaging to the port’s image as you are aware that time and effectiveness in vessels movements are seriously cardinal to the shipping industry.
“We and our customers (ship owner) are completely unsatisfied.
“Therefore, on behalf of our ship owners, charterer, shippers, or all other third parties that are or may be concerned, we formally protest and hold you and your principals responsible for the consequences/costs/delays caused due to our vessel (MV BOSC SPIRIT voy) which berthed at the Port of Buchanan on 03 March 2021,” Mr. Ernest Hallowanger, the company’s maritime operations manager complained.
Due to the breakdown of the loader which was causing embarrassment for the port management and the shippers, Booming Green entered into an agreement with the port management that it would use its own resources and load its vessels and instead of paying US$8.00 to the NPA, it would pay US$4.
However, the CDI argued that since it has a contract with the NPA, it should be entitled to US$2 on the $4, something which Booming Green opposed.
To the surprise of the company, they were awarded an invoice of US$100,000.81 from the NPA for loading 12,499.352 cubic meter on the vessel MV CRUX at the Port of Buchanan. The invoice was prepared on July 20, 2021. The invoice was sent by the NPA on behalf of CDI.
FrontPageAfrica gathered that the embattled Manager at the port of Buchanan; at the time was strongly opposed to this billing and termed it as an exploitation of the company. His protest, however, fell on deaf ears and landed him into trouble with his boss, Mr. Tweahway.
The company was, however, compelled to pay the amount after using its own machine and other resource to carry out the loading.
The amount of US$100,000.81 was paid on July 15, 2021.
FrontPageAfrica gathered from sources both within the NPA and Booming Greemign that Cllr. Gbala was keen on the company remitting US$2 of the $4 to CDI. However, upon their refusal to the deal, threatened to get Tweahway involved and ensure that they pay the money.
FrontPageAfrica has in its possession several invoices depicting hundreds of thousands of dollars generated by the CDI from services performed at the port of Buchanan – funds that should be deposited into the National Port Authority’s account to augment revenues, instead allegedly being pocketed by Managing Director Tweahway and his cohorts including deputy Co-chair of the LACC, Cllr. Kanio Bai-Gbala, thereby depriving the Liberian people of much needed revenue – in the midst of a deadly pandemic where resources are scarce.
Pieces of invoice in our possession totaling US$500,836.25 for services rendered and some CDI didn’t render from November 2020 to July 2021 depicting monies paid to the CDI. These invoices were billed to ICC, WAFDI, BRILLIANT MAJU, Booming Green and Alpha Logging.
The amounts include:
$100,000.81 (July 20, 2021)
$49,997.40 (May 15, 2021)
$26,435.59 (January 5, 2021)
$19,939.22 (June 25, 2021)
$21,974.40 (January 5, 2021)
$9,988.36 (Dec 26, 2020 -Jan 2, 2021)
$3,000 (May 22, 2021 – June 17, 2021)
$13,211.79 (December 26, 2020 – Jan 2, 2021)
$44,910.96 June 21, 2021)
$104,785.11 (November 25, 2020)
$26,809.88 (May 24, 2021)
$52,392.55 (November 16-25, 2021)
$53,825.77 (May 24, 2021).