Liberia: EPA’s Nat Blama’s Dismissal Raises Eyebrow on Why NTA’s Managing Director’s Similar ‘Offense’ Was Ignored by Pres. Weah
MONROVIA – When the country was totally lockdown due the coronavirus pandemic and the government was finding means and ways of curtailing the virus while at the same time keeping the economy afloat, the Managing Director of the National Transit Authority (NTA) Mr. Herbie McCauley took advantage of his German citizenship, abandoned his post and fled the country onboard a flight charted to evacuate citizens of EU member states and permanent residents of the EU. He, however, did not leave with clean hands. A US$500,000 public-private partnership was signed unilaterally by him without any regard to Public Procurement Concession Commission laws.
Report by Lennart Dodoo, [email protected]
FrontPageAfrica’s investigative report on the matter seemed to have gone unnoticed by the requisite authorities, sleeping dogs were left to lie and no punitive action was taken.
FrontPageAfrica report revealed that Mr. MaCauley and his principal deputies, despite receiving salaries from the Ministry of Finance, were also being paid in-house at NTA instead of putting money into the Liberia Revenue Authority.
Deal Signed Disregarding the Law
FrontPageAfrica obtained documents that showed that Mr. McCauley recently signed a contract with a Senegalese firm, Numherit SA, for the processing of the National Transport Network valued at US$500,000 without the required Public Procurement Concessions Commission.
Under the Public-Private Partnership Agreement, NUMHERIT and the NTA agree to collaborate in the development of a digital platform that would automate all systems, processes, and formalities related to Liberia’s national transport network and also monitor its performance. The platform will also allow the NTA to access various services such as the purchases and payments of dematerialized tickets, the geolocation of buses, the internet on buses and allow NTA to have a tracking solution, internal video surveillance on buses and an integrated management system to manage all administrative and technical-commercial operations.
A FrontPageAfrica investigation found that the George Weah-led administration’s policy of prioritizing a policy that would facilitate affordable cost of travel and enhance its national development agenda – to reduce poverty, is under threat in wake of the signing of a US$500,000 contract with the Senegalese firm, Numherat SA, signed without the approval of the Public Procurement Concessions Commission(PPCC). Complicating matters, the entity’s Managing Director, Herbie Teconbla McCauley, a German citizen has abandoned ship after he was repatriated on a Special EU flight on April 6, 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic
NUMHERIT, as part of the partnership with NTA will act as developer of the platform and co-operator of related services (advertising network), in particular by ensuring the implementation of the development and integration processes of the services and products offered.
The five-year contract signed with the Senegalese firm, Numherit SA is aimed at installing cameras on all NTA buses and the construction of a new bus terminal.
Strangely, Mr. McCualey returned to Liberia, resumed work after being away since April 6 and he continued to enjoy the confidence of the President.
Last Thursday, his deputy, Mr. Myer Beaty was suspended for one month for “administrative reasons”, the Executive Mansion stated.
Where EPA Blama Went Wrong?
Dr. Nathaniel Blama, dismissed from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Wednesday, was unfortunate to have to been the first COVID-19 case in Liberia when he returned from official duty in Switzerland.
The controversy surrounding COVID-19 at the time and the panic caused led to his indefinite suspension by the President. The government alleged he breached health protocols, something he denied, insisting that he voluntarily called authorities for a COVID-19 test.
He remained on suspension until last Thursday when he was reinstated by the President. Blama was just in his fourth day after resuming work when he was slammed with dismissal which was published on the Executive Mansion website.
According to the Executive Mansion, Mr. Blama unilaterally signed a US$20 million contract without the signatures of the Minister of Justice and Finance, according to the Executive Mansion.
The Executive Mansion stated that Blama on March 7,2020 unilaterally signed a US$20m contract without the signatures of the ministers of justice and finance contrary to government established principles and procedures.
Unlike the NTA’s MD who committed similar act, Blama’s action was equated to fraud by the Executive Mansion.
The Executive Mansion stated that investigation conducted by the Ministry of Justice established that Mr. Blama did not follow any government standard procedures regarding the selling of government of Liberia assets.
“It’s a platform like the Green Climate Fund, like the Adaption Fund, like the Global Environment Facility Fund – it’s the same kind of platform set up globally. We have had this discussion with the finance minister before, I’ve had the discussion with the Minister of State and they are aware.”– Nathaniel Blama, Dismissed EPA Executive Director
But Blama in a telephone interview with FrontPageAfrica denied any wrong doing and stated that he never committed any asset of the Liberian government in the agreement.
The contract, a copy of which FrontPageAfrica has obtained was signed between the EPA and CO2Bit Technologies, LLC, a company registered and incorporated in Florida, USA.
Mr. Blama signed on behalf of the Government of Liberia while Ronald J. Wilkins signed on behalf of CO2BIT LLC.
CO2BIT is part of an international dispersed group of technologists and philanthropists undertaking the oration and support of CO2Bit, a Shun Network Bashed Digital As set created as a mechanism to finance and promote the proliferation of sustainable carbon neutral energy generation projects and assets to enable evolving participation in global economy.
As per the agreement, the company shall award and the EPA shall acquire a future right to utilize CO2Bit coins as part of a finance mechanism within Liberia for the sole purpose of addressing climate change effects associated with declining CO2 sequestration within Liberia.
BITCoin shall award 5,000 CO2Bitcoin assets to the EPA. The company shall deliver the encrypted key associated with the CO2Bitcoins and any passwords or asset as well as any all other transaction documents.
As per the management, the EPA shall solely be responsible for the identification of climate mitigation activities and allocation of funds and shall appoint a management team which shall be responsible for the management of the funds raised from the award.
The agreement also states that the any proceed from the sale of CO2Bitcoins shall be distributed promptly to the climate change activities.
In a telephone interview with Mr. Blama challenged the government to prosecute him with evidence if he did any wrong.
He had been in conversation with the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Mr. Nathaniel McGill and the Minister of Finance concerning the agreement and they both expressed optimism that it would be a fruitful agreement.
Mr. Blama told FrontPageAfrica that contrary to reports that he committed government’s resources in the agreement, he only stated that whatever proceeds that come out of the agreement would be used for environmental works.
“It’s a platform like the Green Climate Fund, like the Adaptation Fund, like the Global Environment Facility Fund – it’s the same kind of platform set up globally. We have had this discussion with the finance minister before, I’ve had the discussion with the Minister of State and they are aware,” he said.
He explained that he signed the agreement on March 8, though it was dated on March 7 before leaving for Switzerland where he later returned COVID-19 positive.
“On April 4 they signed and sent me the scanned copy, I was in the hospital there was no way I could brief anybody about it. I came from the hospital, I made several attempts, I sent McGill texts that we’ve got these things going on and I need to bring you up to speed on it, nobody gave me audience,” he said.
He said on the Sunday following his reinstatement, he visited the Min. McGill at his home and briefed him on the agreement. According to him, Min. McGill read through the agreement and understood that the Liberian government was never committed in any way in the agreement.
“I said by December, this thing should reach maturity when it reaches maturity, there will be a transitory account set up at the Ministry of Finance so that this money can be transferred to the government and the government will decide what kind of environmental-related project we’ll implement,” he further explained.
He stated that the US$29 million endorsement he did for the defense project for New Kru Town was never signed by the Minister of Justice nor the Minister of Finance, noting that such is the case with environmental platforms.
He added: “I think it is just personal vendetta. For me, I’ll just thank the President for the opportunity to serve in his administration but I maintain I did nothing wrong and it is his will. We all work at the will and pleasure of the President, I hold no malice, no grudge; I served with diligence, my records are there and it proves it.”
What Was Blama’s Reliance
Section 6-R-S, of the Act creating the Environmental Protection Agency of the Republic of Liberia, approved by the National Legislature, approved on November 26, 2002 captioned ‘The Functions of the Agency, empowered EPA to carry out the following functions, especially:
R: “Function as the national clearinghouse for all activities relating to regional and international environment-related conventions, treaties and agreements, and as national liaison with the secretariat for all such regional and international instruments;
S: Improve efficiency of financial processes under multilateral agreements by prioritizing and harmonizing host and donor priorities in programmes, project preparation and design.