Liberia: Owners of Hotels Used for Quarantining COVID-19 Patients Sweating Over Gov’t Delay to Pay Bills
Monrovia – The Managements of several private hotels used or being used by the Liberian government as quarantine centers are concerned about the delays in payments by government, which is putting strain on the operation of their businesses, FrontPageAfrica has gathered.
Kailondo Hotel, John Gbessay Resort, Bless One Hotel, Palm Spring, Executive Inn and Golden Key are among several hotels that have been used since mid-March this year as quarantine centers for people suspected for Covid-19.
According to several contract papers, seen by FPA, signed between the Ministry of Health and these respective hotels, the government is obligated to pay for the use of their facilities.
Some of the hotel managements told FPA that the delay is pushing them to the limits having already spent thousands of dollars to pre-finance services rendered for quarantine purpose.
Cllr. George Kailondo, who said his contract with the government ended since April 13, told FPA via phone that the situation has caused him not to pay his “over 50 employees”.
“Right now my employees are just looking in the air because the money I had to pay them I had to use it to pre-finance…The little money that we had we’ve finished spending it for us to get it now it’s difficult,” said Cllr. Kailondo, owner of the Kailondo Hotel in Old Road, Sinkor.
“The contract stated that when we signed they will pay us but because it involves the government, we decided to wait a bit.”
He accused the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning of deliberately stalling the payments.
Alleged Cllr. Kailondo: “People at the Ministry of Finance are now showing power; they are showing muscle that they should pay this money and the contract that we signed did not say that they should pay us.
“When this thing started we went to the MFDP and they said that they will not be responsible [to pay us], that the Ministry of Health that we signed the contract with will pay us but now after rendering services — I don’t know who wants what — now they are telling us different things – no head no tail.”
The Ministry of Health has informed the hotels that they are awaiting the MFDP to make disbursement of the funds before payments are made, FPA has learned.
However, when FPA contacted officials of the MFDP to ascertain the cause of the delays, they declined to comment on the issue.
Kailondo, who claims to have “encouraged some people to give their hotels to be used by the government because of the stigma associated with the virus,” said many of hotels managements are now frustrated.
A manager of the Palm Spring Hotel told FPA that they have received “just a small percentage” of payment from the contract they signed with the government, adding that it has been two weeks since the contract ended but they are yet to receive the balance.
Palm Spring, located in Congo Town, was also used as a quarantine center since March 19 – three days after Liberia confirmed its first case of COVID-19.
“We pre-financed everything by spending cash to feed all the people – nurses, patients and police – three times a day, plus 24 hours electricity,” said the manager, who preferred anonymity. He added that the situation has made it impossible for them to pay all their staff in the last month.
“Right now my employees are just looking in the air because the money I had to pay them I had to use it to pre-finance…The little money that we had we’ve finished spending it for us to get it now it’s difficult.”– George Kailondo, CEO, Executive Inn
“It’s a very strenuous situation we are in so we cannot continue but we have tried to help, do our best, we have made a lot of sacrifices and risks.”
FPA has learned that the government has now opted to move the quarantining of patients to Star Base on the Bushorld Island.
The Ministry of Health, it can be recalled, back in March requested from the government US$3million to fund the country’s response to the pandemic.
However, there were reports of slow disbursement of funds with media reports suggesting that US$500,000 was the first payment made to the ministry when the first case of the virus was confirmed in the country.