Liberia: Weah’s Gibraltar Re-Roofing Project Under Scrutiny; Approved Vouchers Show over US$1 Million Spent


MONROVIA – Documents and vouchers in the possession of FrontPageAfrica show that the Ministry Finance & Development Planning approved over US$1 million for the re-roofing of 205 houses in Gibralta, Bushrod Island in fulfillment of a presidential promise.

Report by Lennart Dodoo, [email protected]

Gibralta is a slum community in Clara Town where President George Weah grew up before departing for Cameroon to spark a professional football career. The community is generally made up of small shanty structures.

The re-roofing of the homes was part of a promise made by President Weah to the residents of Gibralta in April this year.

Lebanese Awarded Contract

An FPA investigation into how the project was carried out discovered that two vouchers were raised amounting to US$1,075,000 though the project was estimated at US$800,000 from the onset.

The contract was awarded a Lebanese dealer in building materials, BMC, headquartered on the Capitol By-Pass and one Sam Sidani, another Lebanese who is believed to be the owner of Hotel Buchanan in Grand Bassa County. 

The awarding of the contract to the Lebanese raises eyebrow on the sincerity of President Weah’s January 22, 2018 Inaugural speech in which he said, Liberian business would not be marginalized, neither would Liberians be spectators in their own economy.

He said, “As we open our doors to all foreign direct investments, we will not permit Liberian-owned businesses to be marginalized. We cannot remain spectators in our own economy. My government will prioritize the interests of Liberian-owned businesses and offer programs to help them become more competitive and offer services that international investors seek as partners.”

BMC was awarded the contract for the rehabilitation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs when President Weah was inaugurated into office. 

The Public Procurement Concession Commission was not contacted on the awarding of roofing contract.

The Lebanese are said to have been awarded the 30-room home for old folks and visually impaired in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County by the Clar Weah Foundation.

MOS Requested Fund

FrontPageAfrica obtained a June 19, 2018 Finance Ministry internal memo which emanated from the office of the Budget Officer of the Public Administration Sector of the Ministry, Benjamin Brownell.

The memo reads: “I write to acknowledge receipt of a communication from the Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs, Reference #MOS-RL/NFM-COS/00486/2018 dated June 13, 2018 requesting the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning to source and allot the amount of Three Hundred Thousand United States Dollars to facilitate the payment of contractors in support of the President’s US$800,000 Project in Gibralta, Bushrold Island.

The Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs Recast Budget indicates that there is fund to accommodate the allotment process. 

If it meets your approval, we recommend that you kindly identify the source(s) and authorize it for transfer to facilitate the payment of those who are carrying out the renovation and roofing work in Gibralta, Bushrod Island.”

Based on the request, Min. Tweah approved the transfer of US$300,000 to the Ministry of State for the project. The transfer code was 21817.

Deputy Minister Tanneh C. Brunson, Assistant Minister for Budget, Jesse B. Korboi, Director of the General and Administrative Service Unit John D. Monger, Assistant Minister of the Public Administration Sector, Tarnue B. Jallah all signed off on the request. 

Despite indicating that the cost of the project being put at US$800,000 in the June 19, 2018 memo, a second memo in November also in the possession of FrontPageAfrica found that the Ministry of State sought the diversion of over one million United States Dollars from the Executive Mansion Renovation Budget line to the Administration and management and Domestic and Special Services of the Ministry of State. 

The November 21, 2018 memo which also originated from the Budget Officer, Benjamin Brownell states:

“We write to acknowledge receipt of a communication sent from the Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs requesting the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning to kindly effect budgetary transfer and subsequent allotment of One Million Fifty Thousand United States Dollars (US$1,050,000) from the Executive Mansion renovation budget line to Administration and Management and domestic and special services of the Ministry of State FY2018/2019. This amount [is] needed to settle the second and final contract payment for the rehabilitation of 205 housing units in Gibralta community and for the payment of compensation to the new staffers of the Ministry of State for the months of December 2018 and January 2019, respectively.

Analysis of the Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs Budget indicates that there is sufficient fund on the requested budget line to accommodate the transfer and allotment process. 

In view of the above, we recommend if it meets your approval that the requested amount of US$1,050,000 be authorized for transfer followed by an allotment of US$775,000 instead of US$1,050,000 due to the reduction of January 2019 compensation allotment request which will be processed at the appropriate time.”

The whooping amount spent on re-roofing houses in Gibralta has left many professional engineers wondering.

A builder who asked not be named told FrontPageAfrica that the amount was too exorbitant for the work done in Gebralta.

He said, “assuming we used the high-end zinc which is US$125 per bundle ad we use 10 bundles per house and 500 houses are re-roofed and then we spend US$100,000.00 for timber and nails plus US$181,250.00 workmanship, your total would be US$906,250.00.”

The source added, “But they didn’t do 500 houses, they did 205 houses, so it means that my calculation was exaggerated, with 205 houses, it should be far less.”