Liberia: District 16 Residents, Lawmaker Spar over Cost of Police Station Project

Partial view of the newly constructed police station

MONROVIA – A police station project in the St. Paul Bridge Community has backfired following the pronouncement of two conflicting amounts spent on the project by District 16 Representative Dixon Seeboe.

On Monday, August 15, President Weah dedicated the newly constructed Zone One Depot Two police station in the St. Paul Bridge Community. It comprises five

offices, detention cells, and a bathroom.

It was named in honor of the Borough’s former Governor Richard Tobii.

The dedication was part of the President’s tour across Montserrado County.

However, residents of the district were astonished when their lawmaker Dixon Seeboe announced to the Liberian Chief Executive and others that the project worth approximately US$45,000.

The locals were seen whispering and jittering following the pronouncement made by Representative Seeboe, who previously announced that the project could have cost the amount of US$25,000 when he broke grounds for the commencement of the project on March 22 this year.

Chris Logan is one of the eminent and most respected residents of St. Paul Bridge community. He was entrusted with the first US$9000 by Representative Seeboe to commence the project.

Abandoning the project

Barely few weeks after supervising the project as part of a five-member committee setup, Mr. Logan relinquished his post for unknown reasons.

Speaking in an interview with FrontPage Africa via telephone on Tuesday, August 16, Mr. Logan attributed his decision to family and working engagements.

But FrontPage has gathered that his decision was based on alleged interference of his functions and the manner and form in which the project was being initiated by the contractors.

“I received the first US$9000 and because of my engagement with my work and my family, I decided to back off. The project was taking most of my time. I don’t know whether the money was from the legislative engagement fund or not, I don’t know. But I received the first money from him for the project”, Mr. Logan stated.

He continued: “I just wanted to help him (lawmaker) to see how best we could start the project. If the lawmaker is saying that the project worth US$45,000, he is the best person to answer that, but I don’t know because the first money I received took the project to roofing level.”

Philipboye Merchant is the acting Chairman of the 26 communities in the Borough of New Kru Town. He also abandoned the project days after he was named as member of the committee setup by Representative Seeboe.

Merchant was the one who turned over the land space to the lawmaker for the construction of the project, following the conduct of a survey and finalization of the documents by the Liberia Land Authority. However, the Cyrus’ family is claiming ownership of the parcel of land and has threatened to file a lawsuit.

Rep. Dixon Seeboe

“The lawmaker told us that the project was worth US$25,000, but he told the President that the amount of US$45,000 was spent on the project and so, he needs to explain more,” Merchant stated.

He added: “I don’t think that project worth US$45,000. But the lawmaker said it worth it and I can’t say yes or no. I did a house upstairs and downstairs building for US$15,000. My community people are asking me that the lawmaker said US$25,000, why he announced US$45,000 and so, they are calling a meeting because the lawmaker said the money came from the US$30,000 (for legislative engagement).”

The controversial US$30,000 was allotted to each member of the 54th National Legislature in the current fiscal budget to carry on legislative engagement in their respective districts or counties. However, members of the Liberian Senate, through their leadership have denied receiving the money.

Merchant wondered why another figure was announced in the present of President Weah by their lawmaker without firstly informing the residents that the estimated amount for the project has increased.

“If I building that particular place (police station), I will spend US$15, 000 to build it.”

Varney Massaquoi was also assigned at the project site to provide security. He is the Director of Security for the Borough, appointed by Governor Moses Weah.

Like others, Massaquoi also admitted to the previous amount of US$25,000 announced by Representative Seeboe for the project.

“I was part of the committee to provide security. During the group breaking, the Cyrus and family came and started agitating that the land belongs to them. When I noticed that the project was going on and there was no problem later, I told the Governor that I can’t be security director on the project site and I have other works to do I am leaving. And so, I left (the project).”

“I left the project when it was at the window level. When I left, about US$4500 was in the possession of Mr. Chris Logan who called me one time that he too could not continue with the project. I asked him why and he said, he doesn’t like the way the project is going.”

He, however, disclosed that the first engineer who was contracted by Representative Seeboe to undertake the project was sidelined and the contract given to the Weah and Sons Company which was established just few months ago.

Seeboe speaks

When contacted via telephone, representative Seeboe admitted that the previous estimate or projection did for the project was erroneous.

He noted that additional casting and other works were done in the detention cells at the police station prior to the ceiling of the entire building.

“I know you have not build a structure before. When you start to do building, you give estimate value to use this amount. Our first calculation was to use US$25,000. When the construction starts to go up base on what you are doing, it changes over time. When we tell the President that we spent approximately US$45, 000, we are not just saying something. For someone to ask how I selected Weah and Sons (company), it does not even make sense. I am doing project and not through your legislative procurement process.”

The Weah and Sons Company, which was established few months ago, is a company owned and operated by Alphonsus Weah, a die-hard supporter of the ruling party.

Representative Seeboe justified that his decision taken to select the company was intended to save some money, noting that, “I’m finding somebody who will reduce expense for me to do a project.”

“When you start construction, what you put on paper is the estimated cost. When the construction is going on and base on what you want to achieve at the end of the day, the cost runs up because you are adding different phases.”

“When we started the construction we were not envisioning that we will put computer and everything in the building. But we had to put computer and everything in the building.”

However, FrontPage Africa has established that the furniture and office materials, including computers were provided to the police station by the Monrovia Breweries Incorporated, through its management as part of the company’s corporate social responsibility to the community.

When quizzed why the US$9000 given to Mr. Chris Logan for the initial works went up to roofing level, which is approximately 50% of the project, Representative Seeboe stated: “it’s stupidity from the highest level. You haven’t built before and that’s why I ask you a question. To do a foundation in the area and someone tells you that US$9000 can take if from the ground straight up-they got to be crazy.”

“Even if you raising blocks which is the cheapest thing to raise, when you start during the real construction of roofing, ceiling, and floor tile-where somebody will come from and say US$9000 carry it to ceiling?”

Not accountable

Representative Seeboe bragged that he is not accountable to anyone as it relates to how the monies were expended on the project on grounds that portion of the fund came from his pocket.

He also questioned the significance of concerns being raised by the locals for the alleged exaggeration of funds used for the police station project in the St. Paul Bridge Community.

 “I don’t have to answer you in terms of an audit because I am using monies from my US$30,000 and I am putting my own money in. I am not going to go back and forth with anybody. What will be the essence of escalating the amount use? I don’t have to justify to them because, I am not getting a refund. You know when people can escalate things-when they are doing a project to get refund. When I escalate or not, it doesn’t benefit me because, I am the one who’s spending. The total we spent including what Beer Factory used to buy the materials is around US$45,000.”

Contractor speaks

For his part, Alphonsus Weah, CEO of the Weah and Sons Company disclosed that the previous plan drawn for the project was thrashed.

“The project was a US$25,000 project when it was announced. Unfortunately, the plan for the project did not suit the place. So, the (police) commander came in my office and we made all the necessary adjustments.”

He pointed out that those adjustments were taken to the lawmaker with a request for a new plan and estimated amount.

Conflicting amounts

Though Representative Seeboe claimed that the project worth approximately US$45,000, Weah has a different view.

“We had three changes of the plan. The last one was to do the complete finishing by putting furniture into the building. He (lawmaker) is saying US$45,000, but the estimation is around US$46,000 to US$47,000 because when we had the change of plan, we had to take from three rooms to five rooms, from one cell to three cells.”

“That project was given to us for the period of six months. But due to the Representative’s quest, we did that project soon. We worked day and night and it was cost intensive. People will not understand.”

According to him, the decision taken by Representative Seeboe to handpick and award him the police station contract, was due to his previous work done on a mini bridge project previously awarded his company by the same lawmaker.

Weah expressed regrets that the project is not being appreciated by the locals. He blamed the situation on alleged witch-hunting.

When quizzed why others abandoned the project, Weah disclosed that his company has a high level of integrity and the “standards” he implored when the project was ongoing allegedly prompted the departure of the others.

He denied assertions made by Mr. Chris Logan that the amount of US$9000 took the project to roofing level.

“He (Chris Logan) is not saying the truth. He should understand that apart from the US$9000, there was additional money given for the Liberia Land Authority to secure the land from the conflict; there was also US$5000 allotted to the family that was claiming the property but they refused the money and he knows also that there were series of procedures that we went through.”

Meanwhile, Weah has put the life span of the police station project to 50 years.

Citizens’ reactions

Since the project was dedicated, there has been mixed reaction among residents of the district.

“Seeboe will continue to make mockery of the intelligent of the people of this district until they begin to rise up against his lies and criminality,” DE Upright Man stated.

Amb Rogers M Garwoh writes: “Something went wrong but I am afraid to speak before they come after me. “

 Bill K. Wleh Jr. “With your thinking, do this building worth 45,000USD?”

The exaggeration of amounts expended on projects or initiatives by Liberian politicians remains an aged-old problem in post-conflict Liberia, especially during electioneering period.

These politicians most often inflict amounts given for projects to gain undue favor from their constituents.

As the 2023 general and presidential elections draw nearer, many quick impact projects with induced figures and connivance between those vying for elected positions and their contractors will be the order of the day in post-conflict Liberia in a bid to win or gain undeserved favor and votes from the voting populace, bulk of who are illiterate.