Liberia: House Specialized Committee Wants APM Terminal Concession Agreement Amended

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The Committee reported that the company is probably the only concession in Liberia that does not have a review clause, something that is hindering the Legislature from exercising its oversight responsibility.

Capitol Hill, Monrovia – The House of Representatives’ Specialized Committee reviewing all tax incentives and concession agreements in Liberia has called for the amendment of APM Terminals Concession.

As part of its oversight responsibility, the House of Representatives in January 2019 authorized a ‘Specialized Committee’ headed by Rep. Clarence Massaquoi (District #3, Lofa County) to review all Tax Incentive and Concession Agreements, which were signed by the government (Executive) and ratified by the Legislature in an effort to revive the economy.

Following more than a year of investigation, the committee has begun reporting back to Plenary.

In its progress report on Tuesday, February 25, the Committee reported that to fully implement its mandate, it requested the National Investment Commission (NIC) and the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA), to submit a list of all holders of incentives.

The LRA was particularly requested to state specifically the amount that has been waived to business entities over the life span of documents covering their agreements with the government.

“The NIC submitted list of incentive holders and maintained that all incentives are economically beneficial to the country. The LRA holds an opposing view on the economic soundness of some incentives,” the Committee said.

Companies and entities, the committee said include APM Terminals, BIVAC, Conex Petroleum, Firestone, Founi Corporation, Fouta Corporation, Golden Gate Hotel, Liberia Agriculture Company (LAC) Mouson Group and Sethi Brothers.

On APM Terminals

“It is unconventional for a concession not to have a provision for review. The Committee does not believe that a concession should be signed and ratified without a review clause. A review of information obtained from legislative proceedings during the passage of this concession does not point to a possibility that this concession was ratified without provision for review.”

– The House’s Specialized Committee

On the APM Terminals, the Committee reported that the company is probably the only concession in Liberia that does not have a review clause, something that is hindering the Legislature from exercising its oversight responsibility.

The Committee recommended that plenary mandates the NIC and the National Port Authority (NPA) to initiate an amendment process of the AMP Terminals concession, using Article 20.01 that states: “No Change, amendment, or modification of this agreement shall be valid or binding upon the parties hereto unless such change, amendment or modification shall be written and dully executed by the parties hereto.”

“It is unconventional for a concession not to have a provision for review. The Committee does not believe that a concession should be signed and ratified without a review clause,” the Committee stated.

A review of information obtained from legislative proceedings during the passage of this concession was ratified without provision for review.

“It is unconventional for a concession not to have a provision for review. The Committee does not believe that a concession should be signed and ratified without a review clause. A review of information obtained from legislative proceedings during the passage of this concession does not point to a possibility that this concession was ratified without provision for review,” the Committee reported.

The committee furthered that it is of the view that no concession in Liberia should fall short of best practice, and suggested that an investigation should be launched to include agents of the executive who were involved with the concession, particularly for those responsible for printing the law into handbill.

Members’ Responses 

Following, the Chairman, Rep. Massaquoi’s presentation, several lawmakers took the floor and commended the committee for the review so far, and called call on the Legislature to step up its game and perform its oversight fully.

Rep. Edwin M. Snowe of Bomi County’s District #1, in a strong statement called on the House to initiate a process that will lead to re-visiting all concessions in the interest of the country.

“Mr. Speaker, I close on this matter, asking you to ensure that plenary takes all necessary actions to ensure that right things are done. If we cannot take this matter serious, then we will be damned,” Rep. Snowe said.

On BIVAC

Meanwhile, the committee also pointed out that it discovered that BIVAC contract expired on August 18, 2018, and was extended by agents of the Executive without inputs from the Legislature.

The Extension, the Committee added, “maintained essentially everything in the expired contract, notable was the decision of the Executive baring the Government of Liberia from receiving portion of the minimum deposited for all imports and exports.”

The Committee then requested the General Audit Commission (GAC) to conduct an audit of BIVAC operations for the past five years.

Liberia Agriculture Company (LAC)

On LAC, the Committee said since it began operation in 1959, there is no record to show that the concession was ratified by an act of Legislation, except for an attempted amendment during the administration of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

The Committee then recommended that a review of LAC agreement should consider reducing the land size since the company has not shown capacity of utilizing the available land.

Meanwhile, based on a recommendation of the committee to continue the review of documents through its sub-committee, and conduct site visit to establish the level of compliance with existing contracts, concession and incentive, plenary voted upon a motion to allocate additional time for the committee to carry on its work.

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