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Liberia Poised to Cancel Bad Deal with Ghanaian Firm, Milking Country Over Biometric Passports

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A copy of the “Notice of Cancellation” from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to Buck Press Limited in Accra, Ghana, seen by FrontPageAfrica, outlined a number of contract breaches from the company which made the deal nearly impossible for Liberia to continue. Among the reasons given, the government through the Foreign Ministry said Buck had failed to establish Passport Application Centers in all Liberian Foreign Missions despite its agreement to do so at the signing of the extension in 2017. The company’s lapses led to a recent shortage of passports in Liberia.

Rodney D. Sieh, [email protected]


Accra, Ghana – Just before President George Manneh Weah inherited the mantle of authority from former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, something sinister took place under the radar when no one was looking – or paying attention. Authorities at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in the dying days of the Sirleaf era, finalized the extension of the restated biometric passport contract, committing Liberia to the Ghanaian printers, Buck Press Limited for a whopping USD 11.5m (eleven and a half million), on or before March 2021.

100 Percent Proceeds to Buck

The contract seen by FrontPageAfrica states that it can only be terminated when the following conditions are met:

“All 174,000 passports have been personalized; and Buck Press realizes USD 11.5m (eleven and a half million), Should Buck Press not achieve USD 11.5m the contract Period is extended for an additional term of twenty-four months until March 30, 2023 (the extended term) to allow for the personalization of additional ePassport application up to 60,000.” Buck Press shall receive one hundred percent (100%) of the proceeds from the Personalization of all additional 60,000 ePassport applications up to the unrealized portion of the contract value of USD 11.5M.

‘Cancellation Notice’

FrontPageAfrica has learned that OeSD, the German company which provides safety standard Supplemental Access Control for electronic passports and electronic access chips and encryption for Liberian passports, recently took Buck Press Limited to task for being delinquent in its commitment to pay for services rendered.

Now, FrontPageAfrica has gathered that in the wake of the recent shortage of passports at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Weah administration has notified Buck Press of its intentions of cancelling the contract. The company’s representatives have reportedly been summoned to Monrovia for a meeting on July 29 during which notice of cancellation is expected to be finalized.

A copy of the “Notice of Cancellation” from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the printing press obtained by FrontPageAfrica outlined a number of contract breaches from the company which made the deal nearly impossible for Liberia to continue, signed April 7, 2017, it gave Buck Press Limited an immediate Notice of Cancellation of the Contract

Among the reasons given, the government through the Foreign Ministry said Buck had failed to establish Passport Application Centers in all Liberian Foreign Missions despite its agreement to do so at the signing of the extension in 2017.

In a bid to address the huge demands for passports in Liberia and not to forestall medical emergencies and travel by Liberians, OeSD recently commenced providing emergency quantities of passports directly to the government of Liberia and not through Buck.

The government was taken aback over the fact that Buck had put the government in a difficult situation of not being able to provide the means of fulfilling its commitment to provide consular services to its citizens residing outside the geographical territory of Liberia.

The government’s cancellation notice said Buck’s deliberate omission to meet these obligations under the contract, and the further instance by Buck Press by a confirmatory notice dated March 5, 2019 amounts to a material breach of the contract.

The cancellation notice added that Buck’s omission amounts to deliberate attempt to extend indefinitely the biometric passport supply contract to the detriment of the Government and people of Liberia, a fact that has been on-going since April 2004, a total of fifteen years to date.

The cancellation notice notified Buck Press that it had not kept either the International Bank(IB) nor the vaults at the Ministry, the established quantity of passport required for personalization as contracted. “The result being that Government has had to restrict and deny Ordinary Passport applications from deserving Liberian citizens.

Recent Shortage Report Confirmed

During the recent shortage in Monrovia, the cancellation notice confirms a FrontPageAfrica report that there were not enough passports in the country. “There are currently less than 20 Ordinary Passports in the Ministry’s vaults. The government notes that this depletion in passport stock has occurred three times in the last twelve months resulting in an irregular and hurried dispatch of Service and Official of Category Passports directly to the Ministry, bypassing the IB Bank stage. This is further material Breach of the Contract.

That Buck has continually reneged on its contractual obligations to supply passports to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and in the wake of the shortage of passports in the country, the government of Liberia said Buck Press had failed on its promises to provide the passports respectively on June 12, 2019, June 14, 2019 and up to the present.

“There are currently less than 20 Ordinary Passports in the Ministry’s vaults. The government notes that this depletion in passport stock has occurred three times in the last twelve months resulting in an irregular and hurried dispatch of Service and Official of Category Passports directly to the Ministry, bypassing the IB Bank stage. This is further material Breach of the Contract.”

Excerpts from Cancellation Notice from the Government of Liberia to Buck Press Limited of Ghana, seen by FrontPageAfrica

FrontPageAfrica has learned that in the wake of the recent shortage, Foreign Affairs Minister Gbezohnga Findley recently brought in 500 passports into the country and another 1,500 passports came in the country.
In notifying Buck Press Limited of the cancellation of the contract, the government also notified IB Bank and UBA Banks in Liberia that it has authorized the cessation of all payments in any form, from the Escrow Accounts held under the MOU’s to any payments in any form, from the Escrow Accounts held under the MOUs to any party under the Agreements or MOU’s until the completion of a final stock and financial audit of the passports and revenues and notice thereof of stock confirmation and revenue distribution is addressed to the banks.

Despite the bad deal, Buck is said to have been busy over the past few weeks personally lobbying internally within the Foreign Ministry and other government offices to stay on. But multiple sources have confirmed to FrontPageAfrica that the Liberian government is unlikely to do so.

USD50 to USD45: Passport Reduction Yet to be Implemented

In the wake of the ongoing development, Foreign Ministry sources told FrontPageAfrica at the weekend, that the July 29 meeting in Monrovia could prove pivotal as Liberia looks to solve the ongoing passports shortage saga. For Buck Press Limited, time may be running out after more than a decade of riding on the vulnerabilities and lapses in nation with serious governance issues as Liberia, according to sources look to deal directly with OeSD to end the nightmare which has engulfed passport applicants.

A key reason, FrontPageAfrica has learned, is that Buck’s Managing Director Mr. Eric Kofi Buckman, in a communication to the Foreign Ministry, also in FrontPageAfrica’s possession, appear to be against the reduction of passport fees for Liberians because it could hurt his chances of getting his USD11 million by the end of the contract by 2022.

In his Annual Message in January, President Weah declared that his government was dropping the price of passports. “In the face of rising global prices, the government has been able to reduce the basic prices of fuel on the Liberian market. Fuel prices have been reduced as follows: Gas: 3.70 reduce to 3.30 and AGO has been reduced from 3.95 cents to 3.70. Likewise, the price of an ordinary passport has been reduced by 10%, from $50 to $45.”

Despite the President’s pledge, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs because, according to sources, Buck’s MD Buckman is reneging.

In a communication to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in January, Mr. Buckman while emphasizing the potential impact on passport revenue if the price of passports is reduced from USD50 to USD45, was not prepared to renegotiate on Buck receiving the total USD 11.5m. Buck was prepared to renegotiate only if the cost of reduction was borne by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs .

Said Buckman: “Nevertheless, GOL will not be able to increase standard application fee of USD50.00 as contractually required but rather would wish to reduce the standard application fee, as this was a parliamentary commitment.


Delinquent Buck Press Indebted to OeSD

Mr. Kofi Buckman, Managing Director, Buck Press Ltd, Accra, Ghana.

According to Buckman, a meeting had agreed that the e-Passport application quantities would likely be adversely affected when the AU passport and ECOWAS ID card comes into effect. Thus, immediate steps needed to be taken to minimize the possible government supplementary USD sum should the USD 11.m not be realized before the AU passport and ECOWAS ID card comes into effect.

In reality, FPA has learned, Buck has for more than a year has been the key reason for the shortage of passports in Liberia.

A case in point, both the Foreign Ministry and the German security firm, OSD denied Buckman’s claims that Buck has prepaid for 14,000 passports.
In June, the MoF sent the following communication to Mr. Buckman, informing him that he had failed to provide the 14,000 passports as required even though he claimed to have paid for their production.

The Ministry wrote:

Dear Mr. Buckman,

Your communication of 27th June, 2019 in further follow up to the Buck Press letter of June 21, 2019, along with copy of internal email exchanges between your institution and the producers and suppliers of the Liberian ECOWAS Biometric Passports, OSD, is acknowledged.

Based on your communication that 14,000 pieces of passports have substantially been paid for in advance, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs expects that Buck Press will deliver the passports bases on the existing arrangement between Buck Press and the suppliers of the Liberian ECOWAS Passports.

You will be aware that there is a brewing crisis, and the Government of Liberia has to respond and mitigate the crisis with the applicants here in Liberia and abroad. It is expected that the resumption of passport issuance will commence by the week of July 1, 2019 in accordance with the Contract terms.

Additional, OeSD notified Buckman and his printing press that it has been delinquent in its commitment to the German company which provides safety standard Supplemental Access Control for electronic passports and electronic access chips and encryption that has enhanced the credibility of Liberian passports.

As of June 25, 2019, Buck Press, according to communications in possession of FrontPageAfrica had not paid in advance for any Liberian passports.

In fact, the German company, FrontPageAfrica has learned has refused to supply Republic of Liberia passports through Buck Press under the frame of the existing contract.

In a bid to address the huge demands for passports in Liberia and not to forestall medical emergencies and travel by Liberians, OeSD recently commenced providing emergency quantities of passports directly to the government of Liberia and not through Buck.

In the wake of the ongoing development, Foreign Ministry sources told FrontPageAfrica at the weekend, that the July 29 meeting in Monrovia could prove pivotal as Liberia looks to solve the ongoing passports shortage saga.

For Buck Press Limited, time may be running out after more than a decade of riding on the vulnerabilities and lapses in nation with serious governance issues as Liberia, according to sources look to deal directly with OeSD to end the nightmare which has engulfed passport applicants.

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