Rep. Vincent Willie Wants Renovation at Executive Mansion Halted, Demands Forensic Audit of US$20m Budgetary Appropriation
MONROVIA – Representative Vincent T. Willie (Grand Bassa County Electoral District #4) has called for an immediate halt to all renovation works at the Executive Mansion to be followed by a forensic audit of monies pumped into the project.
In a communication to the plenary of the House of Representatives on Thursday, August 8, 2019, Rep. Willie revealed that a staggering US$60.5 million has been appropriated for the renovation of the Executive Mansion between 2010 and 2019.
Despite the huge budgetary allotment, he noted that the building is yet to be completed, while government continues to appropriate more money towards the project.
The Executive Mansion is the official office and residence of the President of Liberia. The fourth-floor building was gutted by fire on July 26, 2006 during Liberia’s 159th Independence celebration and severely damaged the fourth floor.
After the incident, which occurred during the first year of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the government began major renovation works.
Representative Willie, in a three-count-recommendation contained in his communication called for an immediate halt of all renovation works at the Executive Mansion until a reputable auditing firm conducts a full forensic audit.
He also called for the setting up of an ad hoc committee to inspect the level of the renovation work at the Mansion and craved the indulgence of plenary to invite those responsible for overseeing the execution of the project to explain when the work will be completed.
Addressing reporters at his capitol building office, the Grand Bassa County lawmaker expressed dismayed over the slow pace of the refurbishment work despite huge budgetary allocation and termed the project as a political dragon that is eating up taxpayers’ money with no result.
Said Rep. Willie: “We will have a specialized committee set up by the Speaker to investigate and recommend. All I can say this renovation project is a dragon. We consider it as a political dragon that continues to eat the Liberian people money because the project is taking the people’s money and no work can be done. It is like every day you feeding it and no result. You come this year, we put US$6 million, but nothing. You come back again in an election year and get US$10 million but nothing.”
Breakdown of Budgetary Allocation
In Rep. Willie’s communication, the breakdown of the total budgetary allocation revealed that US$20,136,908 was allocated between fiscal years 2010/2011 and 2015/2016; while US$40,414,499 was appropriated between fiscal year 2016/2017 and 2018/2019.
The following is the breakdown:
2010/2011 : US$973,496
2011/2012 : US$1,230,078
Besides the allocations shown above, Rep. Willie noted that his research has discovered several appropriations as captured from the 2018/2019 national budget for the same renovation activities on the Mansion as shown below.
2016/2017 (actual budget) : US$16,225,417
2017/2018 (est. out-turn) : US$8,189,082
2017/2018 (budget) : US$US$10,000,000
2018/2019 : US$6,000,000
Total : US$40,414,499
He also disclosed that the US$4,080,000 has already been allotted in the current 2019/2020 draft national budget to the project, while a projection of US$7,140,000 has been made for 2020/2021.
He noted that the US$4,080,000 allotted for this current budget year will not be approved until the past money is accounted for.
Meanwhile, following the reading of Rep. Willie’s communication by Deputy Chief Clerk J. Sayfah Geeplay, plenary decided that the communication be sent to a specialized committee to be set up by Speaker Bhofal Chambers for review and subsequent recommendations.
“Summon Ex-President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Establish War Crimes Court”
Rep. Willie has been an ardent advocate for the establishment of an economic crimes court in Liberia to prosecute those that have been accused of corruption and other forms of financial malpractices.
According to him, the widespread mismanagement of public fund should be the basis for the establishment of the court.
Addressing reporters, Rep Willie noted that his recommendations calling for probe into the expenditure of funds allotted towards the renovation of the Executive Mansion is in support of President George Weah’s assets recovery scheme.
“The president spoke about assets recovery and this is cash that we are talking about here. And that’s the people’s money. We must know where it is going and how it is being spent. This is why some of us call for an Economic Crimes Court. There are people in this country who have built duplexes and have enjoyed from our people’s money. I know there is misappropriation of money because what I am seeing here the figure does not commiserate with the actual work done on that building at all,” he asserted.
He also called for the appearance of former president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to appear before the House to give accounts of the project as during her administration that the work started.
He added: “That is why some of us are pushing that US$4 million that is projected in this budget will be removed until we can have a full report of all of the money that was used in the past regime; how it was used and who is the contractor. That is why I am requesting to my colleagues that the former President must also appear before the committee to answer to some of these questions. Because we elected her to preside and be able to lead our people. So, if money is appropriated and nothing happened, she must account for it.”
Background of the Executive Mansion
The Executive Mansion is the official office and residence of the President of Liberia. It was completed in 1964 during the administration of President William V. S. Tubman by 2000 workers including 150 foreigners. The eight-floor building with its many features cost US$20 million back then, although the value will be far much higher today.
Since its completion, it was the official office and resident of Presidents William V. S. Tubman, William R. Tolbert, Jr. and Samuel K. Doe.
President Tolbert was brutally murdered at the Mansion in a bloody coup orchestrated by a group of low-ranking members of the Armed Forces of Liberia.
The late President Samuel K. Doe survived an attempted coup staged by his former ally, Thomas Quiwonkpah following his election in 1985.
Although former President Charles Taylor did not take up residency at the Mansion, it was his official office.
Like Taylor, ex-president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf did not take up official residence of the Mansion, although it did not stay long in her presidency when the building was mistakenly set ablaze.
The ‘unfortunate’ incident which was blamed to an electrical fault happened on the fourth floor of the Mansion while the then President Sirleaf was hosting a reception for her former counterparts including John Kufuor of Ghana, Laurent Gbagbo of Ivory Coast, and Tejan Kabbah of Sierra Leone who were her guests during Liberia’s 159th Independence Day Celebration.
Following the incident, she made the Ministry of Foreign Affairs her official workplace for her entire two six-year terms.