Monrovia – Liberian laws are being blatantly violated right under the noses of lawmakers and they have endorsed it. The cases of the Eton and EBOMAF Financing Agreements are the classic examples.
Report by Lennart Dodoo, [email protected]
The intent of both loans, US$536 million for ETON and US$420 million for EBOMAF have been embraced by a greater portion of the population, believing that road construction throughout the country, especially the Southeast, will set the pace for economic and infrastructural recovery for the country.
However, conditions and circumstances under which the agreements were prepared and passed raised many eyebrows and project a bleak future over accountability and transparency in utilizing the loan when finally obtained.
Adding to the litany of controversies surrounding both loans, the Public Procurement Concession Commission (PPCC) recently expressed its disappointment with the Legislature for not inviting them for their perspective on the agreements during the public hearing.
The Legislature, though this being the fourth since the civil war ended, is on record for passing several agreements that didn’t meet the requirements of Liberian laws and hence didn’t serve the interest of the country and its people.
The ETON and EBOMAF agreements were passed in less than a week after they were submitted to the Legislature for ratification. A week later, both were signed into law by President George Manneh Weah and Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor.
However, comments coming from the Chief Executive Officer of the PPCC may suggest that the Legislature failed to exercise due diligence in scrutinizing the agreements before forwarding to the President.
In an attempt to have all stakeholders scrutinize the agreements before passage, the Legislature claimed to have invited members of the civil society, yet the civil society was represented by Dr. Lester Tenny, who is well known to be a key member of the ruling establishment.
In a rather sarcastic tone, Dr. Tenny brushed off all major concerns that have been raised over the credibility of ETON Private Finance Ltd., noting that Liberia could even borrow money from Lucifer if he’s willing to give it.
Justice Minister Cllr. Frank Musa Dean also told the legislators that the concerns about lack of sufficient information on the financing company on the internet raising suspicion cannot be a factor to consider. He asked, “would the money come through the web?” He assured lawmakers that the loan agreement meets all legal requirements to warrant its passage.
But the PPCC, which is responsible to ensure efficiency in procurement and best value for public expenditures, promote competition and foster participation in procurement proceedings and concession agreements by qualified suppliers, contractors and consultants, were never invited to the public hearing.
The PPCC would have mattered in the public hearing because both loan agreements tend to award road construction contracts to the loaner under single sourcing arrangements without recognition of the country’s procurement laws.
Mr. Jallah broke silence on the passage of the loan agreements during an interaction with a group of media practitioners who were undergoing training on financial reporting.
He then confirmed to FrontPageAfrica his assertion. “The section on single sourcing is Section 55 of the PPCC law; when you read that section, you’ll see that there are specific conditions under which single source is granted – none of those conditions were met for the granting of that loan. It didn’t meet the requirements of the law. Apparently, those are some of the reasons that why the Legislature decided not to invite the PPCC, because we would have flagged that.” – James Dorbor Jallah, Chief Executive Officer, Public Procurement Concession Commission
The ETON Contract stipulates that the MAEIL Construction Liberia Company would undertake the US$536 million road project which primarily seeks to link the southeastern counties.
Single sourcing the contract without following PPCC requirements, according to Mr. Jallah, is disturbing.
Section 55 states:
Single Sourcing: Public procurement by means of the sole-source procurement method is permitted only in the following circumstances
(a) When only one supplier has the exclusive right to manufacture the goods, carry out the works, or perform the services to be procured and no suitable alternative is available
(b) For additional deliveries of goods by the original supplier which are intended either as parts replacement for existing goods, services or installations, or as the extension of existing goods, services or installations where a change of supplier would compel the Procuring Entity to procure equipment or services not meeting requirements of interchangeability with already existing equipment or services
(c) When additional works, which were not included in the initial contract, have through unforeseeable circumstances, become necessary and the separation of the additional works or services from the initial contract would be difficult for technical or economic reasons;
(d) In cases of extreme urgency, provided the circumstances which gave rise to the urgency were neither foreseeable by the Procuring Entity nor the result of dilatory conduct on its part;
(e) When the services require that a particular consultant be selected due to his/her unique qualifications, or when it is indispensable to continue with the same consultant.
(2) Use of sole-source procurement on the grounds referred to in paragraphs (b), (c), (d), and (e) of Section 1 is subject to prior approval by the Procurement Committee.
Basic Procedures for Sole-Source Procurement
- (1) When the Procuring Entity engages in sole-source procurement on the grounds referred to in subsection 57 (1) (b), (c), (d) and (e), it shall prepare a written description of its needs and any special requirements as to quality, quantity, terms and time of delivery; and shall request submission of a bid or proposal in writing or both and shall be free to negotiate with the sole bidder.
(2) Publication in the Procurement Bulletin, Gazette, a newspaper of national circulation and, when feasible on the internet, of a notice of the holding of sole-source procurement proceedings is required when the
estimated value of the procurement exceeds the threshold set in the Schedule.
Rep. Francis Dopoh of River Gee County and a member of the House’s Ways, Means and Finance Committee was present at the function where the PPCC boss had divulged his disappointment with the Legislature. He told the gathering, “Let me clarify something here; the Legislature did contact the executive branch of government, and the Minister of Justice told us that everything was legally right to move ahead with the agreement so we were not responsible to get the PPCC involved, because the Executive Branch was in the know; I just thought to clear that.”
The PPCC, according to Jallah, cannot do anything about the blatant violation. He said, the Ministry of Justice, who advised the passage and the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission are responsible for prosecuting violators of the PPCC laws.
“Under our law, though PPCC can report, prosecution lies with the Ministry of Justice which we understand from the honorable gave them assurances that the agreement is in line with the law… But this one, the violation is in clear glaring of the public; there was nothing hidden so it’s self-evident. It’s up to the prosecuting authorities to actually take action,” he said.