Liberian business officials are demanding Global Tracking and Maritime Solutions (GTMS) to pack off and leave the country, accusing it of allegedly creating serious economic hardship through imposition of high fees on struggling businesses without clarity on whether such fees collected go into government revenues or individuals’ pockets.
Addressing a joint press conference Saturday, 20 June in Paynesville, officials from the Liberia Business Association (LIBA), Patriotic Entrepreneur of Liberia (PATEL), Paynesville Business Association and the Brokers Union of Liberia said they want government to get GTMS out of the country or revisit its concession with GTMS.
The business representatives lament that business people have to pay GTMS, APM Terminals, BIVAC and the shipping lines at the port of entry, thereby resulting to high prices being charged for goods on the market here which affect the end users.
At the press conference held at LIBA’s office in Paynesville, PATEL Chairman Mr. Dominic Nimely complains that GTMS, once booted out of Sierra Leone under the name CTN, is in Liberia heavily fining importers up to US$800, and wanting to levy a charge for each car brought in a container.
“The revenue you collect where does it go? We don’t know. We don’t know where the money go. You’re not issuing flag receipt, you just impose on us so we say CTN should pack off and leave Liberia. We cannot have CTN and BIVA at the same time. CTN is a violation,” Nimely says.
He urges President George Manneh Weah to live up to his pledge that Liberians will not be spectators in their own economy by creating a level playing field. Mr. James M. Sirother, president of LIBA, calls for government’s intervention, saying the end users here suffer most from this serious hardship brought upon Liberians because “businessman is not a looser.”
He notes that GTMS was brought in to work along with APM Terminals to ensure documentations were tracked in, but laments that what started as US$25 for service fee has now grown to US$300 while the companies also does commerce work.
“And this money that is collected it is not paid to government revenue. It’s directly in somebody’s pocket because there’s no flag receipt. They give you computer print receipt,” Mr. Sirother alleges.
“That show’s that there’s no tracking that you can do on that money. Anybody can set that system in their computer and print that receipt, invoices and give it to you,” he adds, and calls on the president to look into this matter to show concern for the people that elected him.
Lawrence Cole, PATEL Secretary General, also alleges that GTMS is violating all the treaties that Liberia is part of, including the World Trade Organization, World Custom Organization, and ECOWAS Trade Facilitation, among others.
He questions the legitimacy of GTMS’ existence in Liberia, lamenting that government through the National Port Authority (NPA) earlier informed businesses that it was adding US$175 as charge, with the understanding that this charge would not have exceeded US$175. Contrary to this, he claims that GTMS now charges up to US$800 and does not issue flag receipt to signify that monies it collects from business people go to Liberia’s revenue account.
Mr. Cole alleges further that when GTMS is asked where these fees go, the company allegedly indicates that it pays to NPA whatever fees collected. Additionally, he says GTMS does not have on – site security teams like other firms do to know what is being loaded to a container, calling on government to revisit the concession with GTMS.
Robert WuoFeahn from the Brokers Union of Liberia wonders why NPA is not taking the responsibility of paying GTMS if it hires the group’s services, instead of shifting the financial burden on struggling Liberian businesses.
He complains that businesspeople are fed up with GTMS’ activities here, accusing the group of allegedly exploiting Liberians, doing commerce job, carrying on price analysis and imposing high fees. Mr. Feahn claims that GTMS had informed him that it was hired as a security company by NPA Managing Director Bill Tweahway and it reports fees collected to Tweahway.
“… I’m asking the Liberian government, mainly the president to see reason to get CTN out of Liberia. If they can get CTN out of Sierra Leone, what about Liberia? What is the function of this CTN?” Mr. Feahn ponders. When contacted Sunday, 21 June, NPA’s Malcolm Scott said his boss Mr. Bill Tweahway is not the NPA and does not have extra account opened in his name to receive fees intended for the port.
Mr. Scott says what he knows is that GTMS has a concession with the government and it pays royalty to the government for operating. According to him, when Mr. Tweahway was appointed as NPA Managing Director, GTMS was already in motion, saying the group came into being when the MD was not at the port.
“GTMS was in existence before Bill Tweahway’s appointment, okay. So who [were] they paying to? Bill Tweahway or the port? Were they taking money to him when he was not appointed? The next thing is NPA does not have an account with individual’s name. Money to the port are not paid in royalty to individuals. So you don’t pay money to Bill Tweahway,” he argues.
By Winston W. Parley