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 Gov’t officials to get X’mas bonuses

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Several government officials here, among them senior officials at the Ministries of Finance Development Planning or MFDP, and State for Presidential Affairs are bracing themselves for what is now being considered as Christmas bonuses to account for some US10 million allegedly spent on the renovation of the Executive Mansion.

Renovation work on the Executive Mansion, which gutted fire on July 26, 2006, is still ongoing, but recent audit reports released by the state’s General Auditing Commission or GAC shows a waste of over US10, 443,959.61.

President Sirleaf has vowed actions will be taken to ensure accountability for public resources, following a receipt of the audit report in which auditors have recommended that the Ministries of State for Presidential Affairs and MFDP be held accountable.

A release from the Executive Mansion over the weekend said President Sirleaf is reviewing the report with her new henchman, Cllr. J. Fonati Koffa to establish the necessary actions and measures to be taken.

“She pointed out that the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) and others who played key roles in the renovation process will be required to provide explanation for issues raised in the report and help with the review process,” the release said.

An earlier review by Cllr. Koffa into the Global Witness report in which several government officials both past and present led to the prosecution of former House Speaker Alex Tyler and the ruling Unity Party former Chairman Varney Sherman.

There are speculations this review may lead to the summoning and subsequent persecution of officials alleged of misapplication of the state’s money. Excerpts of the GAC Audit report The GAC Audit reported that due to the fire incident in July 2006 at the Executive Mansion, the Government of Liberia initiated renovation of the Executive Mansion and authorized the award of seven (7) Renovation contracts at the cost of US $31, 705, 072 .21, in the following manner with the resulting conditions and consequences that:

a) “US $8 million was appropriated for FY2006/2007 through 2009/2010 for the Executive Mansion renovation Project as per approved national budget. Additionally, as per Ministry of Finance & Development Planning template, an amount of US $1, 500, 000.00 was transferred from the appropriation during FY2007/2008 without documenting the purpose of the transfer”.

b) The “Ministry of state for Presidential Affairs and the CNQC Qingjian International (Lib) Group Development Co., Ltd entered into two contracts on April 27, 2011 and December 19, 2012 for renovation and rehabilitation of the Executive Mansion for the total amount of US $24, 788, 101.18 and that CNQC Qingjian was paid US $10, 443, 959. 61 on the two contracts, but terminated the contract without performance”.

c) “The Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs, the leading agency in the Executive Branch of Government, awarded the renovation contracts to Milton & Richards Architects/Engineers, CNQC Qingjian, Building/Construction Engineers, VAXS, Inc., CESAF, Inc., and Cape Resources, Inc. without public bidding and participation of the Public Procurement & Concession Commission (PPCC) in flagrant violation of the PPCC Act”.

d) “The Milton & Richards Architectural/Engineering Consultancy Firm, agent of the Ministry of state, failed to ensure that CNQC Qinglian International execute the contract based on the agreed terms and conditions which, subsequently, led to substandard performance, resulting to wasteful expenditure of US $10, 443, 959.61”.

e) The “Ministry of State and VAXS, Inc. entered into a contract dated March 13, 2013 for the amount of US $643, 995.00 for electronic security surveillance system specifically designed to be installed at the entire Executive Mansion Building, its perimeter and grounds, including gates. But request for verification of delivery and installation of the electronic security devices has been denied, unverified”.

f) The “Ministry of State could not provide, for review, a comprehensive inventory listing of furniture and other fixed assets acquired for the Executive Mansion before and during renovation for the period July 1, 2006 through June 30, 2015. On February 24, 2016, the Ministry of State and CESAF Liberia, Ltd., Civil Contractors, conducted an inventory count on internal furniture removed from the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th floors of the Executive Mansion by CESAF Liberia, Ltd”.

g) “That the documents reviewed (by GAC Audit) showed that the Ministry of Lands, Mines & Energy (MLME) sold two piles of scrap material (described as “scrap” and looted from the Executive Mansion) estimated at ten metric tons to North Star Industries, Inc. for US $500.00 and US $1, 100.00, without the involvement of GSA”.

h) And finally that “the Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs and the Ministry of Finance & Development Planning must be held accountable for all Executive Mansion Renovation contract payments budgeted, approved and paid”, but misapplied, with all remedy due the Government of Liberia for Project policy and law deficiency.

i) By Othello B. Garblah

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