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GeneralLiberia news

Govt. defends plan to acquire equipment

The Government of Liberia says the law supports the President’s ability to negotiate and secure equipment for the country despite public criticism.

By Kruah Thompson

Monrovia, Liberia, May 29, 2024 – Amid controversy surrounding disclosure by the Government of Liberia about plans to acquire 285 pieces of equipment for road construction across the country, with some members of the 55th Legislature questioning sources of funding, Liberia’s Minister of Information, Culture Affairs and Tourism, Jerolinmek Matthew Piah, reminds the public here that under Liberian law, the Executive Branch of government, headed by the President, has authority to negotiate and secure equipment for the country.

“Regarding having the yellow machines, the scenario may be different as to how you meet the legal requirements, depending on what they finally agree on, and that is why I talked about what had been announced. Because in the end, when you have concluded, you can make a formal announcement”, Minister Piah says.

He notes that the formal announcement, rather than a presentation or update during a cabinet retreat, allows people to react. 

However, Piah explains that the government is fully aware of the lawful requirements associated with its power to negotiate agreements on behalf of the State. 

He assures that such decisions will be made in accordance with these requirements, while President Boakai’s commitment to upholding the rule of law.

At the same time, the Minister dismissed recent Facebook claims made by Sinoe County Senator Cllr. Augustine S. Chea and Gbarpolu County Senator Amara Konneh, who both requested President Boakai to provide detailed information on the financing of the 285 earth-moving equipment announced by the Minister of State Without Portfolio, Mamaka Bility, at last week’s cabinet retreat in Monrovia.

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The government of President Boakai held its inaugural cabinet retreat from Thursday, May 21, to Saturday, May 23, 2024. Throughout the retreat, government ministries, agencies, international partners, and civil society organizations provided updates on their activities during the first 100 days of the administration.

One of the notable updates during the retreat that caught public attention was a presentation by Minister of State Without Portfolio, Bility, who showcased video footage announcing the deployment of 285 earth-moving equipment across the country’s 15 political subdivisions.

This initiative aims to bolster government’s efforts in rural roads construction.

Following the announcement on Friday, May 19th, 2024, Sinoe County Senator Chea and Gbarpolu County Senator Konneh took to their official Facebook pages and criticized the government’s decision.

The senators expressed concerns over the lack of disclosure of funding for the equipment, as there is no allocation in the national budget for said purpose. They also argued that the decision or pronouncement was made without consultation with the legislature, which they argue violates the Public Procurement and Concession Act.

Reacting to the posts, Minister Piah clarified that the presentation by the Minister of State Without Portfolio didn’t necessitate much time for her to provide comprehensive updates on the availability of the equipment. 

According to him, the government did not disclose the decision regarding implementing the equipment concept.

“Even though the video may showcase some of the announced earth-moving equipment, there’s now a firestorm of criticism, and people are expressing concerns.

He particularly notes the involvement of individuals from all branches of government, not in their official leadership capacities but acting independently as representatives of their respective branches, discussing what should or should not be done.

The government spokesman observed that the Senators lied in their posts when they stated that they had consulted him (Piah) and that he had not replied.

 Instead, he argues that he replied to the message, emphasizing the issue’s importance and suggesting a call to discuss further.

Besides, he claims the ministry texted, and he even provided his number for the senators to call him, but they never did, and instead, chose to criticize what is largely yet a concept. Editing by Jonathan Browne   

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