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“RIA Road Expansion, A Good Project but the ACT of Illegality”

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In 2015, the Ministry of Public under the administration of Min. W. Gyude Moore developed a road project to intervene in communities within and around the capital to construct communities roads using “rigid pavement (concrete)”. Having conducted an engineering assessment; the Ministry of Public Works developed a pilot project to showcase government’s intent to improve conditions of communities roads with the objective of almost eliminating maintenance because of the longitivtiy of rigid pavement.

The Rigid Pavement-Pilot Project
The pilot project was executed through a national competitive bidding procurement process sanctioned by the Public Procurement & Concession Commission (PPCC) headed by Dorbor Jallah who is well known for his integrity during his tenure at the PPCC. The East International Company amongst other companies that submitted bids was selected as winner based on its completion of a project in the Gaye Town community, Old Road financed by the Monsterrado County development fund. Upon the completion of the procurement process;

the Ministries of Public Works, Finance & Development Planning and Justice as required by the procurement law of Liberia certified the company’s contract award. The rigid pavement road pilot project was implemented in three (3) selected communities: PHP Community-Redemption Road, Old Road Community-Symthe Road and Thinkers’ Village Community-Old Telecom Road.

The Rigid Pavement-75 Kilometers (Communities Roads and Bomi County) When the pilot project was being implemented; the Ministry of Public Works agreed that rigid pavement in communities would be the way go. Hence, a bigger project was developed to pave 51 kms of roads in and around Monrovia and 24.5k in Bomi County modeled on the basis based of pre-financing totaling a contract amount of US$79,472,548.29. The ministry was cognizant that the Government of Liberia didn’t have sufficient money to invest in such a large project considering the upfront investment cost.

However, based on the “risk free” pre-financing model meaning the company that wins the bid will take all the risks associated with sourcing funding to invest in the project; it was conceived. The project was designed that the Liberian Government would make payment to the contractor upon the completion of works as outlined in the project document. Considering the perimeters, the Ministry of Public Works transparently conducted an “International Bidding Process” after which only the East International Company submitted bid.

R. Layfette Giddings
Former Deputy Minister-Administration, MPW
Former Senior Program Office, President’s Delivery Unit Based on size of the project; the Ministry informed the PPCC that it was inclined to relaunch the tendering process for which East International was very dissatisfied and threatened to complain the Ministry to the PPCC. However, East later declined because PPCC also felt the Ministry needed to encourage full participation in the tendering process of such a big project to guarantee “value for money” and ensure TRANSPARENCY and
ACCOUNTABILITY.

The International Bidding Process was relaunched and three companies this time submitted bids (East International Company, Compagnie Sahelienne D’Enterprises, a Senegalese firm currently paving Ganta- Sanniquelle-Yekepa and ADI Contractors). After the evaluation of the financial and technical proposals submitted by the three companies, again East International won the bid sanctioned by the PPCC. East International was now responsible to source the funding without the Government of Liberia providing any form of guarantee. Several communities roads were listed in the project document; to name a few included: the Doe Community, Chugbor, Banjul, Chocolate City, Thinkers’Village Guest House, Neeklay’s Town, Pipeline, Soul Clinic, etc. Let me emphasize that, the RIA Corridor was never included in the rigid pavement project.

Considering the benefit of the project; the Ministry of Public Works advised the Presidency that the proposed financing agreement should be ratified by the Legislature (House Representative and Senate) because the financing commitment as loan was over a 7 year period which would’ve committed the future government. The legislature in its wisdom, ratified the agreement which committed the incoming Executive Branch of Government to execute the agreement in line with the contract certified by ministries of Public Works, Finance & Development Planning, Justice and PPCC which oversaw the procurement and sanctioned the contract award.

The Robert International Airport (RIA) Road Corridor Inclusion, a Misstep
The Procurement Law acceptable provision for a “change order” or an amendment to the cost of a road contract
affecting the amount can only consider a 10% adjustment of the contract value. Additionally, the adjustment can’t consider a new scope of works like the RIA Road Corridor which is about 45 kms in length. The length of RIA Road Corridor is over 50% of the total length of original contract which didn’t include RIA Road Corridor.

Beside, the RIA Road Corridor is an asphalt pavement which is sharply different from rigid pavement characteristics. Don’t get me wrong; we did rehabilitate the existing RIA Corridor and designed a project future for expansion with a 3D Video that is being viewed on facebook. So, we do want to see this corridor expansion being implemented but should done within the confirm of the relevant laws.

The RIA Road Corridor Project Expansion can only be executed as a separate contract and not as an “addendum” to the existing East International contract. The Public Procurement Concession Commission and Public Financial Management Laws have no provision to legally support the Government of Liberia current action. On the other hand, there is an argument that the legislature ratified the amendment to the agreement;

note, the legislature has no authority to award contract. What both houses did initially was to ratify the financing agreement and not contract award. The legislature has no authority whatsoever to amend any contract of such to include a new scope of works. To have RIA Road Corridor Project included in an existing contract most especially without any national or international bidding procurement process is “DEAD WRONG”. Even
if a transparent procurement process was done; this project must be implemented as a stand alone project with the requisite financial and technical competences established before awarded.

My Professional Advice
The Government of Liberia should avoid abrogating the Procurement and Public Financial Management Laws by not going ahead with this illegal process of contracting the RIA Road Corridor to East International;The Legislature shouldn’t over step its authority by seeking to amend the scope of works of an existing financing agreement which will require only 10% adjustment in the current contract proposed by the Executive after a request for change order. In the case of RIA Road Corridor Project, the cost is far above 10% which doesn’t satisfy this requirement.

The Legislature should be reminded that entering into contract on behalf of the Government of Liberia is supervised by the PPCC through a sector ministry or agency within the Executive Branch of Government and
might be sent for ratification to the Legislature if so required;

To implement the RIA Road Project, the Government of Liberia should launch an International Bidding Procurement Process seeking companies with the capacity to pre-finance the expansion of the corridor
transferring all the risks associated with securing the funding to the firms;

As argued by East International that she has secured funding for RIA Road Expansion Project; whenever the
request for bid is launched base on the pre-financing model, East International will likely be a suitable firm
amongst others if she presents a Joint-venture bid with a company that has the requisite technical capacity to
implement the project and if no other firm has both the technical and financial capacity during bid evaluation;
While it is good to invest in the development of our national road network; I am convicted that implementing the RIA Project within the confines of the existing laws will strengthen the systems relevant institutions and promote TRANSPARENCY & ACCOUNTABILITY which will minimize the level of CORRUPTION that continues to hurt our country;