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RIA road project backfires

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Two senators on Capitol Hill have questioned the procedure leading to the finalization of the Roberts International Airport road modernization project, launched recently by President George Manneh Weah.

Montserrado and Margibi Counties senators Abraham Darious Dillon and Oscar Cooper said the executive branch of government is yet to inform the Liberian Senate how funding for would be generated for the project and payment made.

Addressing a news conference here Tuesday, February 25, on the grounds of the Capitol, both senators note the contract awarded to East International Construction did not go through the Public Procurement Concession Commission, as required by law, and that plenary of the Liberian Senate did not ratify such document.

Cooper and Dillon accused Montserrado County Electoral District#8 Representative Acarous Gray and Montserrado County Senator Saah Joseph of defending the document on grounds that it ratified and passed during the sitting of the 53rd session of the Liberian Legislature thus, beyond PPCC procedure.

According to Dillon, both Joseph and Gray are liars and that the Liberian people should not take them serious. He added that the action of the executive is illegal and that they will follow the matter to the letter.

Cooper, who represents the people of Margibi County where the project is to be implemented, stressed that the RIA Road is not appropriate; instead, government should have considered Southeastern roads, connecting Rivercess, Sinoe, Grand Kru, Maryland, River Gee and Grand Gedeh Counties, respectively.

He recalled the East International Company during the administration of ex-president Sirleaf failed to execute little road behind the Barclay Training Center called the ‘Redemption Road’ in Monrovia and wondered whether it has the capacity to build the kind of modern road projected from Roberts International Airport to Monrovia.

But Senator Joseph said the two senators from the opposition block are lazy and weak, asking them to visit the journal of the senate to establish the truth.
Besides the Gbarnga streets project, investigation from the Ministry of Public Works revealed the company had failed to properly execute a number of projects, including a pre-financing agreement with the Government of Liberia in 2017 to pave 30 feeder roads, as part of the Feeder Projects across the country.

Several feeder road projects contracted to East International Group still remain uncompleted but the company has now maneuvered its ways into getting a bigger contract.
Many Liberians, including Senator Abraham Darius Dillon of the opposition Liberty Party have gone public here, expressing concerns over the RIA-Monrovia highway project.

Senator Dillon writes, “No well-meaning Liberian, whether “Ruling Position”, or “Opposition” or “No Position”, should ever be against positive initiatives for the development of our country and growth of our people. That is why some of us from the “opposition” always dare to commend the positive things whilst mustering the courage to expose and condemn the wrong/bad things but with constructive suggestion as the way forward.

“It is in this light that we embrace and support the planned development of the RIA Highway. We, however, have some concerns that must be addressed regarding this project. We have seen and heard several questions and concerns that must be answered by the appropriate authorities of the Executive Branch before commencing this project. As senator, I am concerned as well.”
Martin K. N. Kollie, a youth activist, says East International Group is a mafia company with no website, blog or link to enable the Liberian public review its previous projects executed in the country to get more information on its expertise.

According to Kollie, East International came to Liberia as a building materials store in 2010 and was located around the S.D. Cooper Road Junction in Paynesville City but later changed into a construction company in 2015/2016 before gaining projects for Feeder Roads Construction in 2017.

Other contracts awarded the company in the past, a source disclosed, include the rigid concrete pavements of Redemption Road, Thinker’s Village road, and Smythe Road, respectively at a total cost of US$3,224,124.

The source continued that contract for the asphalt pavement of ex-President Sirleaf’s farm road which was placed at US$19 million, was later increased to US$24 million dollars though 10 percent of road work has not been done by the company.This paper has not contacted the Management of East International Company for response against these charges. By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor–Editing by Jonathan Browne