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GeneralLiberia news

Senate probes Public Works

--Over unapproved contracts worth US$21m

Through the probe, the Liberian Senate will investigate claims that the Ministry of Public Works has awarded contracts for road rehabilitation and construction without the Senate’s approval.

By Ethel A. Tweh

Monrovia, April 19, 2024: The Liberian Senate plenary has ordered an investigation into the Ministry of Public for awarding contracts worth over US$21 to several contractors without legislative approval.

The Senate Plenary has instructed its Committees on Judiciary, Public Works, and Public Accounts and Audits to investigate the Ministry.

The decision taken Thursday, 18 April 2024, followed a joint communication from Senators Nathaniel McGill, Abraham Dillon, Gbehzongar Findley, and Simeon Taylor.

The four senators represent Margibi, Montserrado, Grand Bassa, and Grand Cape Mount Counties.

In their communication, they accused the Ministry of Public Works of awarding contracts valued at US$21 million to some contractors to rehabilitate and construct roads across the country.

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They indicated that the contract analysis includes but is not limited to the one awarded to CHICO from Salayea to Voinjama, worth US$3,999,000; SSF from Voinjama to Foya, worth US$1,719,976.40; and SSF from Foya to Mendikorma, worth US$740,650.

The rest of the contracts are awarded to CICO for a connection from Tapita to Zwedru at US$3,200,000; CHICO for a connection from Zwedru to Karnweakan US$2,434,700; Barclayville to Pleebo, valued at US$1,507,750; Buchanan to ITI, US$2,123,651.88; and ITI to Greenville, US$2, 882,000.

The four Senators maintained that it is fundamental that any government institution issuing contracts must ensure that funding is available before awarding such contracts as outlined in the Public Financial Management (PFM) and the PPCC Act.

“In the case of contracts for the procurement of goods, US$500,000; in the case of contracts for the procurement of services, US$200,000; and in the case of contracts for the procurement of works, US$1,000,000,” they said.

They argued that the law emphasized international and national open competitive bidding processes for contract ceilings to procure goods and services.

The four lawmakers pointed to the Ministry’s failure to adhere to the Amended and Restated Public Procurement and Concession Act of 2005, stressing that the awarding of said contracts demonstrates a lack of adherence to the rule of law.

At the same time, they informed the Plenary that the Public Works Ministry allegedly signed the contracts on a letter to proceed.

The letter allegedly gives the contractors the right to acquire a loan on a pre-financing agreement, but the Senators contend that this should not be done without an approved national budget.

They indicated that the absence of an approved budget, except for the US$2,000,000) allotted for Policy Priorities requested in February, raises questions about the funding source for these contracts awarded by the Ministry of Public Works.

They continued that any institution seeking to enter into pre-financing agreements must seek legislative approval consistent with article 34(d) of the Liberian Constitution and its subsection where applicable.

Meanwhile, the four senators are calling on the Liberian Senate to prevent the Public Works Ministry from proceeding with the contracts until the Legislature passes an approved budget.

The Senators said it is essential to uphold the principles of good governance and transparency in all government actions for the benefit of the Liberian people, who deserve a government that acts in their best interests and upholds the rule of law.

The Joint Committee is expected to report back to plenary within one week.

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