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Friday, June 14, 2024

GOVERNMENT REVERSES COURSE AMID CONTROVERSY OVER 285 EARTH-MOVING EQUIPMENT DEAL

Date:

MONROVIA, LIBERIA – The Ministry of Information has announced that no final decision has been reached regarding the controversial procurement of 285 earth-moving equipment, which has been a focal point of public and legislative scrutiny. Information Minister Jerelimik Piah clarified today, Tuesday, May 28, that the government is committed to acquiring equipment for road development but will not proceed in an illegal manner.

Minister Piah emphasized that the recent announcement was merely a briefing provided by the Minister of State without Portfolio, Madam Mamaka Bility and that the public should await the final agreement. This statement comes amid reports that President Joseph Nyuma Boakai reportedly cut off the deal during an emergency cabinet meeting on Monday, responding to mounting criticism from lawmakers and the public about the transparency and legality of the arrangement.

“The government will get earth-moving equipment for the roads, but not in an illegal way,” said Minister Piah. “There has been no decision reached yet regarding the acquisition of earth-moving equipment. It was just a briefing provided by the Minister of State without Portfolio. We ask the public to hold on until the final agreement is reached or consummated.”

Confusion and controversy have surrounded the deal, especially following a post by Sekou Hussein Dukuly, Managing Director of the National Port Authority (NPA), which claimed that $52 million was spent on the equipment, funded by South African businessman Robert Gumede. This raised questions about the transparency of the deal, as Gumede has a reputation for corruption.

Dukuly posted, saying, “Thank God! Thank you, President JNB Sr., and thank you, Chairman Robert Gumede of Guma, for trusting our dynamic president JNB Sr. with more than $52M worth of earth-moving equipment. JNB, aka ‘Bad Road Doctor,’ is the only man who can secure a loan like this with no money down. The 2024 budget gave the Ministry of State an allotment to finance these equipment. 25% of our road funds will also help pay for these equipment. There’s no time for politics when it comes to developing Liberia. The president understands the issues of open government, and before the equipment arrives…”

Critics are questioning the inconsistencies in the government’s statements. Despite Minister Piah’s assertion that no decision has been reached, Dukuly’s post and reports of UP members celebrating the deal suggest otherwise. Photos of President Boakai associated with the equipment, purportedly ready for shipment to Liberia, have also fueled skepticism.

Also a critic of the Boakai administration, Togar Alexander Bealded, questioned, “How can a decision not be reached, but the NPA boss clearly posted that $52 million was spent on the deal, and the money was sourced from Robert Gumede?” Bealded also questioned, “How can a decision not be reached, but UP members have already started celebrating the deal until some legislators raised issues of accountability and transparency? How can this not be a decision reached when JNB’s photo is labeled all over those machines already set for shipment to Liberia?”

Article 34d (iii) of the Liberian Constitution states, “No loans shall be raised by the Government on behalf of the Republic or guarantees given for any public institutions or authority otherwise than by or under the authority of a legislative enactment.” This clause ensures that government financial commitments must receive legislative approval, a step that appears to have been overlooked in this deal.

With transparency and governance issues at the forefront, President Boakai has reportedly chastised officials involved in the arrangement, signaling that he sensed wrongdoing. This reversal highlights the administration’s acknowledgment of the need for transparent and accountable governance.

The government’s handling of this situation underscores the importance of adhering to constitutional mandates and ensuring that all dealings are conducted transparently. As Liberia seeks to develop its infrastructure, the administration must balance the urgency of progress with the imperative of good governance.

The controversy over the 285 earth-moving equipment deal serves as a reminder of the critical need for transparency and accountability in government actions. President Boakai and his administration must address these concerns promptly and ensure that future procurements are conducted in compliance with legal and ethical standards. The Liberian people demand development, but it must be achieved through transparent and lawful means.

Socrates Smythe Saywon
Socrates Smythe Saywon is a Liberian journalist. You can contact me at 0777425285 or 0886946925, or reach out via email at saywonsocrates@smartnewsliberia.com or saywonsocrates3@gmail.com.

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