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Saturday, July 13, 2024

LIBERIAN WATCHDOG CENTAL DEMANDS TRANSPARENCY IN BOAKAI ADMINISTRATION’S EQUIPMENT ACQUISITION

Date:

MONROVIA – Amid growing criticism of the Boakai-led administration’s acquisition of 285 earth-moving machines, the Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL) has released an official statement addressing the issue. In a press conference held on Wednesday, July 10, 2024, at CENTAL offices in Sinkor, Monrovia, Executive Director Anderson D. Miamen expressed serious concerns about the lack of transparency and accountability in the process.

“Aimed at growing criticism of the Boakai-led administration’s acquisition of 285 yellow machines, CENTAL, through its Executive Director, Mr. Anderson D. Miamen, released its latest official position on the matter,” Miamen stated. He emphasized the importance of media partnerships and the critical role they play in the fight against corruption in Liberia.

Miamen outlined the timeline of events, noting that from May 23-25, 2024, the Government of Liberia (GoL) held a three-day Cabinet retreat in Monrovia. During this event, Minister of State Without Portfolio, Madam Mamaka Bility, announced the presentation of 285 pieces of earth-moving equipment to the GoL in a virtual turnover ceremony attended by herself, Hon. Sylvester M. Grigsby, Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, and Hon. Roland Layfette Giddings, Minister of Public Works. The ceremony also featured Mr. Xu Ming, Senior Vice President of Sany Group, a Chinese multinational heavy equipment manufacturing company, and Robert Gumede, Chairman of the Guma Group based in South Africa.

While some Liberians welcomed the development, many called for transparency, accountability, and full compliance with public procurement laws. Responding to public concerns on May 28, 2024, Minister of Information, Culture Affairs, and Tourism, Hon. Jerolinmek Piah, clarified that the announcement was not the result of an agreement but an update on government plans. He stressed that any deals would be negotiated with respect for the rule of law and separation of powers.

Despite these assurances, CENTAL and many Liberians were surprised when the government imported the first batch of equipment without evidence of adherence to procurement laws. On Saturday, July 6, 2024, the government paraded several pieces of the equipment, confirming their arrival as the first consignment of the much-discussed road equipment. However, the government has provided little information regarding the acquisition, including the source, cost, and payment modalities of the deal.

“Why would a government that premised its campaign on transparency and accountability choose to keep the issue of such significant equipment importation secret?” Miamen questioned. He criticized the government’s failure to disclose details of the deal, which contradicts President Boakai’s professed anti-corruption commitment.

CENTAL highlighted previous instances where the government engaged in non-competitive and opaque processes, such as awarding over $20 million USD in road contracts without competitive bidding. This history, combined with the current lack of transparency, raises concerns about the integrity of future government dealings.

CENTAL called on the Liberian government to uphold its commitment to transparency and the rule of law by ensuring full disclosure and compliance with procurement laws. The organization also urged the Legislature to demand answers and hold public hearings on the matter.

“We recommend the government swiftly address the issue through a public hearing and open appearances of executive officials to respond to multiple lingering questions,” Miamen stated. He applauded Liberians for demanding transparency and accountability and encouraged continued engagement on matters of public interest. Additionally, CENTAL called on development partners to closely monitor government activities and demand accountability.

As Liberia faces significant infrastructure challenges, the process of acquiring equipment to address these issues must be transparent and accountable to maintain public trust and uphold the principles of good governance.

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