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Thursday, June 20, 2024

PRESIDENT BOAKAI’S TRUST AND CREDIBILITY AT STAKE AMID CONTROVERSY OVER UNAPPROVED EQUIPMENT DEAL

Date:

MONROVIA, LIBERIA – President Joseph Nyuma Boakai, who campaigned on a platform of transparency and accountability during the 2023 presidential election, is facing intense scrutiny over the controversial procurement of 285 earth-moving equipment. The deal, facilitated through a partnership with South African businessman Robert Gumede, Executive Chairman of Gumede has sparked public outcry and condemnation from lawmakers due to Gumede’s notorious reputation for corruption and the lack of legislative approval.

The controversy erupted following the announcement at the recent three-day Cabinet Retreat held at the EJS Ministerial Complex in Monrovia, where the Minister of State Without Portfolio, Madam Mamaka Bility, disclosed that the government had procured the equipment for infrastructure development. However, critics quickly pointed out that the deal appeared to bypass the necessary legislative oversight.

Article 34d (iii) of the Liberian Constitution stipulates, “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 constitutional provision ensures that any financial commitments made by the government must receive legislative approval to uphold transparency and accountability.

Many are questioning how President Boakai, given his commitment to these principles, got involved in a deal with Gumede without legislative approval. Eddie D. Jarwolo, Executive Director of NAYMOTE-Liberia, has been vocal on social media, calling for the President to disclose the source of funding and the procurement process. Jarwolo stressed, “In a democracy, as the President, you are accountable to the people of Liberia. Mr. President, it is time to speak and disclose the source of funding for the 285 units of earth-moving machines spoken about during the cabinet retreat and the entire procurement procedures.”

Mr. Anderson Miamen, Executive Director of the Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL), has also added his voice to the calls for transparency. In a statement posted on social media, Miamen emphasized the need for transparency, integrity, and due diligence in government contracting and reporting, particularly in the context of the ongoing road equipment saga. While the acquisition of the 285 pieces of equipment for road and other productive activities is a positive development, Miamen stressed that the process must be transparent, accountable, and performed with integrity and due diligence by relevant state and non-state actors.

“The Government of Liberia needs to immediately speak out on this matter and provide the needed information to the public,” Miamen stated. “The longer it stays without addressing the matter, the more harm it causes the government in terms of people being suspicious about the arrangement or deal.”

Lawmakers have echoed these sentiments, emphasizing the need for adherence to constitutional mandates. The failure to secure legislative enactment before proceeding with the procurement could be seen as a violation of the Constitution, raising serious concerns about the legality and legitimacy of the deal.

President Boakai now faces a crucial decision: whether to uphold his campaign promises of transparency and accountability by cutting off the deal with Gumede or to proceed and risk further eroding public trust. The administration’s response to this controversy will be a litmus test for its commitment to good governance.

Beyond the constitutional issues, the controversy also highlights the broader implications for President Boakai’s administration. With public trust at stake, the President must navigate the political fallout and address the concerns of both the public and lawmakers. The call for transparency is not just about this single deal but also about setting a precedent for how the administration handles future government contracts and financial commitments.

As the debate intensifies, the Liberian public and lawmakers are watching closely. They demand answers and accountability, urging President Boakai to lead by example. The President’s next steps will be critical in shaping the administration’s legacy and its relationship with the Liberian people.

The administration must also address the involvement of officials who facilitated the controversial deal. Ensuring that all government officials adhere to the principles of transparency and accountability is essential to restoring public confidence and maintaining the integrity of the government.

President Boakai’s handling of the earth-moving equipment procurement deal will have significant implications for his administration’s credibility and the future of governance in Liberia. It is imperative that the President and his team address the concerns raised, provide the necessary transparency, and adhere to constitutional mandates to uphold the trust of the Liberian people.

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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