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Friday, June 14, 2024

SENATOR AMARA KONNEH DEMANDS TRANSPARENCY IN BOAKAI GOVERNMENT’S $30 MILLION EQUIPMENT DEAL

Date:

MONROVIA – Former Finance Minister and current Gbarpolu County Senator, Hon. Amara Konneh, today expressed concerns regarding the procurement of 285 units of earth-moving equipment by the Boakai administration. This procurement, which has been widely circulated on social media, was accompanied by enthusiastic discussions from Ministers of State, State Without Portfolio, and Public Works about its potential impact on Liberia’s development. However, Konneh’s scrutiny goes beyond the visible excitement to ask critical questions about the procurement process and its implications for Liberia.

Senator Konneh started his inquiry by contacting relevant authorities within the Executive Branch, including Ministers of State Hon. Sylvester M. Grisby, Information Minister Jerolinmek Matthew Piah, and the Minister of Public Works, Hon. Roland Giddings. His outreach, however, yielded little information, with only Minister Giddings redirecting him to Minister Grisby, who did not respond. Faced with this silence, Konneh decided to publicly voice his questions.

Central to Senator Konneh’s concerns is the cost of this procurement. He estimates that each unit’s minimum price is about $100,000, totaling over $30 million. Senator Konneh questions how the Boakai Administration raised such a substantial amount and demands transparency regarding the source of the capital. He recalls the controversial justification by President George Weah’s officials for loans from dubious sources, emphasizing the need for adherence to international Anti-Money Laundering/Countering the Financing of Terrorism frameworks, which bind Liberia.

Assuming the legitimacy of the partners involved in this deal, Senator Konneh seeks clarity on their nature. He asks whether these partners are private, state-owned, or if the resources provided were bilateral or multilateral. Even if the funds were a grant, Konneh stresses that understanding the grantor’s nature is crucial to discerning the economic and political conditions attached to the deal.

Senator Konneh’s financial scrutiny extends to the terms of the financing agreement. He questions whether the procurement was a loan, and if so, whether it was concessional or non-concessional. He seeks details on the repayment terms, including the duration and interest rate, and highlights the importance of considering exchange rate risks alongside interest rates. Konneh is particularly concerned about the impact of a fluctuating exchange rate on debt servicing costs, urging the Government of Liberia (GOL) and the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) to have plans to manage these risks.

Another critical aspect Senator Konneh addresses is Liberia’s absorptive capacity for the influx of equipment. He recalls his experience with budgeting for the Road Fund, noting that the allocated amount was far less than the value of the newly procured units. Konneh questions the assessment justifying the deployment of such a massive fleet and the assignment of 19 units to each county. He draws parallels to past efforts, such as the Jackson F. Doe Medical Center, which faced operational challenges due to insufficient trained staff despite having advanced equipment.

Senator Konneh warns that without adequate planning, Liberia might face similar issues in road development. He questions whether the GOL’s road development strategy includes plans for maintaining and repairing these assets, and whether there are sufficient qualified staff across counties to handle these tasks. He underscores the need for a standardized governance structure for road works and asset management to ensure consistent reporting and effective decentralization.

The Senator also calls for transparency in the procurement process. He emphasizes that procurement is often linked to corruption, citing his own efforts as Finance Minister to involve Justice Ministers Christiana Tah and Benedict Sannoh in scrutinizing procurement deals. Konneh demands that the current acquisition meet the provisions of Liberia’s Public Procurement and Concession Act and promises to closely inspect the GOL’s response against legal standards.

While Senator Konneh appreciates the Boakai Administration’s bold move towards road construction and rural development, he stresses the importance of adhering to laws, standards, and procedures. He believes that proper adherence will prevent the wastage of Liberia’s limited resources and ensure that development initiatives are effective and sustainable.

Senator Konneh concludes by emphasizing the need for transparency in a country governed by the people. He asserts that it is not enough for the government to do the right thing; the people must be informed about their President and public servants’ actions. As a Senate representative, Konneh looks forward to receiving answers to his questions and hopes that the responses will reflect the high competence he believes exists within the Liberian bureaucracy.

In urging the Boakai Administration to uphold these standards, Senator Konneh reflects on the Unity Party’s past successes in development planning. He expresses hope that the administration will demonstrate its continued capability to plan and execute development projects effectively, thereby restoring public confidence in their governance.

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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