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Thursday, February 06, 2014, Edition
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  LEGISLATIVE BEAT www.frontpageafricaonline.com Paris Buy 2 Dual SIM phones and wina Romantic Weekend in Paris +Valentine room+$1000 for Shopping   O-LA-LA Rafe Date: February 14, 2014 Terms & Conditions Apply only $25 PRICE L$40 FrontPage Ü   TOP STORIES  pg 6  pg 7  Ü   Ü   Politics Politics VOL 8 NO.529THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 6, 2014 See PG 2 CENTRAL BANK OF LIBERIA MARKET BUYING AND SELLING RATESLIBERIAN DOLLARS PER US DOLLAR  These are indicative rates based on results of daily surveys of the foreign exchange market in Monrovia and its environs. The rates are collected from the Forex Bureaux and the commercials banks. The rates are not set by the Central Bank of Liberia. Source:  Research, Policy and Planning Department, Central Bank Liberia, Monrovia, Liberia WEDNESDAY , JANUARY 29, 2014 L$80.00/US$1L$81.00/US$1BUYINGSELLINGL$80.00/US$1L$81.00/US$1L$81.00/US$1L$80.00/US$1 TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 4 , 2014 WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 5 , 2014   EPS, LNP BAD BLOOD STILL LINGERING  ANOTHER ‘YOU EAT, I EAT’? ‘RUDE AND DISRESPECTFUL KID’ “We Have Observed in recent time the complete exclusion of the Liberia National  Police from the Security detail of the President…”  Rep. Bhophal Chambers, District Number #2, Pleebo-Sodoken, Maryland County  pg. 5 ‘WORRISOME’ SECURITY TREND  SPEAKER TYLER BATTLES TO  DEFEND US$ 73M PROPOSAL  EXECUTIVE MANSION DESCRIBES  MPC FREEMAN; SAYS HE’S SEEKING  ATTENTION   Thursday, February 6, 2014 Page 2 |  Frontpage  Rodney D. Sieh, rodney.sieh@FrontPageAfricaonline.com Monrovia- A n audit for the scal years ending 2006/07 and 2007/08 of the Liberia Telecommunications Authority by the General Auditing Commission unveiled a number of reportable issues of fraud involving former Chairman Albert N. Bropleh. Two years later, Bropleh was arrested and taken to court, images of Bropleh’s embarrassing position remains on the worldwide web. Today, the case involving the former head of the LTA remains the most visible action to date taken against a former ofcial accused of corruption since the inception of the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf government.  Critics and international observers have been concerned over the lack of prosecution for ofcials accused of corruption with many former ofcials cited by the GAC, special presidential commissions, LACC and PPCC still roaming freely around the city.   This was compounded by the President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s own assertion during her annual message last week that she is looking forward to working with what she described as a “media-shy” GAC, a GAC that is unlikely to make audit reports available for public consumption and dissecting, although Section 37 of the Public Financial Management Law (2009) clearly states that all completed audit reports are to be published within one month of completion.   Bropleh Era Comes Full Circle   This week, events at the LTA came full circle when the president announced the cancellation of a US$1.1 million dollar lease agreement undertaken by the current LTA chair Angelique Weeks and the board of the Authority.   The action came less than 48 hours after FrontPageAfrica reported that the LTA had entered into an advanced negotiation with a Chinese company, Qingan International (Lib) Group Development Co. Ltd. (CNQC) to rent its apartment building to house the LTA. The building is located on the Congotown back road near the Baptist Church. The same building and price was rejected by another government agency, the National Investment Commission (NIC). The Chinese company demanded an asking price of US$450,000 per annum.The LTA, whose lease with the Methodist Church, the landlord for one of its ofces in Sinkor expired last Sunday, had already moved into the controversial new building despite objections from the Ministry of Justice and the Public Procurement Concessions Commission. “I know that some people in this Administra-   tion feel that we are now in injury time and therefore they are entitled to chop. But this is ridiculous, outrageous, and President Sirleaf should not allow it to stand, if she is serious about her much-touted campaign against corruption. I will go one step further. The  Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission, the  Ministry of Justice and the Public Procure-ment and Concession Commission should launch an immediate investigation into this sordid arrangement and take corrective, pu-nitive action. Enough is enough!,”  Harry A. Greaves The LTA Chair had agreed to pay US$385,000.00 (Three Hundred Eighty Five Thousand United States Dollars) per year, with a three-year upfront payment to a Chinese Landlord totaling US$1, 155,000.00 (one million, one hundred fty ve thousand United States dollars). The four-storey building contains thirty-one rooms and six bathrooms situated on two lots of land. Multiple sources conrmed to FPA that the lease agreement was sent to the Ministry of Justice in keeping with the Procurement Law. While Bropleh and his team were suspended and subsequently dismissed, the current LTA board has not been touched, only the controversial contract terminated and the LTA accounted frozen.   Many are also confused over why the President recently took a decision to suspend the entire board of the Liberia Telecommunications Corporation (LIBTELCO) but has so far failed to do the same for the LTA board whose actions in ignoring the recommendations of both the Public Procurement Concessions Commission and the Ministry of Justice led the authority into its current predicament. Sirleaf suspended the entire LIBTELCO board, including the Corporation's Managing Director, pending the conclusion of an investigation, under the guidance of the Ministry of Justice, into their failure to adhere to the provisions of the Public Procurement Act in concluding a contract with a European company, Ketter Telecom (K3).   Ironically, the GAC recommended in 2008 that the LTA Chairman and its Board of Commissioners should ensure that Management strictly adheres to the dictates of the PPC Act, 2005.   Doug Saunders, writing in Canada’s The Globe and Mail last  November warned that the persistent corruption may be an effect of Liberia’s other big problem: “An approach to economic development,  promoted by Ms. Johnson Sirleaf, that often seems to consist of offering the country’s natural resources to the highest international  bidder with little or no regard for transparency, responsibility or effects on people and environment.” Bropleh-Era Account Also Frozen International criticism of the Sirleaf government was bolstered in the aftermath of the revoking of 17 timber permits, signed under highly questionable circumstances that allowed foreign license-holders to claim 40 per cent of the country’s forests without regard for social and environmental protection laws. According to a draft audit report  by Moore Stephens, only two of the 68 resource contracts worth $8-billion signed by Liberia since 2009 have been in compliance with the country’s laws.This is why many are raising eyebrows over why one agency, the LTA which has not as of last Fiscal Year 2012/2013 and Fiscal Year 2013/2014, submitted its procurement plan for approval in keeping with Section 40 of the PPCA. The PPCA clearly states that prior to approval of procurement plans must be obtained from the PPCC  before any contracts can be awarded for Fiscal Year 2013/2014. The LTA’s deance has been deemed a gross contravention of the PPCA as  procurement planning is the beginning from which transparency and accountability of government funds can be ascertained.Similarly, the Auditor General’s 2008 report also took the Bropleh era to task over unrealistic budget  provisions without executive approval. “Though LTA Act Part 111, 9 (5) requires the Commission to prepare an annual budget for the operations of the LTA, to be submitted for approval by the Executive Branch of Government, there was no such approval of the budget for the nancial years, 1 March 2006 to 31 December, 2007 and 1 January, 2008 to 31 December, 2008. The Chairman of the LTA conrmed the omission but asserted that the budgets were approved  by the President. However, he indicated that the President’s approval was not in writing. Instead it was given to him verbally.”   On February 27, 2009, the President wrote Chairman Bropleh to indicate that she (the President) had learned that there was excessive spending at LTA in a budget not approved by her. She therefore ordered the LTA account frozen, suspended Chairman Bropleh, and subsequently the President made all Commissioners to resign. Ex-Commissioner Jappah Took Issue with Prez   Commissioners at the time thought their suspension and ultimate forced resignation was unfair as they deemed as collective punishment. On May 18, 2009, former Commissioner Ruth Jappah-Samukai wrote the President, “it is with deep regrets and great reluctance that I honor your request to resign as a Commissioner of the Liberian Telecommunications Authority (LTA). I am quite cognizant of the fact that none of the conditions set out in Section 10 of the Liberian Telecommunications Act is applicable to force my removal from the Commission and cause me to relinquish the remainder of my four-year term. The request to the commissioners undermines the Act and sets a bad precedence. Nonetheless, I offer this resignation voluntarily, recognizing the full weight and power of the Liberian Presidency and the consequences of resisting a request of the President.”   Writing further, former Commissioner Jappah-Samukai, “it is the  political protection of the Chairman (Albert Bropleh) which has caused you the most embarrassment, as he has sought to abuse the favor with which you have graced him... Almost from the onset of constituting the Commission, it became mired in old-style Liberian  politics as the Chairman began maneuvering to redene his role outside of its scope and authority. The unfettered access of the Chairman to you and your ofce and the corresponding lack of access of other commissioners thereto, both encouraged and enabled the Chairman to usurp both the powers and functions of the other commissioners, leaving them as little more than mere employees of the LTA. We sounded these concerns but they fell on deaf ears. He quickly moved from the presiding ofcer of the Commission to its Chief Executive Ofcer as he usurped the powers of the commissioners and its executive staff.“As a consequence, rumors of self-dealing, misappropriation of funds,  Frontpage   Thursday, February 6, 2014 Page 3 conict of interest and unilateralism began to swirl around the ofce of the Chairman and infest the entire Commission. I could have gone along with the whole charade, collecting my salary from the public and letting the Commission sink into the abyss of corruption and incompetence. Rather, I chose to stand up to defend the Act creating the Authority and bring the Chairman to book every time he exceeded the scope of his authority.”“May I respectfully remind you, Madam President, that because the Executive lacked the political will to reign in the excesses of the Chairman, it took the Legislature to briey imprison the Chairman and you to subsequently, but reluctantly, suspend him for the very acts and behavior for which I stood against him. Ironically, it was during his suspension that the Commission accomplished its most signicant work; concluding the agreements with the GSM companies and obtaining more than US$13 million dollars for the public treasury. It is the political protection of the Chairman which has caused you the most embarrassment, as he has sought to abuse the favor with which you have graced him.”The GAC reported, “The lack of evidence of approval of the LTA Budget by the President implied that all disbursements undertaken within the period under review were unauthorized. Additionally, the absence of an approved budget for the period denied basis for assessing the performance of Management for the period under review. The Chairman of the LTA should be held accountable for breaching the  provisions of the LTA Act Part 111, 9 (5).” Failure on the part of the LTA to comply with the PPCC is raising eyebrows over the agency’s decision last year to purchase thousands of dollars’ worth of vehicles for commissioners without going through the procurement process. The GAC audit of 2008 also took former chairman Bropleh to task for and pressed him to provide documentation such as invoices, receipts for vehicles he single-handedly procured from the U.S.   The audit recommended that Bropleh be made to restitute the additional cost of US$1,921.25 made on the procurement of the three vehicles without material justication. As a result of the many accusations levied against Bropleh, the Government of Liberia, through the Minister of Justice, commenced prosecution for fraud and misuse of public funds he had committed at the LTA.   The AG reported at the time also observed severe control deciencies leading to payroll irregularities.   “Chairman Bropleh, during his tenure of ofce, awarded large increases in salaries and allowances paid to LTA Board, staff and himself. For instance, Chairman Bropleh’s gross salary plus allowance for the month of September 2007 was US$5,000.00 and in October 2007, his gross monthly salary and allowance considerably swelled to US$16,333.00, which implies that the Chairman enjoyed averaged 237% over and above that earned in September 2007. It was unclear what considerations led to the changes and the salaries and allowances levels the Chairman decided on. Furthermore, there was no approval of the President for such an increment in the salaries and allowances paid to Chairman Bropleh, a requirement under LTA’s enabling enactment.”   Like the current LTA board which has been non-cooperative with the PPCC, the Bropleh-era LTA, according to the GAC was uncooperative,  prompting the intervention of the President in December 2008 and March 2009 for the audit to start. LTA Forewarned on Bad Deal, Source Says   Auditor General Morlu wrote, “I reviewed the Authority’s  procurement documents provided for audit review. It was revealed that the procurement of goods and services undertaken by the Authority, amounting to US$388,636.54 was done without regards to the PPC Act of 2005 as these goods were paid for without contract documents and threshold requirements to support the purchases.”   The Auditor recommended that the LTA use formal and valid contractual agreements for procurement of assets as required under the PPC Act. Seven years later, the practice appears the same with the LTA continuing to function outside the scope of the GAC.   FrontPageAfrica has learned the current LTA leadership were forewarned not to enter into the agreement with the Chinese company for the controversial lease agreement but did so any way. The PPCC reportedly urged the LTA in an effort to safeguard government funding ensuring value for money, to provide the total number of staff of the LTA, the cost of purchasing the CNQC Qinjian International Group Development Co. Ltd’s building and the prospect of renovating government-owned property for its use or possibility of purchasing land and constructing its own property.   Further, like the Bropleh era, the current LTA Management are said to be non-compliance when it comes to the provisions of the existing regulatory framework (i.e. Executive Ordinance No. 8) on retirement and payment of travel allowances which the AG recommended seven years ago, could cost the Authority substantially and unnecessarily, if the lapses are not addressed.   “I thus recommended, among others, that LTA Management should strictly comply with the Guidelines and Procedures on Per Diem and Allowances specied in the extant Executive Ordinance No. 8 issued by the Government. The Chairman should be made to produce approval of his foreign trips and failing this; all unapproved trips should be borne by the Chairman and should not stand as a charge to the Commission,” the AG recommended.   Greaves Calls for Probe Today, the practice is still the same at the LTA with the chair and commissioners making multiple trips year round. But it is the controversial lease agreement which has drawn new scrutiny over the expenditures at the LTA.   Mr. Harry A. Greaves, former Managing Director of the Liberia Petroleum Rening Company has openly called for an investigation. “I know that some people in this Administration feel that we are now in injury time and therefore they are entitled to chop. But this is ridiculous, outrageous, and President Sirleaf should not allow it to stand, if she is serious about her much-touted campaign against corruption. I will go one step further. The Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission, the Ministry of Justice and the Public Procurement and Contracts Commission should launch an immediate investigation into this sordid arrangement and take corrective, punitive action. Enough is enough!” Greaves said in a letter to FrontPageAfrica this week.”   The former LPRC boss said alarmed that there is something decidedly shy about the LTA lease. How does the cost per square foot of LTA's new lease compare with the cost per square foot of their old leases? Under the old arrangement, there were 3 leased properties. If you add up one year's lease payments of the 3 properties and divide that total by the combined square footage of the usable space contained in those properties, you will arrive at an average cost per square foot. Compare that gure with the cost per square foot of the new building. If that latter number is signicantly higher, that is the giveaway. The sh is really rotten.”  Thursday, February 6, 2014 Page 4 |  Frontpage  Joey T. Kennedy, josephtnkennedy@yahoo.com, Contributing Writer Fr   ontPage vv   Commentary E DITORIAL IN ORDERING A FREEZE of the accounts of the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA), Tuesday, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf made the right choice, taking a decision that may not go down well with members of her kitchen Cabinet; but will certainly score brownie points among her critics unhappy over her dwindling ght against graft.THE PRESIDENT took the decision less than 48 hours after a FrontPageAfrica investigative report uncovered yet another wasteful spending on the part of the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) in the tone of US$1.1 Million dollars. THE FRONTPAGEAFRICA REPORT revealed that LTA Chair Angelique Weeks had entered into an advanced negotiation with a Chinese company, Qingan International (Lib) Group Development Co. Ltd. (CNQC) to rent its apartment building to house the LTA. The building is located on the Congotown back road near the Baptist Church. IT IS INTERESTING to note that the National Investment Commission turned down an asking price of US$450, 000 per annum for the same building, causing many to wonder why the LTA settle for such a ridiculous offer.THE LTA, WHOSE lease with the Methodist Church, the landlord for one of its ofces in Sinkor expired last Sunday, had already moved into the controversial new building despite objections from the Ministry of Justice and the Public Procurement Concessions Commission.THE DEAL itself had all the markings of wasteful spending at the highest order. The LTA chair had agreed to pay US$385,000.00 (Three Hundred Eighty Five Thousand United States Dollars) per year, with a three-year upfront payment to a Chinese Landlord totaling US$1,155,000.00 (ONE MILLION, ONE HUNDRED FIFTY FIVE THOUSAND UNITED STATES DOLLARS). The four-story building contains thirty-one rooms and six bathrooms situated on two lots of land.THIS IS WHY we are happy that the President also took a decision Tuesday to suspend the US$1 million lease agreement between LTA and a Chinese company, Qinjian International, for the controversial  building. THE PRESIDENT who returned home Monday from an AU summit and a three-day state visit to Malawi, also took another decision Tuesday when she ordered through an Executive Mansion release, a full investigation into all standing contracts between the Ministry of Public Works and construction companies in the country. The President who took the decision following a meeting last evening with Public Works ofcials, is looking to ensure that Government gets the full value for money spent, a key concern for international partners, has directed all current and former ofcials of the Ministry of Public Works to cooperate fully with the investigation.THE DECISION WAS followed by the resignation of Deputy Public Works Minister for Technical Services, Mr. Victor Smith., who has directed him to remain in country and cooperate fully with the investigation.SMITH WAS involved in a heated exchange with Minister Antoinette Weeks last week resulting into what eyewitnesses say a rain of insults, prompting Smith to leave the ministry. The ght  between the pair comes in the wake of mounting tension pitting the minister at odds with her principal deputies, prompting allegations that Weeks has been micromanaging the ministry with very little input from senior staff toward agenda items/issues COMMENTARY STORY MUST NOT END WITH FREEZE OF LTA ACCOUNT A EULOGY TO THE REGENERATED ARMED FORCES OF LIBERIA T he Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) is a defense and development an institution of the state that has metamorphosed into an entity which is garnering respect and credibility both locally and internationally, principally on the basis of the quality of trainings being provided to its personnel and the competence of individuals being enlisted within its ranks.Originally named the Liberia Frontier Force (LFF) at its establishment in 1908, the Liberian Army comprised 500 men whose mission was to patrol the borders of the hinterland and ward off British and French territorial enlargement as well as to prevent disorder. The Liberia Frontier Force became the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) in 1956.Following its establishment, the AFL saw little action, apart from a reinforced company sent to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the 1960s which changed at the advent of the Liberian Civil War in 1989 when the AFL became entangled in the conict that spiraled over the period from 1989 to 2003.Following its demobilization in 2003, The AFL is being restructured and reclassied. Today, a new 2000-strong AFL is being built under the auspices of the Security Sector Reform (SSR) program. With support from the international community, particularly the United States and United Nations peacekeeping and peace-building efforts, Liberia has rebuilt a new, ethnically balanced and professional army;Liberia can now boast a 1,980-person-strong Armed Forces of Liberia which now positions itself to support a democratic environment through strategic and practical prociencies with a robust capacity to defend the territorial integrity of Liberia. Currently, the newly rehabilitated Training Command of the Armed Forces of Liberia, headquartered at Camp Todee has assumed responsibility for tactical and prociency training locally. The facility is presently training 140 new army recruits, which is expected to be increased by some 400 recruits recently vetted and endorsed by the Joint Personnel Board of the AFL.The AFL currently consists of two infantry battalions, and a small Liberian National Coast Guard, which is being reformed. In her State of the Nation Address delivered at the joint sitting of the Liberian Legislature in January this year, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf intimated her desire to install, after conrmation consideration by the Liberian Senate, a Liberian Chief of Staff, Deputy Chief of Staff and Brigade Commander of the AFL at the celebration of Armed Forces Day on February 11, 2014 bidding farewell to Major General Suraj Alao Abdurrahman who has served the AFL as Command Ofcer-In-Charge since June 2007.The President subsequently nominated the Brigade Commander of the AFL, Col. Daniel Dee Ziankhan, and Col, Eric Dennis as Chief-of-Staff and Deputy Chief-Of-Staff of the AFL, Respectively.In a letter addressed to the Liberian Senate, President Sirleaf said the ofcers have met all the requirements necessary, including advance and strategic training at various military institutions, and their deportment and discipline have been highly commended by the country’s international partners involved in restructuring of the AFL. Following its restructuring, the Armed Forces of Liberia In 2013, was proud to contribute an infantry platoon-size unit to join the Africa International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA), making it the rst time that our Armed Forces is participating in international peacekeeping operations in 52 years.The last time the AFL participated in an enterprise of similar scope was in the early 1960s in Congo.Initially under Nigerian command, the AFL platoon in Mali came under Togolese Contingent Command when Nigeria withdrew from the mission. Despite some initial logistical problems the platoon performed admirably, performing patrols and VIP escort duties. The AFL has also been contributing to upholding peace and security in the country as well as assisting in warding off insurgency in neighboring Ivory Coast and other countries in the Mano River Union Basin.On a regular basis, the military is seen performing clean-up activities in the city of Monrovia and outlying communities in an effort to effectively contribute to the process of making the City a place of social comfort.These efforts of the Armed Forces have created integrity and public condence within the AFL whose reputation was soiled as a result of its role in the more than 14 years of patricidal civil conict in Liberia. It is worth noting that authorities of the AFL are continuously exerting effortstowards recruiting to the Army individuals with impeccable character with the ultimate goal of ensuring that enlistment within the military would harness and uphold the current state of public trust within the institution in our nation’s quest to make the Armed Forces of Liberia second to none on the continent of Africa and one of the best in the world.Therefore, as we celebrate the 106 years of existence of the Armed Forces of Liberia (1908-2014) and the 57th Anniversary of the Armed Forces of Liberia, we should lift our heads up high in giving accolades to our rejuvenated AFL because through it all, we now have a capable, gallant, nationally and internationally representative ARMED FORCES OF LIBERIA!!!!!!!!! A GOOD MOVE MADAM, PRESIDENT BUT… WHILE WE EMBRACE the president’s decision on these issues, we do so with a bit of caution and a lower expectation considering the fact that the President has in previous years, turned to similar tactic for reprieve from questions dogging her seriousness about ghting corruption. The list goes on: From the Knucklesgate investigation to the November 7WE ARE ALSO puzzled as to why the President chose to order an investigation and freeze the LTA account without suspending the  board as she did when a similar act led to the suspension of the LIBTELCO board. THE LIBTELCO board was suspended pending a probe after members reportedly failed to stick to the provisions of the Public Procurement Act in concluding a contract with a European company, Ketter Telecom (K3). WITH ALL eyes watching to see how the saga at the LTA and probe at Public Works will end, it remains to be seen how Sirleaf will handle the outcome of these investigations: Prosecute those found running afoul of the law or a redux of previous endings to these developments. Sirleaf must realize that she does not have the luxury of time on her side and must do all she can to score more brownie  points if she has any intentions of leaving a lasting legacy in Liberia.
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