31 May 2012

Liberia: NPA's Dredging Contract Becomes Public Taboo

The Management of the National Port Authority (NPA) has refused to share the ongoing dredging contract with the public after several attempts by the Liberian media, including the Liberia Media Center.

The NPA after eight months of negotiations on February 28, 2012 entered into a US$21M dredging with a Dutch Company, Van Oord Dredging and Marine Contractors for the dredging of the Freeport of Monrovia and the Port of Greenville in Sinoe County.

Speaking during the signing ceremony, the Managing Director of the NPA, Madam Matilda W. Parker said "Van Oord will survey the ports and make recommendation to the NPA."

However, it is not certain as to whether the company made any recommendation to the management.

Van Oord has already concluded the dredging of the Port of Greenville and is currently dredging the Freeport of Monrovia. Interestingly, the NPA and dredging company is yet too disclosed as to whether the company removes the wrecks that were discovered in the main basin of the Port of Greenville.

The NPA is very significant to President Sirleaf's hundred and fifty day's Action Plan. The Managing Director of the Port has said that the dredging will increase the capacities of the ports.

She further disclosed that the success of major concessions including the China Union, Western Cluster, Putu Iron Ore Mining amongst others largely depends on the Freeport of Monrovia and the port of Greenville.

Amidst efforts being exerted by the Management of the NPA and its partners to dredge the port, which has earned the entity significant score in the Liberia Media Center (LMC) Barometer survey, they have refused to release copy of the contract to members of the media, including the LMC.

The Executive Director of the LMC, in an interview with a local media on Wednesday, disclosed that the LMC has requested a copy of the USD21M dredging contract from the management of the NPA, but is yet to receive the contract.

This paper also requested copy of the contract, but was also denied on grounds that the contract prohibits the NPA from sharing the contract with the media and the public.

The Deputy Managing Director of the NPA, Mr. Jeffery George, said the "NPA is not allowed to share the information with the media."

Her Deputy Managing Director for Legal Affairs, Mr. Jeffery George and Deputy for Operation Nathaniel Gbaba, in an interview with this paper disclosed that the "NPA will pay US$13M and US$8M respectfully for the Surveying and Dredging of the two ports-Monrovia and Greenville. They added that payment will be done in phases, base on performance."

Mathematically, the NPA is to spend US$17.800.00M for the entire dredging process. What becomes of the balance US$3.200.000?

The refusal of the NPA to share the contract is a complete violation of Section 3.2 of the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) which states that "every person, irrespective of their nationality or residence, may request, receive, reproduce and retain any information held by (1) all public authority or (2) private entity that receives public funds or engage in public functions or provision or public service; provided that in respect of private entities, the information shall relate to the public funds, benefit, functions or service."

Section 1.3.2 of the FOI also state; "Access to information refers to the right of the public to request, receive, review, reproduce and retain records and documents held by public bodies and private entities performing public functions or receiving public funding"

The deliberate refusal of the NPA to share the dredging contract with the public is a complete violation of the Freedom of Information Act. It also suggests that madam parker's and her team refusal to share the contract with the media clearly indicates that she has something under her sleeves that need to be uncovered.

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