The NEWS (Monrovia)

Liberia: YMCA Mute On George Bush's One Million Book Donation

The Young Men Christian Association (YMCA) of Liberia says it is not authorized to disclose information regarding the donation of one million textbooks by former United States President George W. Bush.

According to documents in the possession of this paper, the YMCA was responsible for the distribution of the textbooks to schools across Liberia, under a project called 'CESLY'.

YMCA National General Secretary (NGS) and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Edward Gboe confirmed that his institution was responsible for the distribution of the textbooks to schools across Liberia as a contractor to the Ministry of Education (MoE).

Mr. Gboe said the institution signed a contract with the MoE for the distribution of the textbooks to schools.

He said the distribution process was carried out and the records compiled and submitted to the Education Ministry.

The YMCA National General Secretary took our reporter to a shelf with files which he claimed contained names of institutions that benefited from the textbooks distribution, but said he was not authorized to disclose such information to the public.

He claimed that there is a non-disclosure component or clause in the contract that prohibits him from disclosing information on the distribution of the textbooks without authorization.

The statement from the YMCA's General Secretary was in continuation of investigation launched by this paper on the status of former United States President's donation to Liberia nearly five years ago.

During a visit to Liberia in February 2008, former U.S. President Bush announced the donation of one million textbooks to Liberia, and later that same year the books were symbolically turned over to the Government of Liberia by Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs in Monrovia.

But information gathered indicates that funds were instead provided to the Government of Liberia for the procurement of the textbooks in keeping with the country's curriculum.

According to a communication addressed to former Education Minister Dr. Othello Gongar bearing the subject: "CESLY/YMCA Book Distribution Plan", the YMCA thanked the Ministry, particularly Ministers Hester Catakaw and Bill Twehway (now a member of the House of Representatives) for their collaboration with the YMCA/CESLY Program and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for the textbooks distribution plan.

The communication which came out of several discussions with officials of the YMCA and the Ministry of Education also revealed that USAID should have purchased 300,000 textbooks for the ministry.

It remains unclear why and how the textbooks were reduced to 300,000 instead of one million as announced by the former U.S. President in 2008.

The communication bearing the names: Martin Schulman, Program Director, CESLY; Mardea Nyumah, USAID Program Manager for CESLY; and Lester M. Paye, Development, NGS-YMCA of Liberia was carbon copied to Deputy Ministers for Instruction and Planning, Hester Catakaw and James E. Roberts and Assistant Minister for Curriculum and Textbooks, Bill Twehway.

In the letter, the YMCA advanced several suggestions seeking timely response and feedback from the Ministry of Education, including delay of the books distribution; reduction of warehouse staff; spot-checks verification of school census and drafting of distribution plan, among others.

The NEWS Newspaper on September 18 this year submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to the Ministry of Education seeking data on institutions and other beneficiaries of the former United States President one million textbooks donation.

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