17 January 2013

Liberia: PPCC Disappointed By Chronicle, MORAT -Calls Story 'Misleading', Poses Challenge

The Sirleaf Administration finds a necessary menace of a partnership with the media in its struggle to shed the woes of the nation's past and set it on a workable trajectory – rebuilding the shattered economy, reconciling the people, and curing deprivation. But not everyone sees prospects in that partnership. Some see the media as too inept and abusive of the freedom accorded it – deliberately or inadvertently – to impact that process positively. How much of this opinion is true, it is difficult to say. But the Public Procurement & Concessions Commission (PPCC) believes The National Chronicle is just one of such media houses that engages in ineptitude and abuse of freedom. The Analyst, reports.

The authority of the Public Procurement & Concessions Commission (PPCC) has described as disappointing, misleading, and an act of deliberate misinformation The Chronicle newspaper's article claiming that it violated a bidding process concerning a project of the Ministry of Transport.

The Chronicle's presumed defaming article, PPCC said, was contained in its Tuesday, January 15, 2013 edition.

In a riposte released to the media yesterday under the signature of Information and Communications Director, Mr. Nathan N. Bengu, PPCC accused the paper of failing to verify the "misleading information" the Movement for the Restoration of Accountability and Transparency (MORAT) had fed it. It therefore set to provide "accurate accounts in keeping with its mandate to promote integrity and public confidence in the procurement process".

PPCC's response

The PPCC authority said there was no way that it could violate any bidding process because it does not conduct bidding processes for procuring entities.

"Public Procurement is decentralized. Every Procuring or Concession Entity is responsible for procurement or concessions carried out by the Entity, according to Section 21 (2) of the PPCC Act," the commission said in its riposte.

The riposte said nothing was more disappointing than the paper's report, without verification, that PPCC was about to approve a Ministry of Transport request for sole sourcing.

The Chronicle report, which PPCC said MORAT Executive Director David C. Massaquoi influenced, claimed that PPCC was on the verge of approving a request by the Ministry of Transport to sole source West Africa Architects Construction Engineers (WAACE) for one weighbridge, even though WAACE did not participate in the competitive bidding process conducted.

The commission said all it did in that regard was to receive and approve a sole source request from the Ministry of Transport in December 2012, in accordance with Section 55 of the PPCC Act.

However, it frowned on calls by MORAT, a whistleblower, for a "relevant government agency to prevent PPCC from engaging into acts which run contrary to the effort of the President in deinstitutionalizing and tackling corruption in government" – calling it uninformed.

"The Commission is a major component of the public financial management reform agenda in Liberia. Procurement alone accounts for a significant portion (over 50%) of the national budget. Owing to its monitoring activities, public procurement procedures have been significantly enhanced, which contributed largely to Liberia moving up to number three (3) on the Transparency International's (TI) Corruption Index, as reported on national and international wires late last year," PPCC said.

The Chronicle allegedly reported that PPCC was single sourcing WAACE as winner of the 'bogus' bidding process, but the commission's riposte said the claim was ludicrous.

"The sole source procurement method, on the contrary, involves the consideration of only one contractor, for which prior approval must be obtained from PPCC, in accordance with Section 55 of the PPC Act," the commission said.

By this, analysts say, it is difficult to say whether PPCC is affirming approving the single sourcing request, but arguing that it cannot take the blame because making the bidding process competitive was not its responsibility.

However, the riposte said Chronicle as a media house, and MORAT as a civil society organization, should have contacted PPCC or taken into account the dictates of the procurement laws of Liberia before releasing such misinformation to the public.

The riposte said further evidence of the falsehood of the Chronicle story is its publication of the photograph of PPCC executive director with caption that claims that she was at work when she was actually conducting a capacity-building workshop in Bomi County for local county officials in keeping with the PPC Act.

In admonishing media practitioners to be mindful of the impact of what they publish by concentrating on the qualities of their editorials, PPCC challenged media houses in the country to take advantage of existing laws, which allow easy access to public documents and processes.

"The Commission therefore calls on media institutions to take advantage of the Freedom of Information Act by requesting relevant and factual information to validate their news articles before publication," PPCC said.

CSOs, PPCC said, must also play up their representation of the collective interests of the Liberian people by avoiding actions, such as the dissemination of malicious information, that compromise and mar their integrity. To refuse to heed this warning, PPCC said, it to involve in activities that "undermine the peace and stability which we all enjoy".

"The Commission understands that decentralized public procurement is a relatively new phenomenon in Liberia, and in keeping with its mandate, remains open to the public to provide information with regards to its activities, as well as to enhance the public's understanding of the provisions of the PPC Act and its accompanying Regulations. Additionally, the Commission views civil society organizations and media institutions as partners in carrying out its mandate of ensuring the economic and efficient use of public funds," PPCC said.

Meanwhile, PPCC has reaffirmed its commitment to the Liberian people, noting that it will always uphold the interest of the nation by adhering to the rule of law.

"We look forward to your continued support as we strive to promote equity, transparency, accountability, integrity, and fairness in the public procurement and concessions processes," it said.

The Public Procurement and Concessions Commission (PPCC) was established by an Act of the National Legislature, the Public Procurement and Concessions Act (PPC Act), to regulate the activities of all forms of public procurement and concessions in the Republic of Liberia.

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