18 January 2013

Liberia: 56 Million Shipment of Road Equipment to Be Diverted

Just less than two weeks since the Presidential Special Committee submitted a report on the abuse of Private Use Permits and calling for the debarment of several logging companies including Malaysian company Atlantic Resources, the moratorium seems to be having serious economic consequences with the possible diversion of a 56 million dollar shipment of road and logging equipment to Ghana.

The shipment constitutes the first major road and port equipment to be imported into the country since the end of civil war. Documents in the possession of the Heritage shows that the equipment on board the vessel include a Landing Craft and two Tug Boats of different specifications. Shipment experts say, the landing craft would be of huge commercial value to shipping and sea transport activities.

The shipment also has on board two Deck Cargo Barges, 58 Cat Tractors, 10 wheel loaders, four tankers, eight Excavator machines, three cranes and several trucks and road equipment. In a related development, Atlantic Resources, the company at the heart of the PUP storm has rubbished the Special Investigative Committee claims it is due taxes to the Liberian government. This paper has received hundreds of flag receipts and a Tax Clarence from the Ministry of Finance, dated 11 December 2012.

The payments amount to over 6 million dollars in revenue to the government of Liberia and were made primarily in 2012 and included payment in stumpage fees, land rental, corporate taxes , fees, royalties amongst others. The government Tax Clarence contradicts the Special Committee's report which called on the government "to pay all tax arrears on FMC "P" and be permanently barred from engaging in commercial forestry activities for violation of NFRL 20.6(a)(i) and NFRL 20.6(a)(ii) and for orchestrating fraudulent activities in Liberia's forest sector."

A company source speaking on condition of anonymity since he was not authorized to speak, said it appears Atlantic is being signaled as part of a broader campaign to handicap the forestry sector in light of the massive investment in roads and other infrastructure the company has began undertaking.

Classified internal documents from the Ministry of Public Works revealed the company has begun rehabilitating over 80 kilometers of coastal roads linking Sinoe, Grand Kru and Rivergee.

The internal Public Works memo, praised the company's efforts and stating that "ARL has also constructed a 20-kilometer road up to Nyankunkpo on the bank of the Dorbor River, when completed, this road will link up with the Kanweaken-Barclayville Road at Norkwia but would require the construction of a bridge".

In the memo addressed to William Slour, Acting Deputy Minister, the assessment mission found that the company had rehabilitated 50.2 kilometers of road between Greenville and Karquekpo; constructed 54.9 kilometers of new road between Karquekpo (Sineo County) and Doeswan and beyond (Grand Kru County).

"Existing feeder road between Greenville and Karquekpo have been upgraded to primary road consisting over 50km stretch. The rehabilitation process has also seen construction of key bridges and culverts in these areas," the document stated. It is understood the Liberia Government through the Ministry of Public Works has agreed and began paying a rebate of 40% on the road project since it was outside the agreement between the government and the concessionaire.

Since the release of a report on the abuse of Private Use Permits, the Heritage has been closely following the development and its attending economic implications.

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