28 February 2013

Liberia: 'Big Names' Linked to Contentious RIA Hotel Contract

Photo: Liberia Government
President Sirleaf and members of her cabinet.

Credible sources within officialdom have confided in the Independent Authoritative Heritage that some "Big Names" very close to the presidency have "vested interest" in the contentious Roberts International Airport(RIA)Contract. Due to competing demands, the Government of Liberia(GoL) embarked on the rebuilding of RIA Hotel.

The RIA is regarded as Liberia's premier airport. Jiaong International Construction Company, our sources hinted, is currently carrying on the rebuilding of the RIA Hotel, averring that the construction work is fast progressing.

Our sources, who spoke on condition of confidentiality, revealed that the reason why the GoL has not spoken publicly on this contract is because it was "secretly consummated" inconsideration of the "vested interest" the unnamed "big names", who are closed to the presidency, have in the deal at the detriment of the mass Liberians.

"The RIA Hotel Contract was secretly signed by the GoL and awarded to Mr. George Abi-Jaoudi, a top Lebanese businessman by non-attendance. The Abi-Jaoudis have strong relationships with the first family," our sources also revealed. Divulged our sources: "The first bid was won by a top Liberian businessman. But it was annulled simply because the vested interest the big names have in the deal. When the second bid was put out, the Liberian businessman did not participate as he had already discovered that the entire bidding process was a complete charade."

Our sources furthered: " It is best practice for authorities of the GoL to thoroughly scrutinize major contracts, especially a contract that has do to with the rebuilding of the RIA Hotel-a major government asset. But this is not the case of the RIA Hotel Contract." At the same time, there are reports that authorities of the Public Procurement Concession Commission(PPCC) and the National Investment Commission(NIC), two key government agencies responsible to scrutinize government's contracts, have no knowledge about the vetting aspect of the controversial RIA Hotel Contract.

On the other hand, some members of the public have begun expressing misgivings about the surreptitious nature of the contract, describing it as "bad governance" on the part of the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf-led government. "It is unbelievable for this government, which usually boasts of transparency and accountability to sign a secret contract with the Liberian people knowing nothing about it. Where are we heading?," asserted one Amos Tweh, a resident of Front Street, Monrovia.

Nancy Williams, a resident of Center Street, who also spoke to this paper uttered these words on the contentious RIA Hotel Contract: " It is unpatriotic and favoritism on the part of the GoL to award a major contract to a Lebanese man when a Liberian businessman had earlier won the bid."

She added: "Is it because the Liberian businessman does not have strong ties with the first family.? This is bad. What is wrong with the Liberianization policy-is it cosmetic?."

Meanwhile, the government remains tightlipped on the deal. The Heritage patiently ade several attempts with the President Office via Presidential Secretary Jerolinmek Matthew Piah and the Minister of the Ministry of Information, Culture Affairs & Tourism(MICAT), Lewis G. Brown regarding its report, but to no avail. However, Minister Brown on Wednesday evening informed this paper that the Minister of Transport, L. Eugene Nagbe will today, Thursday unveil the entire RIA Hotel Contract to the public at the MICAT regular press briefing.

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