27 June 2013

Liberia: Where Is PUL Headquarters' Money?

The leadership of the Press Union of Liberia has been urged to account for US$100,000.00 provided by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in 2008 towards the PUL Headquarters project in Monrovia.

Liberian broadcast journalist and university lecturer Frank Sainworla made the call Wednesday in the Auditorium of the University of Liberia when he served as Moderator for a panel discussion at the closing ceremony of the Journalists for Human Rights (JHR) training program administered here in collaboration with the Liberia Media Center (LMC).

Frank, who recently ended a tour of duty with the West African Democracy Radio in Darker, Senegal, requested PUL President Peter Quaqua to account for the money, which was expended by his predecessor George Barpeen. Quaqua served as Secretary General for the Union under the Barpeen's administration when the money was controversially expended.

But immediately upon coming to the presidency, Quaqua in 2008 took the contractor for headquarter project, Arno Construction Company to court, represented its General Manager, Arno B. Flahn, including the International Bank Liberia Limited and Mr. George Barpeen, pleading for an injunction to the project, on grounds that the contract for fraudulently awarded.

"Wherefore and in view of the foregoing, Petitioner prays court and your Honor to annual, revoke, and terminate the fake contract of the Respondent; order with immediate effect the return of Petitioner's US$100,000.00 (United States Dollars one Hundred thousand) illegally transferred from its account under the cover of darkness, based on the aforesaid reasons and grant unto petitioner all any further relief that this court and Your Honor may deem just and equitable consistent with law", a second petition filed by the Quaqua Administration against the Arno Construction Company in 2010 read. The case is currently in court and the project has since halted.

"This story is very long, but I will cut short; the money was giving when I was taking over from the outgoing government of the union. When we took office, we met a contract for US$7050 thousand so we challenged that through court," Quaqua narrated Wednesday.

According to him, the money was not deposited in the Union's account, but into an account at Access Bank. However, Frank said while the media continues to engage government for accountability and transparency, the Press Union of Liberia is losing its credibility, noting, "The President talks about that money anytime the media questions the government for corruption."

Journalist for Human Rights (JHR) in collaboration with the Liberia Media Center (LMC) has ended a five-year program in the country, funded through the UK department for International Development.

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