President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has with immediate effect, frozen the accounts of the Liberia Telecommunications Authority or LTA, and suspended the US$1 million lease agreement between the entity and a Chinese company, Qinjian International, for a building it intends to secure as an office.
The President's action was contained in a press release issued here Tuesday, 4 February by the Executive Mansion.
The decision by the Liberia Telecommunications Authority to pay US$1,155,000 (One Million, One Hundred and Fifty-five Thousand United States Dollars) for the lease of a private building for three years in the midst of a shrinking economy and shortfall in the national budget has raised serious debate here with critics terming it as being wasteful and insensitive.
The LTA confirmed in a statement that it is paying US$385,000.00 annually to a Chinese company, Qingfian International (Lib) Group Development Company Limited for the lease of a three-storey building along the Congo Town Back Road, outside Monrovia to be used as its offices.
One critic said this huge amount could have been used to build a permanent office of the institution that could accommodate all its facilities instead of going for a three years lease that might be unsustainable given the current economic reality in the country. But the management of the Liberia Telecommunication Authority has defended the move, arguing that it is fair market value and cost effective. In an official response to public criticism, the management said the decision to consolidate all their employees in one location rather than three, has cut down on the number of security personnel and the cost of generator and fuel. LTA Director of Public Affairs Jarsea Burphy said prior to the move, management has been leasing three buildings at three different locations in Sinkor.
"The new location while definitely not cheap at all allows the LTA to most of all foster greater unity among employees and provides an excellent area for the International Gateway Monitoring System, which takes up an entire floor", Ms Burphy said in a written response sent to the NewDawn on Monday.
According to her, the West Africa Regional Communications Project will also be relocating to the site in March, and that LTA's staff has grown from 29 employees to 100 since the Weeks Commission took over. The LTA did not state however in its response how much it was paying to have rented the three separate offices in Sinkor.