28 February 2014

Liberia: 'Lavish Spending'

What appears to be another waste of the country's resources has been discovered at the National Elections Commissions (NEC).

The disclosure was made Thursday in session by the Public Accounts and Expenditure Committee of the House of Representatives.

Recently, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf froze the accounts of the Liberia Telecommunications Authority LTA and suspended the US$1.15 million lease agreement with a Chinese company, Qinjian International, for an office building.

President Sirleaf said the decision by LTA to pay US$1.15 million for lease of a private building for three years in the midst of a shrinking economy and shortfall in the national budget has raised serious concern.

The LTA confirmed in a statement that it is paying US$385,000 annually to Qingfian International for the lease of a three story building to be used as its offices. In a communication, the committee said it has discovered that the NEC has used US$1,909,876.50 for the provision of vehicles rental and lease for the ongoing Voters Roll Update exercise which lasted for 45 days.

According to the Committee's Chairman James P. Biney, NEC entered into an agreement with a company called 'Efficient Logistics Services' for the payment of such huge money for the period of 45 days.

Representative Biney said the procurement of services was submitted to the Public Procurement and Concessions Commission (PPCC), which was rejected.

Representative Biney further told his colleagues that in response to the contract, the PPCC noted the urgency of the request, but advised the NEC against spending such huge amount to rent vehicles.

"We wish to bring to your attention that the total contract valued at US$1,909,876.50 for the provision of vehicles rental and lease services for the Voter Roll Update exercise is very costly, considering that portion of said amount could have been allocated towards the purchase of new vehicles for NEC, which would have been used for subsequent election-related activities," Rep. Biney quoted the PPCC's communication to the NEC dated January 15, 2014 as saying. The Maryland County Representative told his colleagues that the PPCC further advised the NEC that in addition to the purchase of new vehicles, the commission could have requested the General Services Agency (GSA) to retrieve operational vehicles from the government's fleet for use during the period of the Voter Roll Update process as was done during the 2013 High Level Panel meeting.

According to Rep. Biney, the Public Accounts and Expenditure Committee's investigation has established that NEC refused to honor the PPCC's advice.

He said the Committee through the Office of the Chief Clerk requested NEC to submit the matrix for the 200 vehicles that it claimed to have rented for the exercise and the agreement between it and the Efficient Logistic Services.

Representative Biney claimed that NEC refused to comply to said request made by the committee.

Our Legislative reporter said based on the critical nature of the Committee's complaint, members of the House unanimously voted to summon the entire leadership of the NEC including its Chairman, Jerome G. Korkoyah, Board of Commissioners and Executive Director to appear Tuesday, March 4, 2014 to provide details of the contract.

The Chairman of the Public Procurement and Concessions Commission (PPCC) has also been invited by the representatives.

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