12 May 2014

Liberia: Govt. Reacts to U.S.$1 Million

Photo: Bai Best and Pewu Flomo/Liberian Observer
Fire at Executive Mansion (file photo).

The Government of Liberia, through the Project Delivery Unit (PDU) at the Executive Mansion has asserted that at no time did the government award any contract to the Netherlands Airport Consultant (NACO) without work being done.

PDU Coordinator, Gyude Moore explained that in 2003, as part of the World Bank's intervention in the country, conducted an international competitive bidding process for the development of a Master Plan for the Roberts International Airport (RIA) and the bid for the airport project was won by NACO.

However, the former Managing Director of the Roberts International Airport (RIA) Ellen Corkrum maintains that the company received US$1 million for job it did not perform.

Madam Corkrum said she has e-mail communications, bank statements and other cogent pieces of evidence which indicated how the company received money for services not rendered.

Speaking at the Ministry of Information regular press briefing in Monrovia last week, the PDU Coordinator Gyude Moore said in keeping with recommendations from an American company (which he did not identify), and in line with best practices, the government in 2012, contracted NACO to update that Airport Master Plan.

He said following the completion of the Plan, it was presented to the Government of Liberia in the presence of the media during a program held at the Foreign Ministry in March of 2013.

Moore said the government was compelled to react because the story tends to taint over 60 years record of a company (NACO) that has provided services to over 550 airports in over 100 countries at the levels of main ports as well as regional airports.

He reiterated that plans by the Government to reconstruct the Roberts International Airport were reportedly based on a comprehensive study presented by the Netherlands Airport Consultants, BV (NACO).

NACO, according to Mr. Moore, is a Dutch firm with over 60 years of experience in airport planning, design and engineering services.

In the latest secret recording released by Ellen Corkrum, it unveiled how more than US1 million was paid to NACO without performing any job at the RIA as provided by law.

Madam Corkrum said as head of the RIA at the time, she was not aware how NACO got the RIA contract and how over a US$1 million was paid to the company.

Corkrum said she got to know about the payment after she uncovered email communications, bank statements and other cogent documents about the company receiving money without performing the task for which it was paid.

Stunned by what was happening, Corkrum said when she engaged the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Dr. McClain and Gyude Moore, Chief of the President's special project to explain issues surrounding the NACO contract, she said they (pretended not to know about the NACO deal) informed her that Mr. Musa Bility, former Board Chairman of the RIA, was exclusively responsible for the transaction with the company.

She said McClain and Moore also told her that Bility should have informed her about what was going on. In the secret recording, a senior administration official told Madam Corkrum that the US$1 million payment made to the company was 'invalid and unapproved.'

Corkrum disclosed that bank statements in her possession revealed how the following amounts, US$40,000, US$250,000 and US$90, 000 were paid to the company.

This paper has made attempts, supported by text messages to speak with Mr. Bility on the issue but he has been indisposed for comment. Writes, Sam Zota, Jr.

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