The Inquirer (Monrovia)

Liberia: What Stalled Somalia Drive Road

Since the signing of the US$50 million contractual agreement between the Government of Liberia and that of the Government of Japan for the construction of Somalia Drive and pronouncement made by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf that the project would have commenced last February, nothing has been done on the road. This has raised citizens' concern as the deplorable condition of the road continues to pose serious hardship on the movements of the people of Gardnersville and surrounding communities. What is ongoing or what has completely stopped the rehabilitation and or construction of the road remains the baffling question on the minds of the citizens.

Documents obtained by The INQUIRER has clearly revealed that controversial Public Works Minister, Dr. Antoinette Weeks, is one of those responsible for the delay or stalling of the project which should've commenced since February as stated by President Sirleaf in her State-of-the-Nation Address in late January.

In an email to Minister Weeks from Mrs. Maki Okusa, Head of Office/Project Formulation Advisor Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Liberia Field Office, reference: Your availability for next week sent on Friday, February 28, 2014 at 4:59 A.M., with CC copies to Edsel Smith and Deputy Minister Zack Sharpe; Okusa noted, "Even though you will be out of town next week, the Consultant is still planning to come to Liberia, if there is a chance, to pay a courtesy call to you and also to assess the current situation of Somalia Drive. He is arriving on Monday evening and will leave on Saturday."

The email went on, "I do not have your detail schedule of next week, but would it be difficult for you to meet with the Consultant even briefly if you are leaving town after Tuesday? He is arriving by Kenya Airways on Monday so if you have time, he will come to your office straight from the airport."

Okusa informed Minister Weeks that, "The reason I am asking for your time to meet with the Consultant is, as you may know already, unless JICA verifies the Contract, we are not going to disburse the payment to the DNC which means, no construction work will start."

The email from Okusa stated further that "Unfortunately, the Consultant will not be able to come to Liberia until May, if he loses this opportunity to meet with you. The best is the Consultant will meet with you even shortly but if that would be difficult, please kindly go through the Amendments of the Contract that the Consultant has emailed you. It would be greatly appreciated if you could give any comments or hopefully your consent when the Consultant contacts you by phone earlier next week."

Minister, my biggest concern is the further delay of this project. This is a special project requested by Madam President. Due to the delay of RAP implementation, the project is already delayed while the

Expectation of the people is getting higher and higher. We are already in March and rainy season will be coming soon. As you know, if we miss current dry season, we have to postpone the commencement until later this year, which causes the huge delay to the entire schedule. This will be a big disappointment for people and also for Madam President," said the email from Okusa.

It furthered, "I totally understand your busy schedule and rather, appreciate very much for your attention and cooperation for this Project. For our assistance by grant, Japanese consultant and contractor will be responsible and in charge of all constructions based on Japanese standard. Both Katahira and DNC have enough experiences and done great jobs in other countries. Once the construction starts, you will know what I mean. But meanwhile, I need your generous cooperation to finish this administrative/paper works as soon as possible so that we can start the construction."

"Unfortunately, I will be out of the country next week but I would appreciate you very much if you could consider to give your time to go through the Amendments and met with the Consultant next, week. If you have any question or concern; please kindly let me know. I will be checking emails while I am away and will come to your office, if you want, upon my return," Weeks stated.

In her response, Dr. Weeks said, "We are aware that representatives from DNC are in Liberia. We will be meeting with them either this Friday or early next week. As regards the visit of the consultants in early March, I've advised Minister Edsel Smith to kindly advise Katahira to reschedule their visit until after March 15th, as I will be away from Monrovia in other remote parts of Liberia conducting some urgent road assessments. Also, with the departure of former Minister Victor Smith from the Ministry of Public Works, I want to be certain that I am available to meet with Katahira's representatives while they are in Monrovia to discuss the project and finalize any outstanding issues. I believe it will be better for them to come when I am available to meet with them and also provide my fullest attention and cooperation of the Ministry of Public Works."

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