16 June 2014

Liberia: Stripped to Bone - Millions Later, Seat of Liberian Presidency Looted

Monrovia — There continues to be raising suspicions as to why Chinese contractors are awarded major construction contracts in Liberia irrespective of the proven records of underperformance by some of the Chinese companies, with local contractors, finding it very difficult to compete with these Chinese companies in the industry as the majority of the contracts for works on roads and other construction are awarded to the Chinese.

The situation has left local engineering, architectural and construction companies on the verge of collapse despite the proven records of many of the these local companies of high performance.

A local Liberian company is known for constructing the National Social Security and Welfare Corporation (NASSCORP) building, the newest attraction in Monrovia but yet these Liberian companies are frustrated by their own Liberians who preside over bidding and awarding of contracts for construction works. The Executive Mansion renovation work which was expected to kickoff since 2006 remains undone for over eight years now with the project awarded to a Chinese company CNQC QINGJIAN International (Lib) Group, development Company LTD.

As of now there is no known explanation for the huge favor granted Chinese companies in awarding construction contracts as the millions paid to these Chinese companies have little impact on the local economy. Materials and other equipment for construction works are all imported by these Chinese companies coupled with cheap labor cost. Many Liberians are only hired as daily contractors by the Chinese companies with one contractor confiding in FrontPageAfrica that many of them contractors are paid less than US$ 5 per day for performing very difficult task.

China Union in a recent bid procedures informed bidders that they should inform the company about where to procure the materials that will be used for the construction of dormitories for staff. The Chinese scenario is one of many where foreign companies import nearly all major staff and the people they referred to as experts in a bid to ensure that their nationals are empowered.

How Chinese Company won over 2 million project?

With a large number of local construction companies, CNQC QINGJIAN International (Lib) Group, development Company LTD was awarded the contract for the renovation of the 4th floor of the Executive Mansion on May 26, 2011.

Documents in the possession of FrontPageAfrica indicate that the Chinese company was awarded the contract, despite bids from several companies based on the alleged influence from the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Dr. Edward B. McClain, Jr. Sources have hinted that Dr. McClain held several meetings with the owners of the Chinese company while the bid was ongoing and it was inevitable that the company could have been selected to perform the job.

In a letter awarding the contract to the Chinese Company, a letter dated May 26, 2011 addressed to Mr. XuYandong, COORDINATOR, CNQC QINGJIAN International (LIB) Group Development Company LTD., Aaron B. Milton, Sr., Project Manager for Milton & Richards, writing on behalf of the Project Owners, The Government Of The Republic Of Liberia informed the Chinese company that it had won the bid.

Stated the letter to the Chinese Company: "With reference to the said Project, we are pleased to notify you through this medium that, based upon a thorough Analysis of the Bids, with resultant Recommendation of this Firm to the owner, your Company has been Declared the MOST RESPONSIVE BIDDER for RENOVATION AND REHABILITATION OF THE FOURTH FLOOR OF THE EXECUTIVE MANSION BUILDING TOGETHER WITH ALL ITS ADJUNCT FACILITIES. The Owner has accordingly accepted the Consultant's Recommendation that all Work covered under the Construction Contract for this Project must Proceed as of today's date by your Construction Company in accordance with the Adjusted Contract Price of US$ 2,896,873.69 and a Contract Performance Period of Seven and One Half (7.5) Calendar Months for Completion of Renovation on the 4th Floor and Eleven (11) Calendar Months for all of the remaining Works covered under the Contract".

It was stipulated in the contract that the construction work on the Executive Mansion could have lasted 7.5 months from the date of signing the contract in June, 2011. The contract also provided for the commencement date of the work to be June 7, 2011 meaning the project should have been completed by February 2012.

Since the signing of the contract and the stipulation of the date of commencement and date of completion, the project remains incomplete. It is also indicated in the contract that 1,738,124.40 has been paid on the contract with an outstanding amount of US$ 1,158,749.29 as of June 2011.

Despite the signing of the contract followed by initial payment to the Chinese company with a completion period stated in the contract, the Executive Mansion is yet to provide reasons for the failure of the company to perform the contract for about three years now as the 4th floor of the building remains in ruins and the presidency occupying another building. Besides the payment of 1,738,124.40 as stipulated in the contract, the Ministry of State also requested additional electrical work on the 4th floor for which payments were made.

Sirleaf expresses frustration

The slow pace of the Executive Mansion renovation caught the eye of the President on May 6 when she visited the facility to access the level of work done. The Executive Mansion in a statement issued, indicated that the President was frustrated over the pace and quality of work at the Mansion.

"President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has expressed strong dissatisfaction over the pace and quality of on-going renovation works at the Executive Mansion. The Liberian leader made the assertion when she paid a visit to the grounds of the Executive Mansion early Tuesday morning, May 6", an Executive Mansion issued indicated.

According to an Executive Mansion, President Sirleaf was taken on a guided tour of the Executive Mansion, the official seat of the Liberian Presidency, to access progress on current renovation work by a female Liberian architect, Mrs. Karen Richards Barnes. The Executive Mansion in the statement indicated that the Ministry of State will hold follow-up meetings with the relevant entities to rectify the situation and ensure the highest quality and safety.

Photographs in possession of FrontPageAfrica show that various portions of the mansion have been looted. Chandeliers which once hung in the presidential palace have been replaced with Chinese ornaments while the central air-cool system have been replaced with a standing Chinese-made air-conditioner.

Also the marble tiles on the floor and wall of the building were all removed and replace with Chinese tiles. Many users of the Chinese tiles have indicated that tiles lose its original color after use for a short period and are also easily breakable. One engineer told FrontPageAfrica that it is difficult to understand why a place like the Executive Mansion will be constructed using ordinary tiles and materials that are easily breakable as compared to marble tiles and durable building materials.

The Executive Mansion was constructed over a three - year period, from 1960 to 1963. The entire project was designed and supervised by Stanley Engineering Company of Africa; and the Construction Contractor was Liberian Construction Corporation (LCC). The project was officially dedicated on January 3, 1964, the seat of the Executive branch of the Government of the Republic of Liberia.

The building is an eight-storey horizontal arch-like (semicircular) structure, constructed primarily of reinforced concrete post and lintel system, covering a total area of approximately 26,500 sq. ft. Vertical circulation throughout the building is by means of four major staircases and six elevators. One of the elevators is solely used by the president and visiting dignitaries, another one is used for freight and the rest of the other four elevators are used by the public.

The Executive Mansion was designed and is being used for four basic functions; the official residence of the President of Liberia, Offices of the President and Staff of the Ministry of State, reception and living accommodations for guest/dignitaries and maintenance/technical sections. The focal point of the building is an elaborate northern and centralized entrance/reception hall of the second floor, which connects the executive parlor, located in the eastern section of the building along with relevant supporting facilities; and to that of other administrative offices, located in the western section.

The entrance is approached by a bridge-like driveway (semi-circular), which overlooks and engulfs a parade ground in the north and under which lies a reflected pool. A reinforced concrete canopy covers this entrance and bears the seal of the republic of Liberia centralized on its reinforced concrete V-shaped fascia. Access to the beautifully landscaped, ocean view garden, yard, which is located at the southern side of the building, is also obtained from the above - mentioned hall.

Very prominent on the exterior walls of the building, running across the northern and southern surfaces is gold colored composite rectangular shaped solar screen, which runs from the second to the seventh floor. These aluminum metal solar screens are divided into several sections by vertical fins from first through eighth floors of the building and are concealed behind the indicated solar screens and fins. The building's western and eastern exterior end- walls, which also bear concave forms are finished with mosaic tiles.

Since the completion of construction works on the Executive Mansion in 1963, there had been two major rehabilitation works executed on the composite building elements/systems. Additionally, it is worth noting that the first renovation/rehabilitation of works was executed during the 1988 /89 under the reign of the late President Samuel K. Doe. The second renovation work was executed during the tenure of former President Charles G. Taylor in the year 1997-1998. Since the indicated period, there has been no other renovation & rehabilitation of the building element system.

The Executive Mansion was gutted by fire during Liberia's 159th Independence Anniversary celebration on July 26, 2006. Following the outbreak, the government of Liberia announced its closure pending renovation work. President Sirleaf relocated to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where she has been performing official State functions. The eight-storey building was constructed in 1964 during the tenure of Liberia's 18th President, William V. S. Tubman, Sr.

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