25 June 2014

Liberia: Executive Mansion 'Conceals' Renovation Contract

The Executive Mansion is yet to release copy of a contract it entered into for the renovation of the Mansion nearly nine years ago.

The Mansion, built by an Israeli company, was gutted by fire in 2006 during a dinner hosted for some West African leaders and dignitaries on July 26, Liberia's Independence Day.

The Mansion, despite assurance and acknowledgment of receipt of a Freedom of Information (FOI) request on May 22, 2014, has refused to respond to the request.

Even though Presidential Press Secretary Jerolinmek Matthew Piah confirmed receiving the request, but has failed to make the document available in spite of series of follow ups.

Piah told The NEWS on Wednesday, May 28, via mobile phone that the request has already been forwarded to the appropriate authorities for response. He did not name the authorities said request was sent to.

He said "Yes, I received it; but I am not the one to respond; so, I've forwarded it to the appropriate authorities who will respond... "

On June 20, follow up text messages including facebook chats were sent to both Piah and his deputy Christopher Sellee seeking the names and contacts of the responding authorities, but to no avail.

The Minister of State for Presidential Affairs Dr. Edward B. McClain, Jr. is yet to also respond to a text message sent him on the matter after his mobile phone rang endlessly.

The FOI law provides for responding institutions or agencies to respond to a request or forward the request to the appropriate authorities for response within 30 days.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf stated at the dedication of the multipurpose complex of the National Social Security and Welfare Corporation (NASCORP) in Paynesville that the renovation contract was awarded to a Liberian Construction Company that recently completed the NASCORP building.

A Liberian journalist issued two separate Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to the Executive Mansion and the Public Procurement and Concession Commission (PPCC) for a copy of the Executive Mansion renovation contract.

Journalist Sam Zota of The NEWS Newspaper said the intent of the FOI requests were to provide an insight into the status of renovation works at the Executive Mansion since the contract started nine years ago.

The two requests were separately submitted to the two institutions with carbon copies sent to the Press Union of Liberia (PUL), Liberia Media Center (LMC), The Carter Center (TCC) and other relevant national and international institutions.

Under Liberia's FOI law, everyone has the right to request and receive information from all public agencies of the Government of Liberia and any private entity that performs duties normally carried out by the government, provides public services or receives public funds or benefits.

The Executive Mansion has been undergoing renovation without public information on the contract.

The Coordinator of the President's Project Delivery Unit (PDU) Gyude Moore recently told journalists that he lacks knowledge about the contract for the renovation of the Executive Mansion.

Funds have reportedly been allotted in successive fiscal budgets for the renovation of the Mansion. In the 2013/14 fiscal budget, US$7,789,100 was allotted to renovate the Executive Mansion.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf had expressed disappointment over the slow pace and quality of ongoing renovation works at the Executive Mansion during a recent visit there.

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