5 October 2017

Liberia: Government to Commission Audit in GVG 'Illegal Contract' With LTA

Monrovia — Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Lenn Eugene Nagbe, has disclosed that the government will commission a forensic audit into the contract between the Liberia Telecommunications Authority and Global Voice Group.

"If any illegal or inappropriate activity came out of the exercise, the audit with lay same to bare and the requisite actions will be effected by the government." - Lenn Eugene Nagbe, Minister of Information, RL

The need for the forensic audit arose from a FrontPageAfrica publication disclosing the alleged fraudulent nature in which the contract was awarded.

According the Information Minister, the results of the audit will be made public. Additionally, the government further clarifies that no such scheme was ever employed to fund the 2011 Campaign of the Unity Party.

Min. Nagbe explained that the International Gateway Monitoring contract which was signed in 2011 was to ensure that there was adequate monitoring of Liberia's spectrum management activities.

"If any illegal or inappropriate activity came out of the exercise, the audit with lay same to bare and the requisite actions will be effected by the government," Min. Nagbe noted.

FrontPageAfria earlier reported that stalwarts of the ruling Unity Party allegedly pocketed US$25 million from Liberian taxpayers during the Ebola healthcare emergency from a controversial telecom deal in December 2011 to implement an International Gateway Management System (IGMS).

The contract took advantage of the Ebola outbreak, which took the lives of 4,810 Liberians and affected livelihoods throughout the country hit the following year in 2014 brought in thousands of international aid workers and created a flood of calls from the Diaspora checking on loved ones. As a result, according to industry experts with inside knowledge of international call volumes during crises, it is estimated that the volume of international calls to Liberia increased 20-fold during the Ebola crisis from 2014 - 2015.

The lucrative contract was signed between the Liberian Telecommunications Authority (LTA), Global Voice Group (GVG) and Conex Telecommunications Incorporated, a local shadow company created 5 days before the deal by fellow party stalwart Sheriff Abdullah.

GVG, according to report, was operating through its local partner, Conex Telecommunications Inc. which is owned by businessman Sherriff Abadallah who is believed to be a silent financier of the Vice President Joseph Boakai's campaign.

The scheme taxed all incoming international calls $0.14 USD per minute and split that revenue between stakeholders.

According to LTA annual revenue data for the period of January 1, 2013 to December 31, 2013, the first full year of the scheme, IGMS produced $11,228,033.05 USD in total revenue for stakeholders. Altogether, this means that the IGMS scheme took in $224,560,660 USD during the Ebola crisis, with the Sherman and his cronies' share from the deal in a single year of $44,912,132 USD.

GVG has attempted similar corrupt deals in the past. They were kicked out of Senegal and Haiti for business practices revealed as scams that distorted local telecommunications markets. GVG's shady deal with corrupt officials is well documented. A 2010 exposé in The Africa Report called GVG's scheme The Great Telephone Racket.

In 2011 and 2012 local advocacy groups, Campaigners for Change scrutinized the deal, calling it "corrupt" and demanding that the Liberian anti-corruption commission (LAC) investigate. The case was never taken up by the LAC even though the LTA stopped making annual revenue data publicly available in 2013.

The IGMS scheme was not renewed by the Government of Liberia in 2016 and FrontPage Africa has learned that Global Witness is likely to view the paper trail on the GVG transaction.

FrontPageAfrica uncovered through credible sources in and outside of Liberia, including in the United States, which Conex Telecommunications Incorporated channelled over US$25 million of tax payers' money to the vice president Joseph Boakai's presidential campaign.

According to our source, Abdallah has been using funds from the questionable contract with Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) to finance the political activities of Vice President Boakai.

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