7 February 2018

Liberia: House Judiciary Committee Investigates LEC-ESBI Management Service Contract

Monrovia — The House Judiciary Committee, headed by Rep. J. Fonati Koffa, has begun hearing into a complaint against the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) Management Service Contract with ESBI Engineering & Facility Management under the auspices of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC).

The contract, which was signed on November 8, 2017, is a US$15 million contract that outsources the management of LEC to the private firm for overall management of LEC and training of local staffs at the entity.

At the hearing on Wednesday, the complainant, Representative Dixon W. Siboe of Montserrado County District-16, argued that the contract seeks to put Liberians out of job on grounds that there are qualified and competent Liberians capable of managing the LEC as was demonstrated by the Interim Management Team.

According to Rep. Siboe, the worth of the contract being US$15 million should have passed through the National Investment Commission (NIC) and also the Legislature for rectification.

He said the contract also denies the Liberian government the right of termination, which in extension limits the power of the President of the Republic of Liberia.

Rep. Siboe presented two witnesses at the hearing - both are former employees of the LEC.

He called for the contract to be annulled in the interest of Liberian people.

In their separate statements, they argued that the Management Service Contracts signed by the LEC over the years have often neglected the training of local staffs to enable Liberians effectively run the LEC.

One of the witnesses, who only identified himself as Mr. Myers, said previous contracts of similar kind often limited the government's aspirations for the energy sector.

The other witness, who is the CEO of Twin Business Group, lamented that trained and qualified Liberians are often left out when it comes to major discussions on electricity in Liberia.

He noted that Ghanaians are mostly contracted to carryout electrical works in Liberia irrespective of the fact that there are trained and qualified Liberians capable of doing the same work.

"We are not even called to find out what's the problem with electricity in the country," he said.

According to him, because of the existence of such contracts, Liberians working in the electricity sector are always marginalized.

"The young people coming out of school these days do not get jobs. We're living in extreme poverty while the foreigners come and take advantage of our systems," he added.

Responding to some of the concerns raised in the complaint, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the LEC, Dr. Clarence Monibah, said the team of Liberians managing the LEC was an interim team that could not be maintained as their composition was set as an interim management team.

According to him, it was agreed through an act of Legislature that an interim management team would run the entity until a proper management team is set up to oversee the day-to-day activities of LEC.

Dr. Monibah added that all except for one member of the interim management team that headed the LEC for six months did not have any expertise in the energy sector.

He added that since the taking over of the ESBI, no Liberian has lost his/her job, neither were their salaries and benefits reduced though their ranks were lowered.

He said ESBI as per the contract has 90 days to submit a training plan to the government of Liberia for approval.

According to him, LEC has over 520 employees and everyone in the line of management would undergo some sort of training both in Liberia and in Europe to ensure that their capacity is built in order to ensure the effective management of the LEC when the contract shall have expired.

Dr. Monibah further said that Liberia stands high risk of losing several internationally funded projects if the contract is terminated.

He said these projects include US$121 million Mt. Coffee, training center, roads; US$60 million World Bank project on the Bomi Corridor for 38,000 domestic and commercial connections; World Bank project on the Kakata Corridor worth US$38 million for 25,000 domestic and commercial connections.

Others include US$18 million Kfw for connections in Duport Road, Clay Ashland & Double Bridge between 10,000 to 16,000 connections and a US$21 million ADB contract for 14,000 connections with additional donor funding for 40,000.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Cllr. Koffa, after the hearing said they would revert to committee room for deliberation on the matter and would request the presence of any of the parties when necessary.

Liberia

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