9 August 2018

West Africa: Liberia - President Weah & Legislators Should Take Cue From Ghana's Addo

Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo, in an unprecedented move this week announced the dismissal of his energy minister, Boakye Agyarko due to proposals for a renegotiation of a $510 million private power deal with Africa Middle East Resources Investment Ltd.

AGYARKO's dismissal was related to the amendment of a deal with Ameri, Eugene Arhin, a spokesman for the presidency, said Tuesday in a broadcast on Accra-based Joy FM.

IN RECENT MONTHS, PRESIDENT AKUFO-ADDO'S government had been reviewing the 250 megawatts after claiming that the country was overpaying by $150 million for a transaction that was first negotiated in 2015 by the previous administration of President John Mahama. At the time, Ghana experienced chronic blackouts, crippling factories and exacerbating weak growth that slowed to the lowest in more than two decades.

UNDER A PROPOSAL that was submitted to lawmakers with the backing of Akufo-Addo last month, a new operator would take over running the plant in a deal that would've incurred Ghana $825 million in fresh costs, according to an estimate by Kwadwo Poku, country director of Gasop Oil Ghana Ltd., an Accra-based oil explorer.

THE DEAL IS SIMILAR that has been hiding under the radar in Liberia.

FRONTPAGEAFRICA RECENTLY unraveled a proposal on the table by the George Weah-led government with a private Turkish company, Karpower that has been raising eyebrows amongst Liberia's key development partners who recently issued a caveat, which if not heeded to, could plunge the country's emerging energy sector into jeopardy.

KARPOWER OPERATES A FLOATING power plant, which according to the deal with Liberia would sell electricity to Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) for onward distribution to customers.

UNDER THE PROPOSED CONTROVERSIAL plan with a 10-year contract stipulation, Liberia would be buying power from Karpower even though it already has an absorptive capacity of only 24 percent of current installed capacity at Bushrod Island and Mt. Coffee Hydro facility.

FRONTPAGE AFRICA EARLIER reported that a number of stakeholders were concerned about the repercussions the new power deal could have on existing agreements with the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), the Norwegian government, European Union, World Bank and the German Development Bank.

KARPOWER, IRONICALLY, is also facing scrutiny over its operations in Ghana and like Ameri has been slammed by members of the minority in Parliament who recently sounded an alarm over the controversial deal which was extended from ten to twenty years in March 2018, despite the then opposition NPP talking down the deal and describing it as bad.

JOHN JINAPOR, a former Deputy Power Minister described the reviewed Karpower deal as a "scandalous and corruption-ridden" agreement.

SPEAKING DURING A NEWS conference held in opposition to proposed amendments to the AMERI deal, Mr. Jinapor warned that the renegotiated Karpower deal was even worse than the AMERI deal that civil society had also kicked against at the peak of Ghana's power crisis. "The renegotiated Karpower agreement stinks to the heavens with big fishes in government superintending the looting of the state under this new deal."

IN LIBERIA, MEMBERS Of the national legislature have a bad reputation of signing controversial and scandalous agreements without reading the fine prints and governments, past and current have shied away from seizing the opportunities of putting deals against the public interest from seeing the light of day.

THIS WAS EVIDENT last week when the government's chief spokesman, Information Minister Lenn Eugene Nagbe confirmed that despite the construction of the Mount Coffee Hydro Plant, the Liberian government is looking for other "relatively appreciable" means of energy for the country. "Yes, we agree that the Mount Coffee is a good thing, but it is insufficient to meet our energy need. Definitely, we as a government will explode other avenues."

THE MINISTER, responding to concerns about a reported deal the government is considering with Karpower acknowledged that there are talks between the government and Karpower, but clarified that no deal has been signed. "The specific issue that has been raised about the Turkish group, the government has not consummated any deal with Karpower." The minister then said that the government has been receiving proposals from other energy firms to do solar energy in the hinterland. "Mount Coffee is producing about 80 megawatts of electricity and we are evacuating 22 megawatts because we did not factor in transmission and distribution of the energy that is being generated."


IN A STINGING LETTER recently leaked to FrontPageAfrica, from the Office the U.S. Ambassador to Liberia, Amb. Christine Elder, co-signed by the Ambassadors of Norway, United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, Sweden, European Union and the Country Director of World Bank in Liberia, addressed to Mr. Samuel Tweah, the Minister of Finance and Development Planning, sought to draw the government's attention to regrettable repercussions Liberia could face if the Karpower deal is ratified by the Legislature.

THE INTERNATIONAL partners have invested more than US$825 million in the electricity sector of Liberia in support of the government's efforts at the Mt. Coffee Hydropower Plant, in transmission and distribution of power, training at the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC), sound administration of the utility, and the completion of the CLSG network. "In light of the stakes, we note with great concern that LEC faces substantial financial and managerial challenges which risk the sustainability of the Mt. Coffee Hydropower Plant, as well as the success of other initiatives and opportunities in the energy sector," the letter noted.

THE PARTNERS EXPRESSED CONCERNS AT the government, which is the LEC's largest consumer, to settle its utility bills much needed to fund LEC's basic operations, such as connecting customers and servicing; high commercial losses for LEC that nullify rewards of lower cost energy generated by Mt. Coffee.

THE PARTNERS WHOSE financial contributions brought Mt. Coffee back online are worried about the government's deviation from the terms of a management services contract signed by the LEC Board delegating exclusive operational authority to ESBI through oversight of a Board of Directors.

PARAMOUNT AMONGST the concerns is the Government of Liberia's 10-year "financially and technically mismatched power purchase contract" contract with Karpower, which these international partners see as counterproductive to the how the ESBI management team could bolster LEC's foundation.

THE SIMILARITIES between Liberia and Ghana is mind-boggling. Two neighboring countries taking very different approach toward a collision course likely to affect their people.

IN GHANA, MINORITIES members of parliament raised a red flag that Ghana was on the verge of purchasing a US510 million gas power plant that was acquired for US$220 million. The Ghanaian government reportedly contracted a middleman - AMERI- who also contacted another middleman- METKA - to purchase the plants from the original manufacturers, clearly aware that General Electric, though the government is clearly aware that General Electric is the manufacturers and Ghana could have purchased the plants directly from them.

IN LIBERIA, lawmakers recently closed their eyes and allowed to scandalous and controversial loan deals to sail through their fingers without raising a hand in objection.

IF LIBERIA IS to transcend above the sins of its woeful and painful past, those elected and appointed to positions of power must do all they can to seek the best interest of the people they are appointed or elected to serve.

DURING A VISIT to Accra, shortly after his inauguration, President appealed to President Akufo-Addo and Ghanaians to help Liberia to progress and succeed. "I am young, I agree, but you are my big brother, and I know that you will help Liberia to succeed," President Weah appealed.

WELL, THE BIG BROTHER has shown the little brother how to nip a potentially embarrassing situation in the butt. We hope for Liberia's sake, President Weah can take cue and do what is in not just his own interest and those around him, but the interest of Liberia.


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