The Minister of Public Works Mabutu Vlah Nyenpan, has told Senate that, as per schedule, construction of a new bridge over the Timo River is expected to be fully launched and commissioned on July 15, 2019.
Mr. Nyenpan disclosed that the Timo River Bridge has been imported in the country and that works are fast progressing, while the two other bridges, Cestos River Bridge and Sanquan are yet to be imported. He served as Sinoe County Senator in the 53rd Legislature,
Nyenpan made the disclosure on Tuesday, June 18, 2019 when he appeared before the Senate, assembled as a committee of the whole. Minister Nyenpan appeared briefly in the Senate Chambers on Thursday, June 13, 2019, but was denied audience due to his "improper dress code."
Minister Nyenpan was cited to appear before Senate plenary, after Sinoe County Senator Augustine Chea, wrote and complained about the "very poor" road condition, which he said is threatening southeastern counties, especially the three major bridges spanning that southeastern corridor.
Nyenpan recalled that on February 28, 2017, the Liberian government entered into contract agreement with Jupiter International, a local company, following the assessment of three major bridges between Buchanan and Greenville, to include bridges on the Timo River, Cestos River and Sanquan for their rehabilitation and eventual replacement.
He said the duration of the contract then was 12 months, while the contract cost for the design, manufacture, supply and installation of the three bridges, was put at US$3,245, 609.
Minister Nyenpan said initial payment of US$900,000 was made to the contractors on May 31, 2017, under the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf administration.
Under the current administration, he said the amount of US$500,000 was paid to the same contractors on April 19, 2018, followed by the amount of US$279,139 on March 8, 2019. "Meaning therefore, that the total amount paid by the past and current administrations is US$1,679,139."
Nyenpan said the government decided to resuscitate the 2017 contract despite its term for completion was 12 months, was based on the fact that the current government did not want to see US$900,000 already spent by the past administration go to waste.
But some Senators, specifically Oscar Cooper of Margibi County, who once chaired the Senate committee on Public Works, wondered whether based on Minister Nyenpan's explanation, there will be sufficient funds left to complete the two remaining bridges, with the amount of US$1.6M already used for one bridge, which is the smallest of the three bridges.
Sen. Cooper suggested that the contract be visited, which was welcomed by other senators.
He then informed the senators that government has finalized, not only for the pavement of the corridor between Buchanan and Greenville, but Buchanan to Greenville, Greenville to Sasstown, and Barclayville to Pleebo.
But Minister Nyenpan clarified that the government has not yet accessed finances for those corridors, but said while discussions are ongoing, the government has decided to keep that corridor open for the free movement of goods and services.
The former Sinoe lawmaker said that government has to date accessed resources for the pavement of about 96 kilometers of the distance between Grand Kru and Sinoe counties.
Nyenpan said that the the ministries of Public Works, Finance and Development Planning, have signed the contract to rehabilitate the road between Buchanan and Grand Kru counties, and is currently at the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) for the signature of the Commissioner-General, and thereafter, for the final signature of the Ministry of Justice.
The Senate plenary decision to bring the Public Works officials to the Capitol Building, followed a communication from Sinoe County Senator Augustine Chea, in which he alerted his colleagues that the Buchanan-Greenville high may become impassable during the current rainy season, if a fast track remedy is not found.
In his June 4, 2019 communication, Senator Chea warned that the corridor, "which is part of the proposed coastal highway is always deplorable during the rainy season making travel difficult and risky."
Chea said that the road condition is exacerbated recently when authorities of the Ministry of Public Works and or its contractor dismantled the Timo River Bridge due to their faulty conditions.
"The bridge is said to have outlived its lifespan; because of this situation, Sinoeans and other users of the road are compelled to use a detour route with travel time of about six or more hours to get back to the main road. As the line ministry responsible for roads and bridges, the Minister of Public Works should be invited to shed light on the new Timo River Bridge, and the temporary bridge projects. Minister Nyepan should also tell us what intervention his ministry plans to make on the Buchanan-Greenville highway to make it passable this rainy season," Sen. Chea added.