Liberia: Bad Roads, Spoiled Traffic Lights Due to 'Lack of Money'

-- Public Works Minister Tells House of Representatives

In a rather annoyed tone, Public Works Minister Mobutu Vlah Nyenpan declared that it is the lack of money that is responsible for the failure of the Ministry of Public Works and Rural Development to repair (repair or reconstruct) the bad, bad roads throughout the country. According to him, out of the US$48 million allotted in the 2018/2019 National Budget, the Ministry had accessed or expended only US$21 million, meaning that US$27 million, equivalent to 60% was defaulted.

The Public Works Minister told members of the House of Representatives on Tuesday, September 10, 2019 during its 7th Day Special Sitting that the US$21 million, which was 40% of the US$48 million, was mostly used to pay salaries, while the remainder would allow for some of the 'bad, bad or troubled' roads to be fixed.

He attributed the meager repairs to community roads, known as Pro Poor Roads, to some of the remainders from the 2018/2019 Budget.

In other words, the Public Works Minister is decrying lack of support from the Finance Ministry to repair the bad roads, damaged bridges and the spoiled traffic lights.

However, Minister Nyenpan described as 'wrongful' certain media publications blaming the Ministry of Public Works for accounting for US$21m instead of the US$48m.

The former Sinoe County Senator and Senate Chairman on Public Works was furious declaring the traffic lights would not be repaired due to the lack of money. According to him, after two separate vouchers were raised and submitted to the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) for payment, totaling US$132,600, up to present, the MFDP is yet to provide the money to fix the traffic lights to control, manage and avoid unnecessary traffic hazards.

Minister Nyenpan disclosed that the 'Repairing of the Traffic Lights' received a go-ahead from the Public Procurement Concession Committee (PPCC) and underwent a Tender procedure which kicked off on July 23, 2018 and was subsequently and formally won by a Liberian firm and an agreement signed on October 9, 2018.

"Considering the urgency of the traffic lights and the need for mobilization to be given to the Liberian contractor, two vouchers were raised, on January 8, 2019 and February 21, 2019 but, up to this moment, none of the vouchers have been transformed to check and the Ministry of Finance has not given a dime for the works."

Minister Nyenpan also told the House Plenary that following negotiations with the Liberian contractor for pre-finance, on June 4, 2019, two of the nine traffic lights were changed and installed, specifically at Capitol By-Pass/Bassa Town Junction and the Vamoma House/Airfield Junction, but the contractor could no longer continue, owing to the lack of money.

Sinoe County District #1 Representative Jay Nagbe Sloh, following debates on the essence and the absence of the Finance Minister Samuel Tweah, proffered a motion that the issues on the repair of the traffic lights be tabled and the Public Works Minister be summoned again along with the Finance Minister, Samuel Tweah.

Meanwhile, on the bad roads and damaged bridges in Crozierville and Clay Ashland in Montserrado County District #1, following complaint from the constituency's Representative Lawrence Morris, Minister Nyenpan told lawmakers that assessments have been made and that the indicative cost for the Crozierville Bridge is US$318,000, and for Clay Ashland is US$225,000.

"The No Objection Request has been sent to the PPCC for the Bid Tender Process to begin and, if the PPCC replies, the process will begin. And then, when the 2019/2020 [National Budget] is approved, the bridges will be constructed," Nyenpan said.

Rep. Morris in his debate as the progenitor of the communication, said thousands of his residents are going through hardship as a result of the damaged bridges.

"We are asking the Ministry of Public Works if we can have bailey bridges to alleviate the hardships in the meantime, while await the PPCC approval and then the Tender Bill processes to reconstruct the bridges," Rep. Lawrence said.

In response, Minister Nyenpan said that, upon the approval of the PPCC and awarding of contract, the winner within the contract will be mandated to construct detour bridges, but it is not possible to erect bailey bridges.

He pointed out that in the 2019/2020 Budget the Ministry of Public Works' is expected to receive an allocation of only US$32 million, a reduction of US$16 million.

"If we receive the US$32m, it will be used correspondingly," Min. Nyenpan stressed.

It may be recalled that the House of Representatives summoned the Public Works Minister and Principal Deputies because of communications from Grand Bassa County District #3 Representatives and Montserrado County District #1 Representative Lawrence Morris, on the spoiled traffic lights across Montserrado County, being responsible for unnecessary road accidents, as well as damaged brides in District #1 Montserrado County.

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