Liberia: Executive Mansion Still Unusable, Incomplete After U.S.$33.4 Million Payout

The seven man special committee set up by the legislature to investigate the ongoing renovation at the Executive Mansion said Wednesday that the presidential palace was still not ready to be used.The report was made to the House Plenary on Wednesday. Fire gutted the mansion on July 26, 2006 when some visiting head of states had gone for reception with former Liberian president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Since then, money has been put into various budgets passed for the renovation.

The renovation is incomplete and artifacts of historic significance preserved at the Executive Mansion before and after the armed conflict, have not been found and are yet to be accounted for, the report said.

The Committee is headed by Grand Gedeh County District number two Representative George S. Boley, a former minister of Education in Samuel K. Doe's government.

"The Executive Mansion's renovation project is a complex web of apparent collusion by individual actors at practically all levels of governance, " Mildred Saryon Reaves, House Chief Clerk read the report.

Over US$33,492,101 is said to have been spent for the renovation for the time in review. Despite the amount spent, the report said, the Mansion remains unusable.

The report said that several companies, contractors and individuals associated with the ongoing renovation are yet to be identified.

"No one has been held accountable for his or her conduct in the misapplication of the national resources expended, to date for the 13-year-old ongoing project of the Executive Mansion," the report said.

According to committee, between April 2011 and January 2015, a total of US$24,788,101.18 was expended to repair the Executive Mansion. Several contractors, subcontractors and individuals were involved. A General Auditing Commission (GAC) report for the period of July 1, 2006 through December 31, 2015 revealed that the Executive Mansion's renovation contract was awarded in three phases.

The report said each contractor was given to certain companies to undertake the work according to phases. For instance, phase one Contract was for the fourth floor, the floor the fire gutted while Phase two contract was for the renovation of the seventh and other floors unaffected by the fire. Also, Phase three contract was to undo all the renovation work previously done due to the use of substandard materials by the first contractor, CNQC, a Chinese construction firm.

The report added that the Chinese company was the first major contractor hired to renovate the Executive Mansion, despite the fact that the company had no extensive work experience in Liberia. Other contractors included Milton & Richards, Pan African Engineering Group, Cape Resources and Vax.

Due to the substandard work done by the Chinese company, the report said, its contract was terminated July 1, 2015.

"Most of everyone associated with the first and second CNQC contract did not do justice to the government as per the findings of the report of the Special Presidential Task Force established by President Sirleaf. Those companies are yet to account for their respective roles in the renovation of the Executive Mansion," the report said.

More to that, the report said there were the dereliction of duty and apparent collusion between the CNQC and individual actors associated with the Executive Mansion's renovation through December 2015. No one was from the mansion was named.

The Committee further said that they held meeting with the Solicitor General Syrenius Cephus and Cllr. Arthur Johnson of the Assets Investigation, Restitution and Recovery Team (AIRRET) to brief them on the situation. As a result of that, the government is contemplating to take legal action against the management of Ecobank Liberia to recover the US$4,378,245.49 performance bond (indemnity bond) in relation to the Executive Mansion's renovation Ecobank Liberia issued, as required on behalf of CNQC.

"No one has been held accountable for his or her conduct in the misapplication of the national resources expended, to date for the 13-year old ongoing renovation project of the Executive Mansion," the Committee report said.

The Committee said before embarking on the investigation, it received briefing from a Special Presidential Task Force established by former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to investigate the Executive Mansion's renovation, and that the report was submitted on June 21, 2017. Findings and recommendations of the report are yet to be addressed.

The report said, despite the termination of CNQC contract, some contractors continue to carry out work at the mansion. The Committee has been to identify those contractors

However, the Committee requested for an additional three months to continue its probe of contractors' performance as of 2015 and the ongoing renovation. It asked the House of Representatives to provide US$30,000 to facilitate its investigation.

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