Monrovia — In April 2019, just over a year into the George Weah-led government, a major concession agreement was announced. Trumpeted as a game changer for traffic safety and enhancement of operations of the Liberia National Police, the Liberia Traffic Management Concession is now in limbo.
On April 16, 2019, President Weah, surrounded by key members of his administration, expressed appreciation for one of the first major investment of his government, hailing the outcome of the partnership between his administration and the LTM as a major booster to the police which would go a long way to enhance public safety and traffic management.
As part of the concession, LTM made a massive donation to the LNP, adding 24 motorbikes, 24 Renault
Duster jeeps, 18 tow-trucks, and 80 bicycles, specifically for use by the Traffic Division of the police.
Donated items catching Dust
Today, FrontPageAfrica has uncovered, all of those items donated vehicles and bikes are gathering dust and have not been put to use because the concession agreement has been breached by the Weah administration.
It was anticipated that the items, as agreed in the concession, would bring relief and safety to Liberian vehicle, tricycle, and motorcycle operators as well as pedestrians and passengers. President Weah at the time also declared that the new development could to the police generating more revenue into government coffers through the issuance of tickets to violators of the Vehicle and Traffic Law of Liberia.
So, what went wrong? Why has the concession failed to take off?
Last August, LTM began raising red flags after the Ministry of Transport began awarding Private Partnership agreements(PPP) with another company, the Modern Development & Management Corporation(MDMC)outside the scope of the LTM-GOL agreement which according to LTM was in violation of the concession amounting to default of the agreement.
All this amid an opinion from the Ministry of Justice in 2017 which concluded that "under the laws of the Republic of Liberia, the Ministry of Transport has no legal authority to issue driver's license and vehicle license plates. The act creating the MOT does not grant unto it such authority, beyond setting policy for road transportation."
Title 38 of the Vehicle and Traffic Law expressly provides that the Minister of Justice has the authority to issue driver's license and other documents relating to the operation of vehicles in the country. "Because the Liberia National Police, the entity responsible for enforcing the Vehicle and Traffic laws of Liberia and it is under the direct supervision of the Minister of Justice, a Motor Vehicle Division was established with the LNP. This Division has been in existence for over thirty years, and has been enforcing the Vehicle and Traffic laws, including but not limited to issuing driver's license, vehicle license plates, conducting vehicle inspection to ensure road worthiness."
MDMC Deal Clear Breach Concession, LTM Says
Ironically, on June 15th, a PPP agreement executed and notarized on the 12th of June 2020 between the GoL and the MDMC awarded MDMC a deal for nine years for the production and registration of motor vehicle license plates.
The deal with MDMC was a clear breach of the one signed with LTM.
Submitting the concession to the Speaker of the House of Representative in early 2018, President Weah recalled that the agreement, along with others were recalled for renegotiation with the National Investment Commission to meet basic legal requirements and yield economic benefits.
"Following the renegotiation process, the Concession was signed on September 11, 2018 between the Government of Liberia and Liberia Traffic Management Incorporated(LTM) for twenty years with a total investment of forty million United States Dollars," the President told the Speaker.
The President's communication to the Speaker further noted: "The purpose of the Concession Agreement is to seek, in line with relevant Liberia's law and public policy, to implement and enforce vehicle and traffic control related services; improve the provision of motor vehicle and traffic implementation of the Vehicle and Traffic Law of Liberia; and strengthen the Public Safety Division of the Liberia National Police."
If passed into law, the President promised, the agreement would provide a grant of twenty thousand United States Dollars(US20,000) payable through the Liberia Police Academy to train officers of the Public Safety Division, provide tow trucks, patrol vehicles, motorcycles, bicycles, uniforms, handheld electronic mobile and base radio communications all for the Public Safety Divisions of the Liberia National Police for traffic enforcement.
The agreement, in the President's own words was aimed at improving and performing services such as (a) Traffic Ticket Management System(b)Vehicle Towing and Impounding Management System, (c) Vehicle Inspection System, (d)License Plate Manufacturing Plant(e) Driver License System,(f)Vehicle Registration System and (g)Motor Vehicle Offices.
Interestingly, in the MDMC agreement, Section 9.4.4 obligates the company to provide tow trucks and impounding services for vehicle registration enforcement.
The PPP agreement with MDMC preluded an invitation to Bid that was published on December 10th 2019 without any specification of the license plates and reference to the traffic management system under construction by the LTM.
Similarly, the Liberia Traffic Management and the Government of Liberia signed a concession agreement on September 11th, 2018, ratified into law on December 21st 2018 and published into handbill on January 7th 2019. The agreement give the LTM exclusive rights to finance, operate, maintain and to perform services such as traffic ticket production and management, vehicle towing and roadside assistance, city parking, vehicle inspection and testing, driving testing and certification, driver's license production, vehicle registration and certification, vehicle impound lots along with the Liberia National Police as enforcement of the law.
LTM Concerns Over Plates
LTM is said to be expressing fears that license plates produced without clear specifications and coherence with the LTM's system undermines vehicle inspection and placed public safety at risk. More importantly, the government's agreement with LTM provides for the development of a centralized software system that takes into consideration a fully integrated vehicle traffic and inspection process; making it feasible for police handheld devices to determine license plate ownership and vehicle registration details without interaction with vehicles owner or the driver.
In the wake of the breach of the contract, it appears the government is poised to lose revenues absent of a system that enhances government's revenue collection, ensure accurate numbers of registered vehicles on the streets and eliminate fraud in the transport system
Justice Opinion Sides With LTM
For the immediate future, FrontPageAfrica has learned that the concession breach has caused LTM about $30 million in losses amid reports that the company may be contemplating suing the Liberian government in an international court in a bid to recoup its losses.
The case is poised to present a rather embarrassing turn for the Weah administration considering a 2017 opinion from the Ministry of Justice which supports the terms of the LTM concession.
The opinion recommended: That a bureau of Motor Vehicle be established as quickly as possible to give effect to the Executive law.
The opinion concluded: "That in order to keep pace with the conditions of the change and conform to international best practice with regard to motor vehicles and public safety, vehicle registration and the issuance of driver's license, the bureau of motor vehicle should be established as an autonomous agency working in close collaboration with the LNP and the MoT."
LTM Hoping to Avoid International Litigation
For the foreseeable future, a spokesperson for the LTM management told FrontPageAfrica this week it remains concerned over the Ministry of Transport's disregard for the existence of a ratified concession agreement. "LTM respects the Liberian people and its authorities. However, our main objective and concern is to go forward without further hinderance by third parties who are not signatories of the concession agreement, provide and assist the government of Liberia and the Liberia National Police in the speedy implementation of the badly needed traffic / motor and highway safety support at all levels in a modern and comprehensive manner that the Liberian people deserve. "
The management spokesperson concluded: "It is time that this flagrant violation of the law be stopped by the appropriate Liberian authorities since LTM management have repeatedly expressed that they have all along acted in good faith and made good on their commitments to Liberia. It is our wish is to move forward and avoid any unnecessary international litigation.