Monrovia — Finance and Development Planning Minister Samuel Tweah on his appearance on SKY FM's 50-50 show a few months back described the Liberia Water and Sewer Corporation (LWSC) as the government's "problem child", and so it is. The entity remains one of the most poorly performing, almost non-functional entities of government.
Under the leadership of Duannah Kamara, the LWSC has been consistently rocked by allegations of corruption while employees say they have not been paid for over six months.
Duannah Kamara, the Managing Director, has always been at the center stage of these allegations of financial malfeasance. Unarguably, there isn't much his administration can boast of achieving except for a few World Bank-funded projects and that of the Millennium Challenge Compact. Sewer lines keep making the city nasty and unhygienic while water is always in short supply. From the accounts of most employees, some of whom have been in the employ of the LWSC for over five years, Kamara's management is tearing the corporation apart.
"Water & Sewer was never like this. Things weren't perfect but everything here is at its worse under the leadership of Duannah Kamara. Water and Sewer is almost not doing anything - employees are not being paid, we haven't received our salaries for six months. The President needs to do something about this man," an employee who preferred anonymity told FrontPageAfrica.
Litany of Allegations
In August 2019, a FrontPageAfrica investigation uncovered that the LWSC had several individuals who were not in the employ of the entity on its payroll.
At the time, the personal cook of Mr. Kamara, Watta Saah, who does not work with the LWSC, was on the payroll of the institution and was being paid US$147 while his fiancée's best friend, one Jamesetta Gaye, was allegedly earning US$800 when she hardly went to work.
Kamara was also accused of creating a job title that does not exist in the LWSC's organogram to accommodate Ms. Gaye. "He created a position just to put his girlfriend's best friend there, and she cannot even go to work. How can you say she is Debt Collector for non-revenue water?" one of our sources noted.
Hawa S. Sewah, Technical Assistant, Water Project, Robertsports City, Grand Cape Mount County.
FrontPageAfrica's investigation established that there is no Hawa Sewah in the Technical Department of the LWSC yet her name is on the entity's payroll receiving money from government.
Hawa and Jamesetta were among a team of three persons who were recommended by the Managing Director Kamara to travel to the United States to represent the entity on the invitation by the American Water Works Association to attend the Annual conference, which was held June 9 to 12, 2019.
Kamara had written the then Foreign Minister Gbehzohngar Milton Findley, requesting him to issue passports to the individuals.
A copy of the request letter in this newspaper's possession, Kamara recommended Charles B. Sagbah, Assistant Manager, Field Service, Jamesetta Gaye and Hawa Sewah for the US trip.
Last year, there were series of report of stealing of fuel provided by the World Bank for its projects. The theft, according to sources familiar with the development, was often orchestrated by the top management of the LWSC.
In April last year, LWSC requested assistance from the World Bank through its current COVID-19 response project. And the World Bank, in response, provided support, which includes water treatment chemical, diesel fuel to pump water from White Plains to Monrovia and its environs as well as provide other water and sanitation services for three months.
Additionally, the World Bank provided 59,000 gallons of diesel fuel. It was delivered to LWSC in early May this year. The diesel fuel is intended to power the corporation's standby generators at its treatment plant and dislodge waste from the COVID-19 treatment centers.
Sources within LWSC say the fuel was diverted for different use including non-LWSC operational activities, which is against the purpose for which the fuel was provided by the World Bank.
An instance case of the alleged organized fuel theft occurred on Wednesday, June 3, 2020 when 5,000 gallons of diesel was loaded on a truck with plate number C.42770.
According to two LWSC gate passes obtained by FPA, the 5,000 gallons was intended for two outstation facilities in Buchanan and Kakata but it is unclear whether the fuel was taken there.
In two other earlier incidents, over 10,000 gallon of diesel fuel were taken away from the White Plains treatment center. On May 21, 2020 over 5,000 gallons were discharged from White Plains while another 5,000 gallons were also taken away on May 28, according to documents obtained by FPA.
Although the time on the passes mentioned morning hours, 7:29 AM and 10:43 AM, the fuel was physically removed from the facility at about 3 AM in the morning.
But the management of the LWSC said it did not consider lifting of the fuel as theft.
Last week, leaked audio recordings from the LWSC have been making rounds on the social media platforms.
In one of the recordings, the LWSC's Managing Director Kamara can be heard in a heated verbal exchange with his deputy Morris over the withdrawer of some US$99,000 from a local bank account.
Morris claimed that he halted the withdrawer of the fund because he was not aware of the transactions; while Mr. Kamara complained that Morris' action has caught the attention of Finance and Development Planning Minister, Samuel Tweah and he (Tweah) was demanding answers.
"The Minister of Finance just got to me to raise his concern but I have authorized the payment already. And then the bank's president is aware. So, we already authorized it. The Minister of Finance is aware; they just want to understand why was it stopped," Kamara said.
But Morris hit back, contending that he was acting in the right direction, and was not afraid to defend his action before the Finance Minister, let alone the President.
"But MD [Managing Director], don't be putting fear in me because you know that I will not be afraid. The Finance Minister himself can ask me, I will explain. I am not afraid of anybody. I can even tell the President," he said.
In another recording, two males, claiming to be staff of the LWSC were heard discussing about an alleged fuel theft at the LWSC station in Caldwell. One of the discussants was heard informing his colleagues that he got an intel from a friend that two fuel tanker trucks were arrested during late night hours with 27,000 gallons of fuel confiscated from one of the tankers, while one was released.
Suspended, Audit Ordered
Duannah is now under suspension and an audit has been ordered by President George Weah. Sensee J. Morris, Deputy Managing Director for Finance has also been suspended.
The President suspended the pair on Thursday, June 10, following reports of disturbances and allegations of corruption at the LWSC.
For some workers of the LWSC, the suspension of Kamara is belated and called for his dismissal.
"Duannah Kamara has been involved in a lot of corruption here," the employee alleged, adding, "The President is aware of those of those corrupt acts because the media has been reporting it. Maybe the President is only acting now because Samuel Tweah's name was mentioned in the recording. If something is not immediately done, this place will die completely."
In March this year, a philanthropist and a politician, Dr. Daniel Cassel presented a check of US$11,300 to striking employees of LWSC in Grand Cape Mount County so as to brief some relief to the residents of the county.
It can be recalled that aggrieved employees at the LWSC site in Robertsport recently staged a go-slow action by shutting down operations at the facility in demand of their over five months' salary arrears owed them by the corporation.
Their action prevented the supply of water for cooking, drinking and other purposes to thousands of residents of the county.
Dr. Cassell made the presentation of the amount when he visited the striking workers in the county on Tuesday, March 16.
Making the presentation, the Liberian humanitarian disclosed that the gesture was intended to bring some level of relieve to the striking workers and citizens of the county who trekked long distances to fetch water from nearby creeks and other areas.
Not Up to The Task
At their appearance before the House Plenary in April, Reps. Solomon George (District #7, Montserrado County) and Rustonlyn Suacoco Dennis (District #4, Montserrado Co.), in separate remarks said the management of the LWSC was not up to the task.
Rep. George stated that he has taken Mr. Duannah along with him to India and connected him with potential investors and partners but he squandered the opportunity.
Rep. Dennis said LWSC is one of the most ineffective entities of government owing to the management's failure to properly maintained several water stations constructed with support from the African Development Bank, while the head office of the Corporation in Monrovia lies in filth.
For his part, Rep. George Boley (District #2, Grand Gedeh County), whose communication triggered Plenary's decision to invite the LWCS's Management, called for the act creating the LWSC to be reviewed so that it can effectively deliver its services across the country.