Liberia: Frontpageafrica Releases 2021 Evaluation of State Owned Enterprises and Integrity Institutions

editorial

Monrovia — When a country's economy is depended heavily on foreign aid, foreign direct investment and experts of natural resources such as iron ore, rubber and timber, the rest of the burden falls on State-Owned Enterprises to fill in the gaps where needed to keep the government functioning.

SOE's are essential in the transition to a sustainable economy as Liberia has been pursuing since the end of the brutal civil war. There are a total of 20 state owned enterprises (SOE's) most of which are government-owned (wholly-owned), with thousands of Liberians in their employ.

The SOE's operate several sectors including port services, airport and civil aviation, electricity supply, oil and gas, water and sewage, agriculture and forestry, maritime, petroleum importation and storage and information/communications services.

The SOE sector remains a key part of Liberia's economic development agenda and is guided by the Public Financial Management (PFM) Law of 2009 which sets out rules governing SOE management and operations. While some SOEs are functional and contribute to the national budget, others exist statutorily and have remained non-functional over the years. There is no published list of SOEs and no website with a link to all the SOE's.

There are a number of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) some of which perform regulatory functions for different sectors while others have become dysfunctional. The Public Financial Management Law outlines proper regulatory framework for the SOE sector to ensure it fosters the government's development agenda.

During the course of the year under review, the government's overall objective with the management of the state-owned enterprises, as has been with the previous government, was to ensure long-term value growth and to specifically ensure the mandates of the entities and policy initiated by the government for SOEs are performed well. However, Companies owned by the Government of Liberia are required to abide by ethical compass and must cope with being scrutinized in terms of their overall performance. This is where agencies like the General Auditing Commission, the Financial Intelligence Unit and the Public Procurement Concessions Commission come in.

CENTRAL BANK OF LIBERIA

THE LOWDOWN: The CBL functions as an independent authority responsible for controlling, regulating and stabilising the monetary and banking structure of the country, and has authority to: issue legal tender banknotes and coins; administer the currency laws and regulate the supply of money; provide credit to bank-financial institutions on a discretionary basis and acts as fiscal agent for the government.

During the year under review, the CBL celebrated the passage of the Amended and Restated Central Bank of Liberia Act of 1999.

The CBL Act of 1999 had not had any significant amendment until 2020. The most significant amendments of the Act was in 2020 under the leadership of Executive Governor Aloysius Tarlue, Jr. The amended and restated Act contains several fundamental improvement in the operational and functional independence of the CBL with strong corporate governance, internal controls, and risk management standards. The Act further expands the mandate and objectives of the CBL in addition to price stability to include contributing to financial stability and supporting Government's economic policy within its mandate. The Act further requires CBL to be fully accountable to the people through the National Legislature and publication of its activities, including its audited financial accounts.

Since taking office in early 2020, the new Administration under Aloysious Tarlue has endeavored to live up to these statutory obligations. The Bank has undertaken and implemented several internal reforms, including establishment of a Compliance Unit for the first time in the history of the Bank; strengthened the capacity of the Internal Audit Department through a co-sourcing arrangement with PWC Ghana; promoting transparency in the financial accounts of the Bank, etc.

For the first time in the history of the Bank and as required by the amended and restated Act, the Bank has established a formal structure for formulating and implementing monetary policy decisions. The Bank is in an advanced stage of establishing a formal Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) as required by the Act.

In the year under review, the CBL, in order to set a new tone and direction for the Bank following decline in the image of the Bank associated with the alleged L$16 billion and the US$25 million mop up exercise, crafted a new Strategic Plan for 2021, 2022 and 2023. The new plan is based on three key strategic pillars undermining the vision of the Bank. The three pillars are: (1) promoting domestic price and financial stability, which represent two of the three primary objectives of the Bank; (2) promoting payments system and digitization of the Liberian economy to achieve efficiency and promote financial inclusion; and (3) rebranding CBL and enhancing the image of the Bank to restore public trust and confidence in the Bank. In order to ensure effective monitoring of the plan, the Bank has put in place a Strategic Plan Monitor, a framework, which aligns the deliverables of the SP with the performance of departments and staff to ensure efficient use of scarce resources.

Additionally, the CBL's services have largely focused on Monrovia and occasionally at its payments centers in a few locations across the country for payments of civil service salaries. The absence of a fully functioning CBL's facility across the country has left basic cash management operations and services solely to the commercial banks in the leeward counties. This situation is more telling especially in five of the 15 counties with no banking services.

The movement of cash to and from the rural parts of the country to Monrovia has been one of the major cost drivers for commercial banks, thus serving as a disincentive for commercial banks to expand to all parts of the country.

On account of this situation, the CBL took a strategic decision in 2021 to establish four cash hubs across the country to provide key central banking services to commercial banks and the government in the rural parts of the country. The firs cash hub, fully funded by the Bank, has been completed in Gbarnga, Bong County and is expected to be officially open to the public before the end of year. The facility contains a banking hall where tax payments will be made.

The project is aimed at achieving several benefits such as addressing the potential risks associated with movement of cash by commercial banks to and from their head offices in Monrovia, especially during rainy season; the hubs are expected to create the incentive for commercial banks and other financial institutions to expand into the rural parts of the country; and the hubs will facilitate easy access to financial services to the local population by ensuring access to quality banknotes.

2021 HIGHS: During the year, the bank took steps The Payment System Development Project which ushered in significant transformation of the payment landscape in Liberia. Since its completion in 2016, the impact of the project on the payment ecosystem has been immense. Usage of these solutions are gradually increasing as banks continue to leverage on them for daily clearing and funds transfer operations, which include the collection of revenue for the government, processing of employees' salaries, clearing of cheques, and amongst others.

Although the CBL has made progress in its large value payment systems modernization efforts, the Retail Payment Services provisioning in Liberia is however very fragmented, significantly underdeveloped and lacks interoperability. However, the CBL with the support of three-donor partners, has employed the services of an international Payment Systems expert to drive the National Payment Systems reform and implement a new National Electronic Payment Switch (NEPS) solution to facilitate interoperability and accelerate its National Financial Inclusion goals.

NEPS is composed of multiple integrated services that cater to the banks' diverse needs, mobile money operators, government payments, and enables bill payments and settlements. This central connectivity platform for interoperability among different financial service providers allows for maximizing service offerings, introducing new digital financial services, and expanding access to the formal financial sector, thus, contributing to financial inclusion. In furtherance of the NEPS implementation, the CBL held several virtual and in-person stakeholders' consultative meetings aimed at streamlining the current project deliverables and formulating a roadmap that will enhance the strategic objective of the NEPS.

The enhanced/upgraded NEPS is expected to be funded by the CBL's Partners (World Bank, UNDP and the AFDP) and to go-live in 2022. The total expected investment in the new NEPS infrastructure is about US$2-US$3 million.

On the regional front, the CBL continues to collaborate with the West African Monetary Institute (WAMI) and the Africa Export and Import Bank (AFREXIM Bank) for the integration of payment systems and the Implementation of the Pan African Payment and Settlement System in the sub-region. The PAPSS is an international payment, clearing and Multilateral Net Settlement System, which provides low-value, high-value, and time critical payments for cross-border transactions in the WAMZ. This infrastructure will ease cross-border transactions in the sub-region, particularly for small medium-sized businesses.

The Liberian Senate and House of Representatives, in their joint resolution of May 2021, authorized the CBL to print and mint new Liberian dollar currency.

The objective of the operation is threefold. First, to equip the CBL with sufficient currency to address the frequent Liberian dollar cash shortages in periods of high seasonal demand, to accommodate rising currency demand in a growing economy, to build up low Liberian dollar reserves, and to foster de-dollarization, while maintaining price stability goals. Second, to retire the existing worn-out families of banknotes to restore confidence in the domestic currency, and finally, to replace the two existing series of banknotes in circulation.

The implementation of the currency changeover has been guided by the following seven principles: Ensuring that the first batch of new banknotes is put into circulation as soon as possible. This is necessary to prevent Liberian dollar cash shortage and provide adequate liquidity for the festive season. Follow a gradual approach taking into account the operational capacity of the CBL, including storage facilities for the new and old currencies, by ensuring an orderly exchange exercise and avoid public panic; Allowing a generous period where the old currency remains valid as legal tender for about 2 years, followed by a period where it can still be exchanged at CBL Head Office and its regional payment centers; Relying on time-proven existing institutional arrangements to the extent possible. This means working with existing relationships with the commercial banks and avoid as much possible new arrangements that could pose significant operational and reputational risks to the CBL; Fully engaging the banks into the operation. The commercial banks should be the main conduit for the exchange exercise guided by a signed MoU with the CBL clearly defining the roles and responsibilities of the commercial banks in the exercise.

During the year, the CBL also issuing to banks the new currency based on their excess balances or lodgments with the CBL. Additionally, the bank took steps to build flexibility and margins into the baseline implementation plan. This means that the Bank may review the implementation plan based on the actual experience with the exchange exercise.

In order to ensure value for money, the CBL endorsed a three-stage procurement process: an emergency sole sourcing procurement for L$8.0 billion, a selective competitive procurement for the remaining banknotes and a selective competitive for the coins, both totaling about LD40.0 billion. Several international reputable printing and mint companies are participating in the bidding process and final decisions are expected in late December 2021.

The CBL also made key Changes to the new Currency in the past year. As the first and foremost step in the currency reform was the redesigning of the new banknotes and coins. While the portraits and physical features of the existing banknotes for the different denominations remain largely retained, there are a few, key distinguishing features of the new currency. More fundamentally, the front portrait of the new 500 dollar banknote has been completed changed to the seven ladies who made the Liberian flag, representing the historical significance of women's contribution to the formation of Liberia, while the front portrait carries 16 masks representing the 16 tribes of Liberia, representing the national unity and cohesion.

It is reassuring to note that the quality and security features of the new currency are among the best quality banknotes.

Consistent with the implementation plan, the Bank brought in the first tranche totaling L$4.0 billion out of the L$48.734 billion by air through the Roberts International Airport (RIA) on November 25, 2021. The second tranche is expected in January 2022. The first and second tranches are all in 100 dollar only intended to respond to the liquidity demand in December and to commence the replacement of mutilated banknotes respectively. The bulk of the new currency, including the coins is expected in the second half of 2022, while the balance will be coming in 2024. In compliance with the restriction of the Joint Resolution of the National Legislature, there will be no printing or delivery of the new currency in 2023, even though the exchange exercise will continue through 2023.

During the past year, the Central Bank was an important contributor to maintaining macroeconomic stability in Liberia. The assessment of the Liberian economy during the recent 3rd Review of the Extended Credit Facility (ECF) program of the IMF showed that economic activity is recovering to pre-pandemic levels amid macroeconomic stability. With the service sector recovering from the containment measures and a revival of the global economy, growth is projected at 3.6 percent this year. Prudent monetary policy, disciplined fiscal policy, and remittances inflows that supported exchange rate stability, reduced inflation to 7 percent in August 2021 from almost 20 percent in early 2020, while gross international reserves strengthened from 2.3 months of imports to currently 4.5 months of imports, largely on account of stepped-up international financial support and the allocation of SDRs to the IMF's entire membership,. The current account deficit remained broadly stable, reflecting the relatively stable exchange rate environment.

The leadership of the Central Bank of Liberia has fostered a strong relationship with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). USAID through the request of the Liberian Government has been providing technical support to the CBL on currency procurement starting last year with the successful procurement of L$4.0 billion for the July festive season. The Agency is continuing its assistance to the CBL through Kroll & Associates in the ongoing procurement of L$48.734 billion under the currency changeover project. The CBL has benefitted significantly from this technical assistance, not only in terms of lending credibility to the process, but also building the capacity of the CBL through knowledge and skills transfer.

USAID through Nathan & Associates has also been providing further support to the CBL in creating public awareness and education about the new currency. In anticipation of the arrival of the new Liberian dollar currency, the CBL with support from USAID through Liberia Media for Democratic Initiative (LMDI) has embarked on a nation-wide public sensitization and awareness campaign regarding the new currency. The primary objective of the public education program is to educate the population on the features of the new 100 dollar banknote and to manage public expectation about the currency changeover program.

USAID through Nathan & Associates is also providing technical assistance to the CBL in several other areas, including research and macroeconomic analysis and policy, file management training, etc.

The CBL is currently benefiting from several technical assistance programs from the U.S. Department of the Treasury under the Office of Technical Assistance (OTA) under the terms of reference (TOR) signed in July this year by both institutions. The technical assistance covers banking supervision, deposit insurance and bank resolution, insurance supervision, financial stability and International Financial Reporting System (IFRS). These technical assistance programs are already ongoing. Following a recent meeting between the Executive Governor and Authorities of the Treasury Department in Washington D.C. further technical assistance programs in payments system and financial inclusion have been considered as part of the technical assistance package.

It can be recalled that in early 2018, President George Manneh Weah, Sr., paid an Official Visit to Nigeria. As a result of the visit, the Federal Government of Nigeria promised to provide a Comprehensive Economic Package (CEP) to Liberia. Two components of this package are: (1) a technical assistance and capacity building program for CBL; and (2) the provision of a 10 million Naira Revolving Trade Facility. The CBL has been working with the Authorities of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on these two components since early 2020 following the meeting by a high-level Liberian delegation led by Minister Samuel D. Tweah, Jr. with the Nigerian Authorities.

The CBL in May this year signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to provide technical assistance and capacity building to the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL). The MoU covered several areas, including macroeconomic forecasting and policy analysis, monetary policy, joint research programs, banking supervision and regulation, development finance among others. Under the MoU, the CBN will send resident advisors and experts to the CBL and offer attachment programs for CBL staff to CBN.

During the past year, the bank also made significant progress on the Revolving Trade Facility. The key objectives of the trade facility include: Promotion of regional cooperation between the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Republic of Liberia; Improvement in the bilateral relationship between the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Republic of Liberia; Scaling up of bilateral relations between the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Republic of Liberia by strengthening their bilateral Chambers of Commerce; Removal of all impediments to trade between the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Republic of Liberia; Achievement of the gradual de-dollarization of the Republic of Liberian economy; Promotion of direct flights and air travel between the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Republic of Liberia; Promotion of Trade settlement in Naira between the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Republic of Liberia as opposed to a third currency; Promotion of maritime and shipping between the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Republic of Liberia; Promotion of cooperation and solidarity between the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Republic of Liberia at international fora; and Provision of Technical Assistance to the Republic of Liberia.

The CBL is working all stakeholders, including the business community and the line government ministries and agencies to ensure the speedy implementation of this facility, which will help small and medium Liberian businesses.

The CBL has also reached an understanding for further technical assistance and capacity building from Bank of Ghana. The Bank is working on concluding and signing an MoU with Bank of Ghana.

Within a relatively short period of time upon becoming the Executive Governor of the CBL, Governor Tarlue took over the Chairmanship of two regional economic bodies, concurrently serving one-year terms. He was elected Chairman of the Committee of Governors of the Central Banks of ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) member states during their 58th Meeting on 4-16 February 2021. Prior to that, Executive Governor Tarlue was elected Chairman of West African Bureau of the Association of African Central Banks (AACB).

The Committee of Governors of the central banks of ECOWAS member states includes the Central Bank of The Gambia, the Bank of Ghana, the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Bank of Sierra Leone and Governor of BCEAO (Bangue Centrale des Etats de l'Ouest). BCEAO is the Central Bank of French-speaking West African States that comprises the central banks of Cote d'Ivoire, Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Mauritania, Cape Verde, Senegal and Togo.

As Chair of the Committee of Governors of ECOWAS, Governor Tarlue has the mandate of steering ongoing work of the sub-region with regard to the ECOWAS Single Currency programme, while as Chair of the West African Bureau of the AACB, he is responsible for coordinating the African Monetary Cooperation Programme in the West African sub-region.

2021 LOWS: While the CBL continues to make strides in addressing the country's liquidity issues, it has been dogged by the unending saga of mutilated bank notes in circulation. Today, there there is L$ 21 billion in circulation with huge sum of mutilated notes on the market. This, the bank acknowledges makes the L$4 billion grossly insufficient to address the issue of mutilated banknotes on the market.

The issue has prompted many economists to label the country's economy as stagnating, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. Thus, some say, a contraction in growth and a banknote shortage have combined to undermine President George Weah's "pro-poor" agenda, as the government limps into its fourth and crucial year.

A report from Radio France International in January noted that traders at Monrovia's markets lamented lower sales and customers with no cash to spend, affecting demand for their products.

In a country of 4.8 million people with a predominantly cash-based economy, the report notes that the banknote shortage is hitting consumers' pockets.

Said the report: "Banks in Liberia commonly manage the supplies of cash in their vaults, especially ahead of heightened demand from customers at holiday periods. Most banks will start to taper withdrawals and hold more deposits during summer to meet those demands."

GRADE: A-

2022: OUTLOOK: How will the printing of the new bill impact life for those languishing at the bottom of the economic pile? Will Liberians seen the end to the dirty bills in circulation? In 2022, economic growth is expected to pick up further to 4.7 percent. The recovery of the service sector is set to continue, the commodity sector is likely to enjoy favorable prices, recent gyrations notwithstanding, and 2022 fiscal policy will also be supportive. More generally, we expect that our economic reforms will start to pay off. While a temporary rise of inflation to some 12 percent in 2022 is expected as the planned rollout of a new family of LD currency alleviates cash shortages, the declining inflation trend is expected to remain intact. The current account deficit is unlikely to show significant movements and the international reserve cover will remain above 4 months of imports, even if the CBL on-lends part of SDR allocation to the government, reflecting a generally stable macroeconomic environment.

GOVERNANCE COMMISSION

THE LOWDOWN: The central advisory, monitoring, and oversight body with authority to formulate, implement and coordinate policies to govern Government-Owned or-Controlled Corporations, has failed in every aspect of its scope in guiding the presidency.

The issue of governance was a central theme during the 9th Political Dialogue involving the European Union deepen and key institutions of government.

Held in August the the regular EU-Liberia political dialogue was a focal point for Ambassador Ambassador Laurent Delahousse who underlined that Team Europe (EU + Member States) remains committed to supporting the implementation of the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD), as trustworthy and durable partners, delivering to the people of Liberia. The ambassador however stressed that the EU aims to bring its partnership with Liberia to a new level, addressing not only the EU proposals and commitments for the country's development, but also what the EU expects in return, in terms of good governance by Liberian State institutions.

The EU envoy further noted that the EU-Liberia partnership must be based on good governance, transparency and accountability and the EU can only work with partners that are well-managed, efficient and law-abiding. The EU stressed the importance of ensuring the traceability and accountability of the public funds related to the GoL's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Head of the GAC informed that COVID-19 audit reports would be published soon. The Minister of Health stressed that the funds received and managed by the Ministry would be fully accounted for.

That said, the Governance Commission has for the past few years been one of the most ineffective government institutions, partly due to gross ineptitude exhibited by the self-imposed Officer-in-Charge Elizabeth Dorkin who most employees say have been running a poorly-run institution with very little output.

2021 HIGH: During the course of the year under review, Dorkin, the Officer - In - Charge spoke of the need for massive awareness to be carried out on the national code of conduct.

Dorkin showed her lack of responsibility when she delegated the task of creating awareness to another institution by stating that one of the ways the awareness can be done is through the Liberia Anti -

Corruption Commission and other government functionaries.

Dorkin, speaking in August also called for collective efforts by government officials to promote the asset declaration regime as it is vital to Liberia's integrity system. Assets declaration by state actors and civil servants in government is a mandatory procedure that is in line with the national code of conduct.

Dorkin took pride that she and her commissioners had declared their assets and boasted that the GC as one of Liberia's integrity institutions, set an example by ensuring that all commissioners declare their assets consistent with law.

Also during the year, the GC, in collaboration with the National Identification Registry (NIR), concluded a day-long forum, urging government ministries and agencies to collaborate efforts to build a synchronize national ID database in support of the National Biometric Identification Systems (NBIS).

The forum calls for a genuine policy framework to build a synchronized NBIS, which will enhance Liberia's national ID records system that proves valuable to cutting down cost associated to voters' registration in the electoral processes and multi-year censuses.

The forum brought together digital technicians from government and private sectors institutions with each presenter presenting on opportunities the process will bring if achieved.

2021 LOW: Staffers at the GC are still puzzled over how Dorkin appointed herself Officer In Charge(OIC). She moved into the position in the aftermath of the Ndubusi Nwabudike took his exit after his controversial nomination to head the National Elections Commission.

The way some staffers tell it. Dorkin created positions and employed her own people in critical positions, including a pastor she brought on as a Chaplin.

Dorkin is also accused of collected $50 from everyone she gave job to. No matter how small they make, one staffer told FrontPageAfrica during the year under review.

The Acting Officer-in-Charge ran into trouble with the Civil Service Agency when she suspended a staffer for 3 months without pay. The lady, Gebeh Doteh filed a complain with the CSA and Dorkin was ordered to reinstate her.

"The lady is running her own show, her own government, one staffer speaking on condition of anonymity to FrontPageAfrica during the year. "People are so afraid to lose their jobs, so they just let her do whatever she wants.

Dorkin also reportedly appointed an acting executive director and then forced her to resign. Staffers say her powers come from her close ties to Finda Bundoo, President Weah's Chief of Protocol, which makes Dorkin closed to untoucheable in such a critical position for the Weah administration. "She is a terror to the staff. Screams and talks to them like they are her house-boys and house-girls and operates the GC like her personal kingdom," one staffer confided to FPA.

Dorkin drew much attention during the year under review when a leaked exchange between she and another commissioner, George Howe, Jr. aptly summed up the height of the problems at the GC.

In a communication in possession of FrontPageAfrica, Dorkin wrote:

"I write to inform you that at the last general staff meeting during which Dr. Ibrahim Nyei was welcome back from school, my colleague, Com. George Howe, Jr. announced Dr. Nyei as the new Senior Program Manager of the Governance Commission.

This announcement was made without the two of us (Com. Howe and Myself) discussing this issue before coming to the meeting. I believe that this PROCEDURAL ERROR was an oversight on the part of the Commissioner. Therefore, as OIC of the GC, I will find the appropriate time to announce this to the Commission."

In his response to Dorkin, Commissioner Howe wrote:

Commissioner Dorkin, your letter written about me to all our Junior Staff was a Complete affront to me and my office as Commissioner. In the First Place, You are Self- Impose OIC, because there is NO LETTER from the Executive Mansion asking you to Serve as OIC.I can recalled when I took office, we pay a courtesy CALL on the Former Chairman NWABUDUDIKE AT THE LACC.

In that Meeting, he told you and " Liz, you are not the OIC AT THE COMMISSION, because there is NO Letter from the Office of President asking you serve, and I have not given you ANY Handover Notes to ACT" SO, you both will work as Board of Commissioners to RUN THE GC. We started it well, but the HR, Cecelia,McNeil,Nyema told me In your Office to Allow you serve as OIC. Now I have Noticed you over the last 6 to 7 Months with this POWER TRUFF, You got to stop.

Your letter to our Staff on me that during our Staff meeting which Dr. Nyei Was welcome and my pronouncement that Dr. Nyei will be the SENIOR PROGRAM MANAGER Was Procedural Error is totally unacceptable. We both discussed it and the Acting ED was informed.

Commissioner Dorkin, we are Co- Equals in rank as Commissioners, hence I too deserve my Respect. Your Constant hobbit of Running the GC unilaterally MUST S T O P! Or else we may ends up at the Mansion at the President office.

Liz, let me send out this as a CAVEAT to you to Stop this over power play, because Am fully prepare to make you S T OP.I have always avoided us creating unnecessary NOISE at the GC ,because I knows the Importance of this Institution, maybe you DON'T.

We should be Happy for a young man like Dr. Nyei to come back home to serve his country, but you got different view of one's Education. Commissioner, I hope going forward, we will RESPECT one another, and not to allow our under man hear or know what we are doing as COLLEAGUES.

The ongoing bruhaha at the GC, political observers say, was a contributing factor to Liberia flunking the Millennium Challenge Corporation program. As one GC staffer put it: "There's no supervision in the government because if there was, Dorkin would have been fired a long time ago. To say she has underperformed is an under statement."

GRADE: F

2022 OUTLOOK: How much longer can President Weah afford to keep an inept head and chaotic head at such a critical entity.

LIBERIA EXTRACTIVE INDUSTRIES TRANSPARENCY INITIATIVE (LEITI)

THE LOWDOWN: LEITI is part of the EITI- a global Standard to promote the open and accountable management of extractive resources. LEITI works through a Secretariat guided by a multi-stake holder arrangement comprising the Government, Civil Society Organizations and Private companies to improve the governance of the Extractive sector in Liberia.

Like all other institutions, the Secretariat was faced with the consequences of the coronavirus that limited the full implementation of activities in the institution's workplan.

THE EITI is a global standard for the good governance of oil, gas and mineral resources. It seeks to address the key governance issues in the extractive sectors.

The EITI Standard requires information along the extractive industry value chain from the point of extraction, to how the revenue makes its way through the government, to how it contributes to the economy. This includes how licenses and contracts are allocated and registered, who are the beneficial owners of those operations are, what are the fiscal and legal arrangements are, how much is produced, how much is paid, where are those revenues allocated, and what is the contribution to the economy, including employment.

Liberia is one of 52 Countries worldwide that are implementing the EITI Standard. Each of these countries is required to publish an annual EITI Report disclosing information on: contracts and licenses, production, revenue collection, revenue allocation, and social and economic spending.

Liberia became a part of the EITI Countries by an Act of the Legislature in 2009 after two years of implementing the EITI standard and has since published eight reports with its ninth report in progress

In February, a new head and deputy head of Secretariat were named with the appointment of Jeffrey N. Yates, Head of Secretariat, and Daniel B. Tipason, Deputy Head of Secretariat following a rigorous recruitment exercise that lasted for almost a year.

Both men were finally awarded contracts by the MSG, after a comprehensive recommendation from the Finance and Administration Committee of the Board.

2021 HIGH: In April, LEITI approved the 12th EITI Report for Liberia covering the period July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2020, under the Flexible Reporting Framework adopted by the EITI Board.

The Flexible reporting seeks to ensure that EITI implementation safely contributes to global and national responses to the Covid-19 pandemic while upholding commitments to transparency, accountability, and multi-stakeholder dialogue.

The report allows implementing countries to retain the momentum of the EITI process while adapting to local circumstances and urgent information needs. Unlike the Conventional Reporting Framework that requires reconciliation between government receipts and companies' payments, the Flexible Reporting Framework requires unilateral disclosure of financial data by government institutions.

The report's release was a far cry from the early days of the Weah administration when the body was cited for failing to meet the deadline for releasing report.

It can be recalled that in September 2018 Liberia was suspended for not having published the EITI report for the fiscal period ending June 2016 within the 1 July 2018 deadline. The decision followed a request by the Government of Liberia to extend the reporting deadline, set by the EITI Standard. The Board found that the request did not meet the criteria for granting an extension. "It is unfortunate that Liberia missed its reporting deadline. We are hoping that this is a temporary setback. We encourage the Government to consult all the relevant stakeholders and ensure that they are adequately represented in Liberia's EITI multi-stakeholders group, in accordance with the EITI Standard", said the EITI's Acting Executive Director Eddie Rich said at the time.

LEITI's 12th report shows that the Government of Liberia generated USD 79.63million as total revenues from the extractive sector. This report shows that total revenues from the extractive sector increased from USD 68.98 million in 2017/18 to USD79.63million in 2018/19 resulting into a net increase of USD 10.65million or 15.4%. Total extractive sector revenues dropped by 12.2% in the first half of 2020 due to the impact of Covid-19 on the economy.

The report also reveals challenges in sectoral oversight, data collection, and licensing processes, among others. The LEITI will begin to work with relevant government ministries and agencies to address these concerns.

For the first time, Liberia's EITI Report includes information on Beneficial Ownership of companies in the oil, mining, agriculture, and forestry sectors. Beneficial Ownership Disclosure is a new requirement under the EITI Standard that implementing countries must adhere to. LEITI is currently collaborating with the Liberia Revenue Authority, Liberia Business Registry, and other relevant stakeholders to establish a Beneficial Ownership Registry for the extractive sector in keeping with EITI requirements.

The MSG also has approved updating of the Mainstreaming Feasibility Study that was first conducted in 2016. Mainstreaming is the process by which EITI information are disclosed using existing government systems. It reduces the cost and enhances the timeliness of publishing EITI disclosures.

In addition, the Secretariat during the course of the year under review, summarized and disseminated the ninth, tenth, and eleventh EITI reports throughout the country while maintaining a functional and independent MSG.

The Secretariat was also able to disseminate its Simplified Contract Matrix in Bong, Bassa, RiverCess, Cape Mount, Bomi, and Gbarpolu counties and launched during the course of the year under review, the Opening Extractive Program- a program aimed at disclosing the Beneficial Owners of extractive companies

The Secretariat also managed to restructure its office with competent staff to ensure effectiveness and efficiency while completing the Term of reference for the production of the 13th & 14th EITI reports (2019/2020 and 2020/2021.

The Secretariat was also able to restructuring the MSG completed the consultation process with members of the new MSG and submitted to the President's Office names of the individuals that are expected to be appointed on the next MSG before the close of November 2021.

The Secretariat is currently updating the Communications and Outreach Strategy in line with the 2019 EITI Standard and post Covid-19 and updated communication strategy will be approved and launched by the MSG at the close of November 2021.

2021 LOW: During the course of the year under review, the Secretariat reported that revenues generated from Liberia's extractive industries in the first half of last year dropped by more than US$5 million due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to in the latest report by Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (LEITI).

The report, the 12th by the agency since its establishment in 2007, found the Liberian government generated US$37,104,314 last year compared to US$42,240,233 in 2019. That is a fall of US$5,135,919 million or 12.16 percent.

LEITI's Multi-Stakeholder Steering Group (MSG) release the entity's 12th EITI report a few months ago following years delayed in releasing the report. It covered the period Jukly1, 3018 to June 30, 2020, under the Flexible Reporting Framework (FRF) adopted by the EITI Board.

The FRF was adapted during to the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic which disrupted annual reporting plans.

LEITI was also one of several institutions named by the Executive Director of the Center for Transparency and Accountability (CENTAL), Anderson Miamen, as struggling due to lack of government's support.

Miamen told a news conference in July that the Weah's administration has fallen short to fully fund the country's integrity institutions based on what he mentioned (limited political will, weak implementation of laws, and policies... ). CENTAL boss named the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), General Auditing Commission (GAC), Public Procurement and Concession Commission (PPCC), and Liberia Extractives Industries Transparency Initiative (LEITI) are government's integrity institutions that receive limited funding."

GRADE: B

2022 OUTLOOK: Will LEITI and other integrity institutions finally get the attention of the powers that be, lacking political will?

FINANCIAL INTELLIGENCE UNIT(FIU)

THE LOWDOWN: The FIU, established as an autonomous agency of the Government of Liberia (GOL) by the Act of the National Legislature in 2012 (FIU Act, 2012 approved on April 30, 2013 and published on May 2, 2013), is the central, national agency of Liberia responsible for receiving, requesting, conducting preliminary investigations, analyzing and disseminating information to competent authority concerning suspected proceeds of crime and terrorist property.

The FIU vision to build a well-equipped Unit dedicated to an effective Anti-Money Laundering and Combating Financing of Terrorism [AML/CFT] regime in Liberia. The FIU seeks to protect Liberia financial system from abuse of financial and economic crime for the enhancement of national, regional and global peace and economic stability.

Corruption seriously undermines development and when resources that could be harnessed to finance development are diverted, it damages the quality of governance institutions, and threatening human security.

This is where the FIU come in and is an an important deterent against graft.

During the year under review, Director General, Edwin W. Harris threatened to sanction and revoked the operating licenses of insurance companies for their alleged refusal to comply with the FIU mandate in filing their currency transaction report and suspicious transaction report. Speaking when he served as a panelist at the prestigious Edward Wilmot Blyden Forum organized by the Press Union (PUL), Mr. Harris said, with no reliance on any existing law, the insurance companies have failed to live up to their reporting obligations.

2021 HIGH: During the course of the year under review the FIU completed and published the National Risk Assessment on Money laundering and Terrorist Financing.

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is the global body that set the standards for the prevention, detection and fight against money laundering and terrorist financing in the world through its forty plus recommendations. Recommendation one calls for country to identified and understand their risk and put measures in place to mitigate the risk identified.

The completion and publication of the National Risk Assessment on money laundering is a very big deal to Liberia as its is the first of its kind in Liberia. This put Liberia in compliance with recommendation one of FAFT recommendations and create a major tool for the second round of mutual evaluation that takes place early next year. Also, to mitigate the risk identified, an anti-money laundering and terrorist financing strategy, policy and a risk-based action plan has been completed and pending for a national lunch in early January 2022. By this, Liberia will have a risk assessment report in place for its Mutual Evaluation unlike 2010 when the first mutual evaluation took place there was no risk assessment report on money laundering and terrorist financing.

Additionally, the courage to published the risk assessment report on major website in the country was a major gain.

Additionally, the FIU also completed and submitted two cardinal bills that will strengthen the fight against money laundering in Liberia.

The Anti-Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing, Preventive Measures and the Provisional Remedy for the Proceed of Crimes Act of 2019 and the Financial Intelligence Agency Act of 2019 were long overdue from 2017. Concerns and Pressures mounted from regional and international bodies, these acts were completed, forwarded to the office of the president and same submitted to the Liberian Legislature for passage. These acts are in its advance stage for passage before both houses. When these acts are passed into law, it will broaden the scope and functions of Liberia AML/CFT regime.

The FIU also created the culture of Compliance within Reporting entities Bank, Insurance Gaming and Casino.

For the first time the culture of compliance has come to light in all reporting entities in Liberia. All banks and non-banking institutions that are defined in the law as reporting entities are now aware of their responsibilities under the law due to the direct engagements of the FIU. For the first time banks were independently inspected on their compliance obligations with all banks put on remedial actions on weaknesses discovered during the inspection. Banks that were in breached were fined.

Over the year in review the Financial Intelligence Unit saw a 100% increase in receipt of Suspicious Transaction Report (STRs) from bank and more than a 100 % increase in the report of Currency Transaction Reports (CTRs). Also, Gaming and Casino and Betting sectors (DNFBPs) are being inspected for non-compliance. These institutions have not been inspected since the establishment of the FIU in 2013, neither has any bank or non-bank been sanctioned or fined however, it was done since 2020 when Director Harris took over and extended it into 2021 as a major tool for deterrence. Money Laundering .com featured Liberia (FIU) as one of the countries using sanction as deterrence for compliance in its June edition of 2020

The FIU was also able to put Mobile money sector both MTN and Orange under compliance for which both are filing Currency Transaction Report and Suspicious Transaction Report on time. This put Liberia amongst few countries in the region that have mobile money under regulation for AML/CFT purposes and filing both CTRs and STRs.

Additionally, the FIU collaborated with the Liberia National Bar Association to sensitized lawyers of their responsibilities under FATF Recommendation 22 in reporting/filing Suspicious Transaction report when they interact with their clients dealing with certain transactions.

Due to the tight fiscal space and competing priorities in government, FIU operated smartly with the meager resources in keeping electricity and internet on always for staff to do their work unhindered. Interestingly we use generator as our primary Source for electricity hence, we prioritize fuel to the generator than personal gas slip that is, no one including the Director is entitled to gas slip instead logistic fuel all cars for duration this create saving and eliminate waste which has enable the FIU to maintain stable electricity for its daily work. Besides, creating a safe and conducive work environment was one of our accomplishments. Our work environment is clean and all staff have what they need to work and succeed.

In the fight against money laundering, terrorist financing nothing is static. Thus, the FIU emphasized training as key to effectiveness. It is against this background an e-learning center was open and equipped for staff and other competent authorities in enhancing their knowledge and skills for the task.

The FIU also hosted second round of Mutual Evaluations of Liberia takes place March 2022 hence, bringing all stakeholders together remain critical for a successful outcome. The FIU organized the Liberia Mutual Working Group compromising of all competent authorities, supervisory bodies and reporting entities to prepare, work together, share experience, feedbacks and cooperate for the second round of mutual evaluation and work together on mitigating the risk identified in the National Risk Assessment.

Under Harris' watch, Liberia applied for the Egmont group membership. Application was received and mentors assigned. Liberia is now mentored by Nigeria along with a consultant assigned by Expertise France to assist Liberia in its drive for membership with the Egmont Group. The Egmont group membership with give the FIU access to information sharing with 160 countries the world over.

2021 LOW: Liberia's Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) has uncovered that the risks of money laundering in the financial sector and among the 'Designated Non-Financial Business Professionals (DNFBPs) are high.

The discovery was contained in the National Risks Assessment (NRA) report on 'Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing in Liberia.'

Addressing a press conference marking the official launch of the report on Tuesday, the Director General of the FIU, Mr. Edwin W. Harris said the completed NRA report, which is the first of its kind in Liberia, is poised to provide stakeholders and the world on the risks Liberia faces when it comes to money laundering and terrorist financing.

While the report shows that the major outcomes of the NRA portray Liberia's money laundering risks as high in the financial sector as well as the DNFBPs, the NRA report also reveals that Liberia's terrorist financing risk is low.

With the completion and publication of the report, Mr. Harris said the FIU will launch and anti-money laundering policy, strategy and action plan on mitigating the risks relating to money laundering in Liberia.

As mandated under 'Recommendation One' of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) 40+ recommendations that countries should identify and understand their risks, Mr. Harris said the FIU will distribute over 300 hard copies of the NRA report to all stakeholders and partners in October 2021.

He said financial institutions and DNFBP will be required to use the NRA Report on money laundering and terrorist financing as a guide in mitigating the risks to money laundering in their respective sectors.

He revealed that the Liberia Working Group, on the second round of mutual evaluation, will host series of activities, including focus group discussions, town hall meetings and outreach to all stakeholders in the anti-money laundering and countering terrorism financing regime in Liberia.

GRADE: B

2022 OUTLOOK: Now that the FIU has uncovered that Liberia is a high risk for money laundering, how much political will would be mustered to curb the trend?

GENERAL AUDITING COMMISSION

THE LOWDOWN: GAC is the independent constitutional external auditor of Liberia which supports Legislative oversight over the management of public resources. We serve the people of Liberia by conducting quality and timely financial, compliance and performance audits.

The GAC has a large audit scope. Section 53.1 of the Executive Law defined the audit mandate of the GAC, dividing the mandate into two distinct categories, as reflected below:

"The term "Government Agency", means every ministry, bureau, board, commission, institution, authority, organization, enterprise, officer, employee, or other instrumentality of the Government including commonwealths, cities and townships, local authorities, and political units of the Republic; The term, "Government Organization" means every enterprise, authority, monopoly, factory, or other industrial or commercial facility, corporation, utility, company, lending or financial institution, or other instrumentality which is wholly or partly owned by the Government. The estimated number of institutions and programs in the mandate is eighty-five (85) government departments, ministries, agencies, and public corporations. Additionally, the mandate also requires GAC to audit local governments, other municipalities, embassies, and diplomatic missions.

2021 HIGHS: During the year under review, the GAC completed 20 audit reports and submitted them to the National Legislature. Like past audit reports completed and issued by the GAC, the recommendations derived from the reports are not being implemented due to several reasons: The Joints Public Accounts, Audits and Expenditure Committee (PAC) of the National legislature is slow in conducting public hearings into the audit reports and where public hearings are conducted , there is no evidence that the recommendations submitted to the Executive by the PAC are being implemented.

The GAC is currently conducting audits of more than thirty donor funded projects in addition to the government audits. The donor funded projects include World Bank, African Development Bank, International Foundation for Agricultural Development, Global Alliance for Vaccine Immunization, United States Agency for International Development and Swedish International Development Agency. The reports are expected to be completed and submitted to the various partners and the Government of Liberia by December 31, 2021. In addition, the GAC has been engaged by the Government of Liberia in collaboration with World Bank to perform a comprehensive audit of the Government of Liberia payroll. Also, the GAC has being engaged by the Government of Liberia in collaboration with the African Development Bank to conduct an audit of the Government of Liberia Domestic Debt.

The GAC was awarded professional certification scholarships to enroll 50 ( fifty) of its staff in the Ghana Chartered Accountancy program. Upon successful completion of the examinations, the staff would be certified as Chartered Accountants of Ghana and Liberia . The program is being sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in collaboration with the Liberian Institute of Certified Accountants (LICPA)

In June 2021, a new Auditor General in person of Mr. P. Garswa Jackson was competitively recruited and appointed by the President of Liberia to replace Madam Yusador S. Gaye who tenure expired on June 30, 2021. Madam Gaye unfortunately passed away on July 1, 2021 after a brief illness.

Since assumption of office in July 2021, the new Auditor General has met with various international partners including the United States Ambassador, Head of European Union Delegation to Liberia, Swedish Ambassador, Chinese Ambassador, ECOWAS Auditor General, USAID Director Country, UNDP Country Representative, among others to advance GAC's new strategic direction and solicit support for the institution.

The GAC has continuously encountered financial difficulties due to the limited budgetary allocation by the National Government . Currently, the commission lacks adequate logistics such as computers for auditors to perform audits, vehicles for outstation audits among others. Recently, the World Bank started procuring seven vehicles and some computers to help ease the logistical constraints.

While the GAC operational independence effective, financial independence granted by its law has not been operationalized. . Under the Act of 2014 the GAC should submit its budget directly to the National Legislature for approval before inclusion in the National Budget, But as it stands now, the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning sets the budget ceiling for the GAC contrary to the GAC law.

2021 LOWS: The GAC was dealt a major blow over the sudden death of Auditor General Madam Yusador Gaye, who died in August. Gaye was Liberia's first female Auditor General, confirmed by the Senate on February 24, 2014 and sworn to seven-year tenure on March 26, 2014.

The GAC came under fire during the year under review over its reversal in the audit of the Managing Director of the Liberia Water & Sewer Corporation(LWSC) Mr. Duannah A. Kamara says no significant evidence of fraud was brought to its attention nor discovered based on the outcome of the Performance of the Compliance Audit of the Consulting Service Contract between the Liberia Water and Sewer Corporation(LWSC) and Hyroconseil, a French company.

On August 10, 2019, the service contract was signed by the LWSC, represented by its Managing Director, Mr. Duannah A. Kamara and Hydroconseil represented by its Chairman, Mr. Bruno Valfrey to provide consulting services for detailed feasibility studies, design and preparation of tender documents for the construction of civil and mechanical works to provide water delivery to the City of Paynesville and Central Monrovia.

The contract, valued at US$180,132.00(One hundred eighty thousand, one hundred thirty-two United States Dollars), was awarded to Hyroconseil under an existing World Bank funded project (Liberia Urban Water Supply Project). According to the GAC, issues of non-compliance to the terms of the service contract were identified, but in its conclusion, those issues do not amount to fraud.

GRADE: B

2022 OUTLOOK: With dozens of audit reports released annually from the GAC, when will serious prosecution begin?

LIBERIA REVENUE AUTHORITY

THE LOWDOWN: The authority was established to administer and enforce the revenue laws in accordance with the Code and other related laws under which it is assigned responsibility) for the purpose of assessing, collecting, auditing and accounting for all national revenues and to facilitate legitimate international trade and customs.

According to the United States Aid for International Development, Revenue Generation for Governance and Growth (RG3) activity is building the capacity of targeted Government of Liberia (GOL) institutions, including the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) and the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA), to improve domestic revenue mobilization in Liberia. RG3 supports MFDP to formulate sound, predictable, and fair revenue policies. It also supports the LRA to enhance its ability to implement those policies and carry out its revenue collection mandate effectively, efficiently, and transparently.

2021 HIGH: The Commissioner General of the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA), Mr. Thomas Doe Nah, has disclosed that the agency raised over US$475 million during the 2019/20 Fiscal Year.

Addressing hundreds of participants during the 69th celebration of the International Day of Customs in Buchanan, Grand Bassa on January 26, Mr. Doe Nah said "from what I see and feel we will do more than our best this year with the availability of budgetary allotment which the Senate has set for us."

During the past year, the LRA announce the official launch of a national electronic tariff platform, implemented within the framework of the EU-WCO Programme for the Harmonized System in Africa (HS-Africa Programme).

The initiative is aimed at enhancing the efficiency of the LRA in how it delivered services to stakeholders. He recalled the ongoing transformation of the revenue system in Liberia emphasizing that the e-tariff platform was an important achievement in the context of this process, contributing to modernization of services across the country.

Authorities say the emergence of electronic tariff platforms was a major development, which would facilitate the implementation of the Harmonized System by Members and also support Regional Economic Communities in Africa in tariff-related work.

2021 LOW: During the course of the year under review Commissioner General Thomas Doe Nah reported that the LRA recorded an increased domestic income generation. The CG disclosed that the US$475 million collected in 2019/2020 was the highest domestic revenue in the history of the nation since 2014.

During the course of the year under review, the LRA and partners unveiled a controversial new Excise Tax Stamp it says would be placed on all tobacco and alcoholic products imported to Liberia or manufactured, sold on the Liberian market, and consumed in the country.

The stamp which is expected to go into effect in January of 2022 will be available and placed at the opening of all tobacco products.

While Commissioner General Thomas Doe Nah has described the launch as a major milestone gear toward expanding the tax net and increasing revenue collection, critics are unsure amid concerns that the stamp is mired in secrecy and lacking conspiracy. The LRA has not made the public aware of which company will be providing the stamp or the breakdown to government and that company. One source told

FrontPageAfrica that the unnamed company will pocket 80 percent while only 20 percent will go into the government's coffers.

Additionally, the new excise stamp is believed to be a complete replica of the stamp business are already paying as taxes to the LRA, raising concerns about why the LRA is duplicating the stamp.

In its defense, the LRA says the new Excise stamp implementation seeks to curtail smuggling, counterfeiting of products and helps to fight against unfair market competition and help businesses to maximize profit. Although the initiative was hugely supported by the USAID-funded project Revenue Generation and Growth (RG3), the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, and the Liberia Revenue, the lack of transparency over the process is raising eyebrows.

What the LRA is not saying is how much extra consumers will have to cough up. The cost of a stamp is said to be 2,5 cents to consumer which is very expensive on each bottle. Ironically, the price is the same on whiskey and other liquor as will juice or soda drinks.

The LRA also took a hit during the year when the General Auditng Commission conducted a performance audit on Customs Cargo Clearance at Seaports and land borders for Fiscal Years 2016/2017 through 2018/2019. The audit was conducted in line with the Auditor General's statutory mandate as enshrined under Section 2.1.3 of the GAC Act of 2014.

The audit reported that while the LRA has developed its strategic and business plans and targets to ensure cargos are released timely and that customs procedures are simplified for importers who use various ports of entry in Liberia, there continues to be underlying issues with customs cargo clearance at seaports and land borders despite all of the measures the Liberia Revenue Authority has implemented.

The audit revealed that the Freeport of Monrovia uses the Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA) which is a computerized system designed by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) to administer a country's customs. ASYCUDA is used for all steps in the cargo clearing processes. However, there are manual processes that include the stamping and signing of paper documents that burden customs procedure.

The audit discovered that cargo/good imported in Liberia passes through long customs bureaucracies before it is cleared from sea and borders ports. Furthermore, it was established that the processes in clearing cargo are repeated by other agencies of government.

Customs Department of LRA is responsible to develop and maintain standards, guidelines and apply modern techniques and technology to facilitate and ensure simplification and harmonization of customs procedures.

Considering the involvement of other agencies of government in the inspection of cargo before clearance at land borders, the auditor noticed deviation from the published customs procedures at land borders includes; procedures that are different from the official procedures published by the Customs Department as the result of other government agency involvement include;

Separate examination by all of the agencies Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency (LDEA), Liberia National Police (LNP), National Security Agency (NSA), Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of Agriculture that are assigned at these borders when said examination should be coordinated by customs at one location.

"The policy of paying 4% on goods, if Cost Insurance and Freight (CIF) is more than US$110.00 and if the consignee does not have business registration- according to the Ministry of Commerce and Industry Guide on Operating Business in Liberia, a Presumptive Tax of four percent (4%) is due no later than 15 days after each quarter. This is applicable to Small business whose gross annual sales are $LD 200,000.00 - LD3, 000,000.00. Paying the amount of US$20.00 for ECOWAS brown card when bringing vehicle into the country. The ECOWAS Brown Card Scheme was established by Protocol A/P1/5/82 signed by the Head of States and Governments on 29th May 1982 in Cotonou (Benin Republic)."

Also during the year, the Criminal Court 'A' has indicted Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) auditor Alexander M. Harris for allegedly receiving bribe following an investigation done by the Liberia Anti-corruption Commission recently. The defendant was arrested on October 11, 2021 and remanded at the Monrovia Central Prison

Defendant Harris was indicted by the Grand Jury of Montserrado County for the crime of Criminal Solicitation, Unlawful Compensation for Assistance in Government Matters. Count one of the twenty-count indictment says that on January 14,2016, the Liberia Revenue Authority through Eddie H. Howe, acting audit manager and Francis Dopoh, assistant commissioner of the large tax division addressed and selected taxpayer Atlantic Life and General Insurance Company located on Tubman Boulevard in Congo town, Montserrado County to conduct comprehensive audit on its income and withholding taxes. It covered the periods January 1,2011to December 31,2015.

The communication named Alexander M. Harris as lead auditor along with Varney A. Davis, audit supervisor.

Count two of the indictment states that during the aforementioned periods, the taxpayer, Atlantic Life and General Insurance Company, appointed Wilmot V. Gibson as it authorized Representative to discuss all tax related matters during the course of the audit.

Accordingly to count three of the indictment, it was during the tax audit periods, it was alleged that some auditors of the LRA had illegally arranged with a taxpayer, the Atlantic Life and General Insurance Company to illegally reduce the taxpayer's tax liabilities to government from US$5,000,000.00 to US$1,000,000.00; and that the auditors had requested and solicited from the taxpayer, the amount of US$12,000.00 to carry out the illegal act. Based on the aforesaid, the enforcement division of the Liberia Anti-corruption Commission commenced investigation into the matter.

Count four of the indictment says that the LACC investigation revealed that during the audit process, defendant Harris who was the lead auditor prepared and submitted three audit drafts to the taxpayer stating that it tax obligations to the government of Liberia were US$5,121,371.14, US$1,111,849.51 and US$209,139.16 respectively.

The LRA was also mired in mystery during the year when a 38-year-old Enforcement Compliance Officer surreptitiously went missing days after departing his residence to reportedly drop off classified documents at the home of one of his bosses (name not mentioned) in Paynesville, outside Monrovia. Family members of Mr. Saryon Moore raised the alarm over the weekend four days after his whereabouts couldn't be known or traced.

GRADE: C+

2022 OUTLOOK: Whatever happened to the missing compliance officer? Is there something lingering beneath the surface? The new year could provide answers.

LIBERIA ANTI-CORRUPTION COMMISSION

THE LOWDOWN: Since the end of the civil war and the signing of the Accra Comprehensive Peace Accord, Liberia has made some progress in the fight against corruption.

The administration of former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, despite its flawsIn particular, President Sirleaf has demonstrated a strong leadership on anti-corruption issues which has translated into ensuring the independence of the General Auditing Commission, supporting the establishment of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission, promoting transparent financial management, public procurement and budget processes and assuring Liberia's compliance with the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) through the Liberian EITI law.

The problem has been in the enforcement and action on audits and findings from these institutions.

Under Sirleaf's successor, President George Weah corruption continues to permeate Liberian politics and the public service. Allegations of patronage, nepotism and cronyism plague politics, petty corruption is rife, and judicial independence is weak. Moral and financial support to public integrity institutions is also limited, with the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and other public integrity institutions without fully constituted leaderships. While advances have been made in the extractive resources sector, with Liberia making "meaningful progress" to respect the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative standards, overall challenges remain significant.

The LACC was set up as a national autonomous commission with mandate to create awareness, investigate, and prosecute acts of corruption involving public officials and resources.

Capital flight has been a major concern for many which is why the Government of Liberia (GOL), through the LACC has guaranteed that it will follow all necessary extradition procedures with the Government of the United States to ensure the prosecution of former and suspended Liberian public officials who are accused or indicted in audit and investigative reports released by the General Auditing Commission (GAC) and other anti-graft institutions operating in the country.

Addressing a news conference held at the commission's offices in Congo Town, outside Monrovia in August, the Chairperson of the LACC, Counselor Edward Kla Martin, emphasized that the latest assurance given by the United States to the Government of Liberia and its people will be used to go after those who see the Americas as a safe place for them.

2021 HIGH: During the course of the year under review, the LACC has in recent times under the leadership of Cllr. Edwin Kla Martin made tremendous efforts to move the Commission from its difficult past.

The new Executive Chairperson in an effort to reawaken the spirit of the commission has move into conducting several investigations and it's also conducting several corruption prevention efforts in the country.

The LACC has moved into conducting several investigations in the country which has a beneficial effect on the overall performance of the country. Some of the investigations include the following:

NATIONAL TRANSIT AUTHORITY: Following public outcries and demonstrations by employees of the National Transit Authority on allegations of corruption at the entity, the LACC Executive Chairperson move the investigators into actions and arresting the Head of the Entity. He was detained under the laws of the country and signed for by his lawyers. Investigations into his case are ongoing and expected to be forwarded to the Ministry of Justice for prosecutions.

LIBERIA WATER AND SEWER CORPORATION: Following widespread reports of corruption at the Liberia Water and Sewer Corporation, the LACC moved in conducting several investigations which led to findings that the leadership of the LWSC violated several government regulations in the running of the company. The final report was sent to the Ministry of Justice and individuals involved we are now making arrangements for the restitution of funds reported stolen from the government and people of Liberia

NPA BUCHANAN SAGA: The Liberia anti-corruption Commission has completed a case involving the leadership of the National Port Authority specifically from its Buchanan Office. The LACC submitted the case to the Ministry of Justice in which the LACC publicized all the names of individuals who are found to be culpable in the management of the country's second port.

Indictments have been drawn for these individuals.

FULL SCALE PROBE AT NEC: The decision of the Liberia Anti-corruption Commission to place the entire leadership of the National elections Commission under full investigations is unprecedented and worth. The allegations were reported and took only few days for the LACC to deploy intelligence and issue a press release for the full-scale investigation of all seven Commissioners of the Elections Commission to start making statements at the Commission. In addition, the LACC is dealing with cases at the National Identification Registry and six(6) other public institutions in the country.

GENDER MINISTRY CASE: Several individuals at the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection have pleaded guilty to corruption in a court in Monrovia for paddling payroll and have now agreed to pay over 26 thousand United States Dollars in restitutions to the government through the Liberia Revenue Authority

INDICTMENTS: The LACC has issued indictments on several individuals including the following: Liberia National Red Cross, GAC Report on Social Development funds of Grand Cape mount County, LRA case solicitation of bribe by auditors, GAC report on National Investment Commission, GAC REPORT OF Liberia Industrial Free zone Authority, Central Agriculture Research Institute, Liberia Institute of Public Administration.

During the LACC also took several steps to prevent corruption in the Country. The Commission is conducting institutional Risk Assessment of several Agencies to test their vulnerability to Corruption and whether sufficient safeguards are in place to protect the system. Some institutions targeted include the following:

LIBERIA ELECTRICITY CORPORATION: There are reports that the Liberia Anti-corruption Commission has now completed institutional Corruption Risk Assessment of the Liberia Electricity Corporation and key deficiencies were noted. The Final report is expected to be released shortly of how the country's power utility company is being run

RISK ASSESSMENT OF LNP, LIS: The LACC has also placed the Liberia National Police under the spotlight on how the police is operating the ticketing and police clearance regime. The institutional Risk Assessment was conducted on how the police generate revenue from issuing tickets to drivers that violate traffic rules.

The LACC is also assessing how the police issue clearance to citizens and whether sufficient due diligence is carried before these clearances are issued.

At the Liberia Immigration Service, the LACC examined the LIS Visa on arrival process and the operational effectiveness of the Immigration Service. All of these reports are coming out shortly.

There several prevention and Corruption Risk Assessment process on the way at different Ministries and Agencies including: MINISTRY OF COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY, MINISTRY OF EDUCATION, NATIONAL IDENTIFICATION REGISTRY, CENTRAL BANK (ISSUANCE OF PERMIT FOR MONEY TRANSFER COMPANY), WASH COMMISSION

2021 LOW: While the new leadership of the Liberia Anti-corruption Commission continue to work to revive the Commission, the LACC is still lacking key legislations to support it in the performance of its duty. Lack of direct prosecutorial powers, special court for corruption and whistleblower protection are also lapses hindering the smooth operation of the LACC.

During the course of the year under review the LACC was forced to place under investigation, its Vice Chairperson, Cllr. Kanio Bai Gbala over allegations linking him to a conflict of interest saga at the Freeport of Monrovia.

The LACC's new Executive Chairperson, Cllr. Edwin Kla Martin, in a statement on Tuesday, announced that he has mandated the Commission's investigative division to swiftly probe in to the matter. "I am pleased to inform you that the Commission has commenced investigation into this grave report that has the propensity to derail the progress we have made at the Commission in the last weeks," he said, in a brief statement read at the LACC's compound in Congo Town.

"The Division of Investigation and Enforcement here at the LACC has been mandated by me to move swiftly and investigate the matter beginning today."

Cllr. Martin said he has granted the embattled LACC's Vice Chairperson's request for one-month leave of absence to allow the investigation proceed and he has accepted to fully cooperate with the investigation while on leave.

GRADE: A-

2022 OUTLOOK: Lack of prosecutorial powers has been a major obstacle for the LACC for years. Will the coming year see a new trend emerging?

PUBLIC PROCUREMENT CONCESSIONS COMMISSION

THE LOWDOWN: The Public Procurement and Concessions Commission (PPCC) was created by an Act of the National Legislature in September 2005 to oversee all public procurement and concessions processes in Liberia. It has the core objective to ensure the economic and efficient use of public funds through public procurement and to ensure that public procurement and concession processes are conducted in a fair, transparent and non-discriminatory manner to ensure value for the use of public funds.

Liberia, like most countries require the procuring authority to issue public tenders if the value of the procurement exceeds a certain threshold.

Over the course of the year under review, the PPCC under the leadership of Attorney J. Roseline Nagbe Kowo, like most integrity institutions, was faced with numerous challenges in regulating tenders as procurement entities largely fail to follow procedures outlined in the Amended and Restated PPCC Act of 2010.

The current government, like its predecessor faced the daunting task of dealing with officials violating public financial management law which all government ministries and agencies are required to abide by. The PFM Section 24. Contracts and Procurement states: "All purchases of goods and services from suppliers, including capital investments, shall comply with the provisions prescribed in the Public Procurement and Concessions Act of 200t, as amended, and its enabling regulations."

Ironically, Liberia is still plagued by corruption, poor governance, and misuse of public resources mired in a system where procurement rules are often ignored.

As a result, government continue to encounter abuse of resources to the detriment of those languishing at the bottom of the economic ladder.

All this point to poor performance for Liberia's rank in Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index Corruption Rank in Liberia remained unchanged at 137 in 2020 from 137 for the year and Liberia continues to perform poorly on three aspects of governance: control of corruption, government effectiveness, and rule of law, leading to loss of key funding like the Millennium Challenge Corporation program.

2021 HIGH: During the course of the year under review, the PPCC conducted Compliance Monitoring Visitations to Procuring and Concession granting entities. This activity in geared at ensuring public procurement entities are abiding by the governing procurement and concessions law. The PPCC under the leadership commenced this activity, annual monitoring visits to procuring entities and is expected to be done annually. The rationale is, when Head of entities and their practitioners are aware that their activities will be observed regularly, their motivation to do the right thing will be enhanced.

The PPCC also undertook Mobile Training for Procurement Practitioners and Procurement Committees-"Taking Training to your doorsteps"

There have been numerous activities directed an ensuring that public officials, heads of entities and procurement practitioners conduct procurement activities with adherence to procurement procedures. The PPCC recently commenced an innovative form of training for Procurement Committees and practitioners in procuring entities. The PPCC takes the training at each procuring entity, meeting with the Procurement Committee and Head of entity, to discuss rudimentary procurement and concessions processes and the cardinal importance of ensuring compliance.

Additionally, the PPCC unveiled a robust engagement with Private Sector, Civil Society and the Media to covey awareness and the importance of procurement laws compliance.

Strong Media and Civil Society Engagement by the PPCC, directed at creating awareness on the operations of the PPCC and the procurement laws, and contributory roles of the media and civil society, that would foster national compliance for national development.

The Private Sector also were trained on the bidding processes and other procedures that will create access and participation in bidding processes for transparency and accountability. The pursuit of these tenets will eventually lead to reduction in waste and abuse of limited public resources and ultimately ensure that the Government of Liberia, public officers and private sector players are in adherence to the objections of the Public Procurement & Concessions Act of Liberia. Engagements of such, were held in Monrovia and Margibi Counties.

Regarding the enforcement of the law, the PPCC pressed for full Disclosure of Contract Awards by Procuring and Concession Granting Entities.

Enforcing full disclosure and submission of final signed documents, for subsequent upload on the PPCC's website for the consumption of the public as well as relevant stakeholders, is important for transparency and accountability. The PPCC has instituted a mandatory requirement of accountability for all procuring entities submit contracts awards reports of past a Fiscal Year on their procurement activities prior before any approval of all activities planned for an upcoming. This obligation, previously overlooked by most procuring entities, is now being obeyed by past non-compliant entities and such proof is manifested on the contracts' awards information on the PPCC's website. The same will continue for the new calendar year 2022. All uploads are currently visible on the Commission's website: www.ppcc.lr for the public consumption.

The Commission is currently conducting initial activities for the rollout of eProcurement in Liberia with financial assistance from the World Bank and African Development Bank and support from the GOL. E-Procurement, in this context, is the migration of manual procurement and concessions processes to digital process, which when established will bring more openness, efficiency and accountability to public procurement in Liberia, thus, engendering improved public perception towards public procurement activities. A Comprehensive E-procurement Training was done in Dubai, UAE as preparations for E-procurement implementation.

The PPCC is carrying on robust scrutiny and leaves no stone unturned when reviewing executed procurement procedures and recommended contract awards sent by procuring entities. The hall mark of the review is abidance by the pre-determined criteria set by entities, authentication of bidding procedures, etc. Procuring Entities that go contrary to their own pre-determined criteria and the procurement procedures are duly cautioned. This is presently a strong trait of the PPCC, as a way to ensure national compliance for national development

The Commission, during the year under review also Increased Equality and Access in Public Procurement by ensuring that parity and quality relating to participation of women owned business in public procurement processes. There is a gender responsive survey is ongoing in the various counties, including Montserrado, Bomi, Lofa, Grand Bassa, Nimba, Zwedru to gather information and data. Subsequently the engagements with stakeholders. The PPCC is also collaborating with the UN Women on this activity.

Preliminary preparations are ongoing to commence the review of the Public Procurement Concession act 2010. This is progressive approach to strengthen the procurement and concessions laws that will overall improve compliance. The consideration of the existing challenges that are preventing compliance, and what strengthened procedure can be inculcated to meet up to the objectives of Transparency, Accountability and foremost Value for Money Principles. The kick-off to the Amendment process will commence the holding of Public Procurement and Concessions Annual Forum, December 1-3, 2021.

The Commission is in the process of establishing a Public Procurement Practitioner Database, a database for individuals in the public procurement profession in Liberia. This is intended to assess the impact of the diverse public procurement trainings, create avenue for knowledge sharing amongst public procurement practitioners and improve professionalization of public procurement in Liberia.

Due diligence visitations on PPCC vendors register was a major component of the commission's work during the year. Other activities undertaken include the recent visitations and survey of the Liberia Market (mainly Monrovia and its environs by the PPCC; this is intended to update the Commission Online Vendor Registrar: www.ppcc.gov.lr/vr a portal that host information on registered businesses operating in Liberia, eligible to do business with Government entities and those eligible to benefit from the Small Business Empowerment Act

2021 LOW: Despite the inroads being made, the commission has a lot of challenges including funding and Logistical Support to wholesomely implement compliance monitoring mandates, additional Staff to implement work responsibilities and the slow-paced compliance posture of some procuring entities.

GRADE: A

2022 OUTLOOK: Ignoring the Public Finance Management Law should not enter the new year. Will donors take note and increase funding for the procurement commission?

LIBERIA PETROLEUM REFINERY CORPORATION

THE LOWDOWN: The Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC) is a State-owned entity, wholly owned by the Government of Liberia (GOL), with the mandate to procure and supply quality petroleum and petroleum related products to the Liberian market. The LPRC is certainly a business entity engaged in profit making activities. It has every power which a corporation now or hereafter organized under the Liberian Business Corporation Act may have.

The state-owned enterprise endured a somewhat rugged year under review as commuters and motorists experienced firsthand the devastating consequences of a somewhat flawed system the from time and time again exposed the weaknesses that often lead to shortage of petroleum products on the market.

In February, during one of those shortages, the United States Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs issued a security alert, warning travelers of possible congestion and delays due to a scarcity of commercially-available gasoline in the country of 4.8 million people.

At the time of the shortage the LPRC was accused of underestimating the amount of its supplies by millions of gallons. The issue was also complicated by the fact that the port of Monrovia had not been dredged since 2017, resulting to an accumulation of silt and detritus which caused the water to be very shallow, rendering large fuel tankers unable to dock. The crisis prompted gas stations to ration their reserves as motorists queued up for days due to the shortage.

Shortages such as what was experienced in January often lead to increase in cost of transportation and basic commodities on the market.

As a part of an extremely challenging economic environment in the global petroleum market, where competition keep us on our toes, we're proud to share these remarkable and transformation achievements. As a company, we're currently witnessing a considerable transformation which is aimed at optimizing and improving the system and service render to our customers.

2021 HIGHS: Under the leadership of Managing Director Madam Marie Urey Coleman, the LPRC successfully completed Phase 1 of the Rehabilitation and Expansion Project aims at setting up a high-profile storage facility for the Liberian market current and future demand.

Additionally, the petroleum entity increased storage capacity at the Product Storage Terminal (PST) from 61,431 metric tons or (16,217,784.00 US gallons) to 70,644 metric tons or (18,650,016.00 US gallons). This includes six (6) storage tanks of various products. Note at the end of Phase, we will further increase the capacity to 91,422 metric tons.

Prior to Phase 1 rehabilitation of the PST, LPRC undesirable operated a 100%, manual system of loading petroleum product into the petroleum truck at the gantry - with only four (4) loading pumps, with two allocated each for AGO and PMS. It took approximately 30-35 minutes to manually load a 5,000 gallons US tanker truck.

As a result of the new Semi-Automated Operational System, we now have nine loading pumps. with four allocated each for PMS and AGO, and one for JET-Fuel. Furthermore, instead of 30 to 35 minutes to load a 5,000 US tanker truck, it will now take only 10 minutes. The new central control room with 6 monitors inter-connected to the new loading gantry, has the capability to produce accurate information on the amount of product being loaded, the gauges of each tank, the discharge rate.

During the year under review, the entity installed the first ever Weighbridge. The primary purpose of the weighbridge is to identify the weight of all tanker trucks scheduled for loading and simultaneously, the weight of their product. Prior to loading, the tanker truck will be weight. Immediately afterwards, the information and capacity of the truck will be captured on the monitor station in the booth and transmitted to the control room.

After the lifting of the product at the new semi-automatic loading gantry, the trucks will again be weight and the information transmitted to the Control Room. By weighing the tanker truck both empty and when loaded, the product carried by the truck can be calculated. In other words, This will ensure the accuracy of product in the tanker truck intended to be transport to the scheduled destination.

The company also undertook the reinforcement of the Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) Standards. In the unfortunately event of a fire outbreak, the LPRC currently have a new firefighting hydrant control system and water tanks in the tank farm, capable of effectively combating any fire. The system also has the ability to accurately detect the existence of fire within the tank farm. As part of the transformational process, there are nine centrifugal pumps station at our new product pumps house. There is also an oil water separator in the tank farm, with the capability to separate the products from pure water in the unlikely events of spillage, either from the tanks or pipelines.

2021 LOWS: In May, the grounds of the company was the scene of gangsterism when two senior members of the LPRC Management staff got into a fistfight resulting in a severe injury which left at least one employee tooth broken.

According to eyewitnesses, the commotion ensued between former Liberian comedian, now Manager of Operation, Ismael T. Sheriff AKA Tamba Mayonnaise, and Assistant Director for Security Syvaniuos Blamoh, over supremacy to allow petroleum tankers loaded with petroleum products to leave the LPRC premises after regular working hours.

Video footage captured by eyewitnesses showed a heavily charged environment with bitter exchanges and the display of a firearm by Assistant Security Director, Blamoh.

An employee identified only as Rufus in the video footage received a disproportionate blow in the mouth leaving him with a broken tooth after he sought to intervene in bringing the situation under control. Another staff was heard in the video threatening to forward the Video to LPRC Managing Director Mrs. Marie Urey Coleman, for acts of disservice to the noble institution which encourages professionalism.

GRADE: B -

2022 OUTLOOK: Will the coming year be free of petroleum shortage on the market?

LIBERIA PETROLEUM REGULATORY AUTHORITY

THE LOWDOWN: The LPRA was established through an Act of the Legislature, following an aggressive reform program within the petroleum sector, as an independent regulatory entity of government. The Authority is principally authorized to conduct a technical evaluation of the areas to be opened up for petroleum operations, supervise and manage bid rounds and all other associated processes, enter into petroleum agreements and monitor petroleum operations, supervise petroleum data storage, and assist the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) in collecting lawful revenue accruing to the state under all petroleum-related agreements or licenses.

Director-General Archie N. Donmo, during the course of the year under review pledged to work toward ensuring Liberia is part of the Transformed Atlantic Margin where the Cretaceous plays have been the subject of previous exploration and discoveries. Initial results from exploration programs offshore Liberia reveal the existence of two active petroleum systems- The Upper Cretaceous and Lower Cretaceous. This geological position makes the country suitable for doing business with a high probability of discovery.

Liberia, still recovering from the aftermath of the deadly Ebola crisis and the ongoing Covid 19 pandemic has been trying to get back in the game and looking to recommence active programs within the Liberia basin.

Over the course of the year under review the LPRA continued to reach out to partners in hopes of developing the sector which from all indication, is beneficial to the government and people of Liberia, investors, and the entire sub-region.

2021 HIGH: During the course of the year under review, the LPRA, in collaboration with the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) offered 33 offshore blocks for direct negotiations. They included: Blocks LB-1 to LB-33 cover the offshore Harper and Liberia basins.

LPRA was forced to face the reality that the Covid pandemic had taken its toll as the bid rounds struggled to yielded positive responses. This led the government to indefinitely suspend the 2020 round and the switch to direct negotiations.

Even after the bid rounds were extended, LPRA struggled to get anyone interested.

The extension was aimed at allowing interested parties the opportunity to absorb the shock of the virus and low prices while reanalyzing their investment portfolio.

During the year under review, the LPRA also announced new changes to the commercial terms as a mean of incentivizing investment in Liberia. These changes include the adjustment of requirements for signature bonus from a minimum of 8 million United States Dollars payable in one tranche to a more flexible option. Under this new adjustment, there will be no minimum requirement thereby allowing companies to submit bids describing their proposal for signature bonus. The. Move was aimed at allowing the industry to determine the signature value for each block based on submissions. In addition to designating the signature bonus as a biddable item,

Following a vigorous evaluation of Liberian companies who applied to be pre-qualified for the country's ongoing Offshore License Round for the Harper Basin, The LPRA pre-qualified Seven (7) Liberian Companies. Nine (9) companies expressed interest to be pre-qualified but the evaluation panel denied two companies for lack of legal and financial competence.

According to the LPRA, the pre-qualification of Liberian companies is in line with the New Petroleum Law of Liberia which sets aside a mandatory minimum 5% equity interest in all petroleum agreements to companies owned by natural persons of Liberian citizenship. The list of Liberian companies that has been pre-qualified by the LPRA will be submitted to qualified international bidders for possible partnership in fulfillment of the amended petroleum law. Nine oil offshore blocks which have been unexplored and undrilled in the Harper Basin are being offered for biding. The Bid Round runs from April 2020-February 2021.

2021 LOW: While seismic data analysis showed that Liberia stands the possibility of discovering billions of barrels of oil in its Harper Basin, the basin contained nine offshore undrilled oil blocks that still remained untapped.

Ironically, the increasing demand to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement and the global commitment to reaching these goals made the oil and gas industry unattractive as many investors are now shifting their investments towards clean renewable energy. The impact of the current COVID pandemic and the huge decline in the price of crude oil has only exacerbated an already damming situation.

According to global energy experts, particularly the International Energy Agency (IEA), what this means is that in the next 10 to 30 years, most of the crude oil beneath the earth would have to remain untapped.. In order to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, the IEA suggests that there should be ZERO investment in new oil and gas project.

Additionally, the oil and gas industry, from extraction to transportation to refining, is no longer the hugely profitable and financially stable enterprise it has always been. Over the past decade, the industry's returns on investments have sagged, revenues and cash flows have withered, bankruptcies have abounded, stock prices have fallen, massive capital investments have been written off as worthless and fossil fuel investors have lost hundreds of billions of dollars.

GRADE: C+

2022 OUTLOOK: How far away is Liberia from commercial drill? Is there light at the end of the tunnel for the rapidly shrinking sector?

NATIONAL OIL COMPANY OF LIBERIA (NOCAL)

THE LOWDOWN: NOCAL has a simple mandate under the New Petroleum Law of 2014: To delineate, establish, and issue licenses for particular areas, fields, and blocks in order to effectively undertake and/or facilitate the exploration and establishment of the country's liquid and gaseous hydrocarbons deposits, both on land and in our sovereign waters. Over the years, NOCAL has embarked upon a vigorous seismic data promotion and marketing campaign to encourage new exploration for our customers and to play a very important role in achieving Liberia's Pro-poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development by managing Liberia's petroleum potential in a responsible, transparent, and ethical manner.

During the course of the year under review, CEO Saifual Mai Gray emphasized the entity's clear mission to develop Liberia's hydrocarbon potential for national self-sufficiency and sustainable development.

For seventy years, Liberia has been trying to drill for oil but repeatedly coming up short with the lucrative commercial quantity it desires to take it over the top.

To date, 17 wells have been drilled mainly from the mid- 1970s to late 1980s and again from 2011 to 2016. Exploration in the Liberia happened in two distinct eras. The first was the legacy era that consisted of two stages; the speculative stage and the Shelf-focused exploration stage. The second era considered the "Modern Era" focused largely on deep-water exploration, reform, and consolidation of the industry in Liberia. All of the exploration activities have occurred exclusively in the Liberia Basin offshore sector. Between the periods in which exploratory activities occurred, there was also a period of non-exploration activity known as the Great Hiatus. However, the Harper Basin and the Onshore Roberts/Bassa Basin have never been explored.

Prior to the ushering of the George Weah-led government the Liberian economy had undergone many economic challenges. President Weah, upon assuming command of the state acknowledged that shocks from the deadly Ebola crisis, the dwindling prices of exports such as Iron Ore and Rubber, and the reduction in foreign investments to the country amounted to loss of critical government revenues.

According to President Weah, the social imperatives upon which his government is built; the promise of economic security for all Liberians, the construction of roads and civil infrastructure, the funding of free and quality primary and tertiary education, providing quality health care, offering electricity for all, and fighting corruption, are promises that must be brought to fruition.

It is in this light that the administration sought to pursue the goals under the framework of The Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD) which offers Liberians opportunities for prosperity, unity and peace. This is where President Weah believes the Oil and Gas sector through NOCAL can come in handy, and translate to the fulfillment of the ultimate long-term desire of investors for contract sanctity, contract security, and an unhindered return-on-investment.

For President Weah, the oil & gas sector offers many opportunities for investors and partners.

Unfortunately, the COVID pandemic has not been friendly to a government in dire need of economic joit.

2021 HIGH: During the course of the year under review, the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) carried out a number of activities. Despite the nagging effects of the Covid-19 Pandemic on the global economy, NOCAL managed to make some strides toward developing the workings of the oil and gas sector and improving the livelihood of the Liberian people.

During that period, the oil and gas sector in Liberia was in the midst of conducting the 2020 Harper Basin License Round. During the period of the round, NOCAL worked closely with the Liberia Petroleum Regulatory Authority (LPRA) to provide technical support for the process.

The round was opened on April 10, 2020 and was intended to run up to February 28, 2021, where nine blocks were offered in the Harper Basin. Due to the ongoing impact of the pandemic which affected most of the workings of the industry, the round was extended to close on May 31st 2021. NOCAL enhanced the promotion of the License Round by working with Africa Energy Partners (AEP) to get International Oil Companies (IOCs) have more interest in the process.

In spite of the devastating effect of the Covid-19 on the industry and the negative outcome of the 2020 Harper Basin License Round, NOCAL again provided full support to the LPRA as the decision was reached for the Liberia to transition to Direct Negotiations as a means to get companies to come into our basins. Presently, thanks to NOCAL, all needed data (seismic and well) are available and the stage is set for companies to come into any of our thirty-three (33) offshore blocks for exploration.

Secondly, in May 2021, NOCAL finally launched the newly renovated and expended intensive care and trauma units of the JFK Memorial Hospital. This renovation was done through a partnership with NOCAL's long-time partner and data-broker, TGS. The President described the upgrading of the ICU and trauma facilities as a huge boost to the country's fragile health sector.

Also, NOCAL was able to secure an allocation of crude oil from the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in a Government-to-Government bilateral arrangement. This will go a long way to help boost the economy of the country.

Furthermore, NOCAL has signed a Cooperation Agreement with the Government of Morocco through its Ministry of Energy, Mines and Environment in June 2021. This agreement is geared towards improving workings of upstream petroleum sector and sharing information in the area of hydrocarbon exploration.

2021 LOW: Liberia was once poised to be on par with Ghana and other regional countries showing promise for oil exploration. With signs and question marks over the profitability of the sector and the stark reality of the world's transition to clean sustainable energy, where does that leave Liberia?

Besides the deadly Covid Pandemic, companies lured toward looking at Liberia were forced to rethink. Some supermajors, including BP and Shell, announced major cuts to their exploration program in the frontier region. This fast-growing call for the energy transition hindered oil companies from competing with each other in frontier regions. The onus then shifted to LPRA and the Government to devise new ways in attracting international investment in the sector.

This caused the government to explore direct negotiations. Up to 33 blocks within the offshore Liberia acreage, including the Harper and Liberia Offshore Basins, for Direct Negotiations. However, there is yet to be an expressed interest since the direct negotiation process was opened on June 1, 2021.

GRADE: B

2022 OUTLOOK: All eyes are on NOCAL and the LPRA to see if they can once again generate interest in Liberia's oil and gas sector.

NATIONAL HOUSING AUTHORITY

THE LOWDOWN: The government agency created by an Act of Legislature in 1960 intended to provide low-income and affordably housing for those languishing at the bottom of the economic ladder is one of the poorly-funded government institutions.

Managing Director Celia Cuffy- Brown, has been advocating that the entity needs more support to carry out its plan for the development of modern cities.

The Weah administration, through the implementation of the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD) places Housing amongst its main priorities and facilitates a systematic shift from conventional housing solutions for the affluent, middle income and low-income earners.

Under Cuffy-Brown's watch, the NHA has been able to commence the construction of 5,000 housing units along the Monrovia-Roberts field highway. A total of 61,000 units is to be delivered within a five-year period, terming it as a milestone that is the highest since the establishment of the NHA.

The NHA boss has however realized that the housing is growing at an alarming rate, but to date, the NHA has managed to construct 2,180 housing units across the country.

The National Housing Authority was established by an Act of the National Legislature on April 7, 1960 with the mandate to initiate plans and implement housing development programs nationwide.

2021 HIGH: With very little money from the national government, the NHA is barely getting by.

Despite the challenges, MD Cuffy Brown managed to team up with investors to jumpstart portion of 5000 middle-class housing estates which are are being built opposite Schefflin, Jungle Farm, off RIA Highway. The homes also include a modern mall being built opposite Schefflin.

The NHA brought on Tilgent Capital Trust to the table and they have teamed up with the Liberian Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI)I Bank to provide mortgage loans through salary deduction for those who cannot afford to make cash or down payment.

Tilgent Africa, a subsidiary has signed a housing contract with NHA to start construction of a Mini City. Other investors have also signed up with NHA to build houses within the 15 counties.

According to Cuffy-Brown, Investors from Burkina Faso also started a housing estate in front of the Schefflin Barracks also but left due to Covid and are now back to complete. "It took us two years to source money from the government to resume the VOA Project for West Point displaced people - and that project has resumed.

With only $40,000 in the budget for operations from the national government, the NHA is forced to turn to investors to make things happen. "My determination is to team up with investors for Profit Sharing while bulk of the benefit goes to Liberians to meet their housing needs," Cuffy Brown says. "Jobs are created through massive constructions, Mortgages goes to our banks, buying houses is made easier for citizens, taxes go to government, utilities such as water and light also goes to government's public corporation."

For the NHA boss, building mini cities cut now land litigation and bring in uniformity and increase value to homes.

2021 LOW: During the course of the year under review, the NHA came under fire over the suspension of some 118 permanent employment contracts for time indefinite without salary, on grounds that the entity was faced with financial constraints and consequently unable to maintain the workers for now.

The NHA, through its Managing Director Cuffy Brown appeared to be defiant over the reinstatement, stating that the employees who claimed that their contracts were illegally suspended, and the payment of their 11-months salary arrears owed by the entity, in keeping with a mandate from the Ministry of Labour.

On April 13, 2021, the aggrieved employees, through the Weah and Associate Law Offices filed a formal complaint against the NHA to the Ministry of Labour seeking its intervention.

In their complaint filed, the aggrieved workers claimed that the NHA illegally suspended their employment, depriving them of their just monthly salaries.

The dismissed staffers termed the management's alleged action not to pay their over 11-months each salary arrears as "gross abuse of power and bad labour practice".

They pointed out that the alleged decision taken by the authorities of the NHA has left them and their respective families "destitute as every effort by them to return to work, as well as to receive their salary arrears has proven futile and their plights continue to be ignored by the management".

During the year under review, FrontPage Africa managed to obtain a copy of the investigative report from the Ministry of Labour on the claims raised by the aggrieved NHA workers.

The report was signed by the Assistant Minister for Trade Union Affairs and Social Dialogue, Hon. Gonsan-Zeo Mensah and Deputy Labour Minister for Man Power and Planning, Hon. Hannah M. Karbo.

In her defense, the NHA boss, Cuffy Brown said the information being circulated in the media by the FPA is misleading, and has no iota of truth, but rather intended to damage the hard-earned reputation of individuals who are performing their respective duties well in government.

She said when people make bad managerial decision it doesn't only affect entity but affect the government and those who are aggrieved, recounting that when she got appointed as Managing Director of the National Housing Authority (NHA), the first thing she did was to peruse employees' payroll and financial records, stressing that she met in the coffers of the entity US$341.00.00 with LD11,600.00, and US$50,000.00 in escrow account, this she noted was the only money left in the account of the NHA.

GRADE: C+

2022 OUTLOOK: Will the housing agency see more funding in the national budget to bolster its operations in the coming year?

NATIONAL INVESTMENT COMMISSION

THE LOWDOWN: The NIC is the Government of Liberia agency responsible for investment promotion, generation, and facilitation. It was established by the Legislature on September 6, 1979, and amended in 2010, with the mandate to promote Liberia's investment opportunities; attract and support the growth of value-added foreign direct investments (FDIs), and advocate for and strengthen the domestic private sector.

The NIC under the leadership of Molewuleh B. Gray, chaired the Inter-Ministerial Concession Committee (IMCC) which receives reports of Technical Committees on Tender Evaluations and negotiates concession contracts which are subject to the approval of the cabinet. NIC also chairs the Board of Commissioners' meeting which approves investment incentive contracts above the US$10 million.

According to the World Bank Doing Business Report, Liberia ranks 184th out of 190 economies in trading across borders, 184th in dealing with construction permits, and 180th in registering property. Corruption is endemic in Liberia. The 2019 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index ranks Liberia at 137th out of 180, down from 120th in 2018. More promisingly, the Doing Business Report ranked Liberia as 75th in starting a business and 76th in paying taxes.

In 2018, the Government of Liberia formed a Business Climate Working Group (BCWG) in 2018 to improve the investment climate. The BCWG held several fora, including one in May 2019 entitled "Resolving Constraints to Trading Across Borders." With the implementation of an IMF-supported program to improve fiscal and monetary policies, Liberia may soon experience a more favorable environment for private investment. The business climate could also improve with increased collaboration between business chambers, industry associations and the Liberian government, as well as through continued and persistent efforts of international donors.

Following frequently lengthy negotiations with the government, investors developing long term concessions for agricultural or extractive businesses report facing resistance from local communities, which claim the government has not consulted with them about land use. Further, communities and employees expect concessionaires and other private investors to provide significant support including education, healthcare, and housing.

2021 HIGH: During the course of the year under review, the NIC as the premier investment promotion agency of the Government of Liberia continues to promote investment in all sectors of the economy, especially, in those sectors that are not prohibited by law. The period in retrospect, January-November 2021, witnessed a shift in the approach of the Commission's investor targeting initiative which was challenged by the COVID-19 global outbreak. The investment landscape was adversely impacted as some international investors looking to do business in Liberia had to delay investment decisions in favor of the country. The second wave of the pandemic severely disrupted the investment promotion drive of the Commission.

Accordingly, the Commission responded by reducing the number of staff at work, promoting social distancing, regularly sanitizing the work environment and encouraging testing among employees. These measures helped to secure a safe and productive work environment during the peak of the second wave. The Commission remained actively engaged with potential investors and domestic businesses leveraging various online platforms. Also, information adequate to navigate the investment corridor was disseminated to potential investors in a timely manner. Large projects with concession procurement considerations as well as the award and monitoring of special investment incentives were amongst critical activities spearheaded by the Commission.

These efforts exerted have not been without tangible results despite serious global economic constraints. To date, the combined total of the investment size of the five (5) concession agreements signed is One billion three hundred million United states dollars (1,300,000,000) and a total of Two thousand six hundred fifty (2,650) estimated direct and One thousand (1000) indirect jobs created. Besides, the NIC processed thirteen (13) special investment incentive applications with a total proposed investment size of forty eight million one hundred-eighty thousand, five hundred thirty one (48,180,531.00) United States dollars and a total proposed employment of one thousand, eight hundred twenty three (1,823) comprising one thousand seven hundred twenty five (1,725) Liberians and ninety eight expatriates in consonance with Section 16 of the Liberia Tax Amendment Act of 2021. Out of the thirteen (13) recommended to the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, nine (9) companies have been certificated while four (4) companies are pending certification.

Consequently, modalities to consummate business propositions or secure business deals are being worked out in collaboration with relevant public institutions. The Inter-Ministerial Concessions Committee (IMCC) is chaired by the NIC. The Commission led the IMCC in negotiating concessions agreements and resolving several critical issues affecting the business environment. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the NIC is exploring alternative avenues to ensure better investor care, more targeted information dissemination, better investment promotional strategy and materials, and strategic digital marketing campaign to attract potential investors in Liberia. Additionally, investment interests in Liberia across all sectors of the economy are expected to increase given the invention and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines globally.

According to the NIC, the day-to-day operations of the Commission are well on course despite prolonged disruption caused by the global pandemic.

The Commission was able to maintain an active but reduced workforce in compliance with health regulations. Collectively, the institution made significant strides as indicated below: The Commission executed the 2020/21 fiscal year budget in line with the Public Financial Management Act, as well as commenced the faithful execution of the 6-month Special Budget 2021; The Commission submitted quarterly financial reports and an annual financial report for FY2020/21 to the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning; Two employees (male and female returned to work after completing their studies in China- Master in Tourism Management and the other Master in International Business (MIB).

In the past year, the Commission increased the volume and quality of new domestic and foreign investments in Liberia through research and contacts with existing investors, identified investment opportunities and worked with investors (national & international) and local businesses to take advantage of opportunities.

In this light, Commissioner-General is leading Liberia's participation at the EXPO 2020 Dubai where investment opportunities are showcased on the world's stage.

The NIC also developed a new website with support from the African Development Bank (AfDB) and released the Investor's Guide: the 5th edition of Invest Liberia, the official investor's guide for Liberia, was published and circulated locally and globally.

On September 28, 2021 the NIC became a Member of (WAIPA) the World Association of Investment Promotion Agencies (WAIPA). WAIPA offers unlimited investment opportunities to its member and provides networking as well.

The commission also participated in the UK-Liberia Forum, a transition & countdown to COP26 where the NIC featured some of the investment opportunities on solar, sustainable biomass, marine resources, energy efficiency and infrastructure. This was made possible through coordination with our foreign mission in the United Kingdom.

On June 30, 2021 a USA-Liberia Forum was organized by the Liberian Embassy near Washington DC in collaboration with the NIC. The National Investment Commission presented investment opportunities to potential investors virtually.

On the negotiation of concessions, the NIC Act of 2010 provides that the Commission functions as an "investment promotion agency". Accordingly, the Public Procurement and Concessions Act of 2005 empowers the Commission to "chair and lead all concession negotiations." In consonance with this mandate, the NIC led the Inter-Ministerial Concessions Committee (IMCC) in concluding five (5) concession agreements. The total investment value of these agreements is US$1,300,000,000.00 (One Billion, Three Hundred Million United States Dollars) and job creation amounts to an estimated total of 3,650.

The five (5) concession agreements include Arcelor Mittal Liberia, Modern Mills, Bao Chico, Electronic Fiscal Device System/TRACOM, and Ducor Intercontinental Hotel.

Arcelor Mittal Liberia (AML): AML is a United Kingdom-based company operating in Liberia in Grand Bassa, Nimba and Bong counties with a 25-year tenure. Under the recently signed amendment, AML will invest an additional US$800,000,000 (Eight Hundred Million United States Dollars). The company's mineral development agreement with the Government of Liberia, which was signed on September 10, 2021, is pending ratification. The amendment allows Arcelor Mittal Liberia to significantly ramp up production of premium iron ore, expand the existing rail and port facilities and generate over 1000 new jobs. The Company will invest approximately $0.8 billion in the new expansion program. The expansion project includes the construction of a new concentration plant and the substantial expansion of mining operations, with the first concentrate expected in late 2023, ramping up to 15 million tonnes per annum ('mtpa'). AML's phase 2 project will create additional 2000 indirect jobs and 1000 direct jobs.

Modern Mills (MM): MM is a domestic business enterprise operating in Montserrado County for the manufacturing and processing of flour. The company's current investment size is US$40.5 million. The group has a signed agreement with the Government of Liberia.

Bao Chico (BC): Bao Chico Resources Liberia Ltd (Bao Chico) is a wholly owned subsidiary of Bao Chico Resources Ltd based in Hong Kong. The Company has been exploring for Iron-ore in Gbarpolu County since 2005. Following the conclusion of a Pre-Feasibility Study, the Company engaged the Government for a Mineral Development Agreement. On August 9., 2021, the company signed a mineral development agreement with the Government of Liberia for 25 years' tenure and an investment value of US$500,000,000.00(Five Hundred Million United States Dollars). 300 direct jobs to be created.

TRACOM/Electronic Fiscal Device System (EFDS): Tracom is a Kenyan company which has a 7-year agreement with the Government of Liberia to enhance trade and revenue collection through the introduction of an electronic fiscal device system. The group has an investment size of Twelve million seven hundred thousand United states dollars ($12.700,000).

Ducor Intercontinental Hotel: Ducor Intercontinental Hotel has been leased by the Government of Liberia to a Libyan company for Sixty (60) years. The Government stands to receive One hundred fifty thousand United states dollars ($150,000.00) annually for the duration of the lease agreement. The old structure will be demolished and a new one erected under said lease agreement. 150 direct jobs to be created.

Additionally, the NIC processed thirteen (13) special investment incentive applications with a total proposed investment size of Forty-Eight million one hundred-eighty thousand, five hundred thirty-one United States dollars ($48,180,531.00) and a total proposed employment of one thousand, eight hundred twenty-three (1,823) comprising one thousand seven hundred twenty-five (1,725) Liberians and ninety-eight expatriates in consonance with Section 16 of the Liberia Tax Amendment Act of 2021. Out of the thirteen (13) recommended to the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, nine (9) companies have been certificated while four (4) companies are pending certification. The details are as follows: below:

Consolidated Group, Inc.: a Liberian telecommunications technology enterprise (DSTV) with an investment size of $6,221,523.00 and total potential job creation of 134 persons.

Mayouba and Sons, Inc. Br#11: a Liberian manufacturing company (nails and roofing sheets) with an investment size of US$2,327,034.00 and total potential job creation of 75 persons.

Fouani Brothers Corporation: a foreign manufacturing (biscuits) company with an investment size of US$2,719,917.00 and potential job creation of 46.

Fouani Brothers Corporation: a foreign manufacturing (cartons) company with an investment size of US$1,338,706.00 and total potential job creation of 75.

Fouani Brothers Corporation: a foreign manufacturing (salt) company with an investment size of $3,421,585.00 and total potential job creation of 30 staff.

Liberian American Poultry: is a foreign-owned poultry (eggs/chickens) company with an investment size of $3,116,386.00 and employment of 75 staff.

Lotus Petro-Chem, LLC: a foreign owned manufacturing (automotive products) enterprise with an investment size of $2,607,047.00 and potential job creation of 60.

Mamaka & Sons, Inc.: a Liberian-owned manufacturing (sanitary materials) company with investment amounting to $4,203,753.00 and employment of 80 persons.

SOLE LLC: a foreign-owned manufacturing (juices) company having an investment valued at $5,590,110.00 and employment opportunities up to 78 staff.

Special Agro-industrial Processing Zone Project

During the period under review the NIC in collaboration of relevant Government institutions succeeded in having African Development Bank (AfDB) Board approve a Fifteen Million United states dollars ($15,000,000) loan and grant for the implementation of a Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zone (SAPZ) Buchanan, Grand Bassa County. It is the initial phase of the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Project. The above amount comprises Two million four hundred thousand United states dollars ($2,400,000) as grant and the remaining Twelve million six hundred thousand United states dollars ($12,600,000) as loan which has to be ratified by the Legislature.

Technical and Legal Assistance

The Commission secured financial and technical support from a number of partners during the period in retrospect. These include the below.

Connex G7: The Government through the National Investment Commission (NIC) has written CONNEX for advisory support to aid in the negotiation process of key projects: Arcelor Mittal Liberia, TAWANA Resources, Nimba Rubber Incorporated, and Request for shared infrastructure. The advisory support on the Nimba project was approved by CONNEX and this support covers technical, legal, rail, port and mines.

GIZ: The NIC secured support from the Government of Germany through GIZ to sponsor a study on the creation of a Local Content Supplier Development Program for the mining sector. Findings from the study were validated by stakeholders virtually. The NIC with strong support from GIZ is leading the development of an online Procurement Supplier Portal that will link multinationals to domestic businesses.

Currently, the NIC is working on twenty-four (24) concessions related initiatives and two (2) projects all of which are ongoing and hold great promise in delivering sustainable economic transformation and improvement in the lives of Liberians.

Ongoing Concessions Related Initiatives include: Bea Mountain, which signed a 25-year mineral development agreement with the Government of Liberia in 2001. Said agreement was not ratified until 2013. Following 8 years into the restated agreement, the company requested a review of its 2013 concession agreement to provide for further fiscal, technical and legal changes to the agreement. The agreement was amended, restated and negotiated.

China Union: China Union is an existing mineral development agreement operator in Liberia which came into effect in 2010. Due to the decline in the price of iron ores worldwide the company became dormant like most mining companies.

Putu Iron Ore Mining (PIOM): The Government of Liberia signed a Tripartite Memorandum of Understanding with Severstal and Iron Ore Group that will ensure the transfer of the Putu Iron Ore Asset from Severstal to IOG, and the development of the Putu Mines.

Western Cluster Liberia (WCL): WCL has an existing mineral development agreement with the Government since 2011. However, due to infrastructural challenge, and reduced iron ore price, the company has been unable to commence mining operations. Recently, the group restated its request to the Government to amend its 2013 mineral development agreement irrespective of its financial obligations under the current agreement. The Government is reviewing the company's request and at the same time determining their liabilities.

Sloway Mining: Sloway Mining is an exploration Company in Nimba County. Following the completion of exploration work, the group requested for a mineral development agreement. The Government needs technical, legal and financial support to properly negotiate such agreement with the company.

HPX: HPX has proposed to develop 60 metric tons per annum deep water port in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County. The Cabinet has endorsed the proposal for a sole source procurement process. The group has also submitted to the Government a proposal to upgrade the existing rail for the transshipment of its ores from the Republic of Guinea through Liberia. Additionally, HPX has submitted an MOU to conduct a baseline empirical study on the capacity of the existing rail.

Zali Mining: Zali Mining is a Guinea-based company approved by the Guinean Authority to use Liberia as a corridor to export Guinea-based iron ore. The Government of Liberia and the company are to sign a track access agreement following the review of AML mineral development agreement.

NERON: is an Israel-based company, and one of the companies approved by the Guinea Authority to use Liberia as the corridor for the export of Guinea-based iron ores. The Government and the company are to sign a track access agreement following the review of AML mineral development agreement.

Sama Resources/SRG: Sama Resources/SRG is one of the companies approved by the Guinean Authority to use Liberia as the corridor to export Guinea-based iron ore. The Government and company are to sign a track access agreement.

Al Khaldiya Mining Limited: This is one of the companies approved by the Guinean Authority to use Liberia as the corridor to export Guinea-based iron ores. The Government and company are to sign a track access agreement.

Thelo DB/AFREXIM Bank: Thelo DB has submitted a pre-feasibility study for the expansion of the existing rail and construction of an integrated rail system. The pre-feasibility study was submitted for the IMCC's approval. Accordingly, the IMCC is to commence the procurement process for sole source method. Thelo DB is doing a full analysis to address the financing of the project.

National Single Window (NSW): The NSW will improve interactions between and amongst public institutions; enhance the implementation of customs management system, etc. The IMCC completed the procurement process and selected Webb Fontaine as the most responsive bidder for the NSW project. The IMTC-Technical Team has completed the evaluation of the group's financial model. The Team requested the group to set the Freight-on-Board (FOB) at 0.3% per applicable law. Accordingly, the Government has requested the company to conform.

Destination Inspection (DI) & Verification of Conformity (VOC): As per the World Trade Organization (WTO) requirement and WCO membership, Liberia is obliged to transition to a DI Regime to enhance its international trade. This agreement has been signed and the LRA and MedTech has begun implementation to ensure that inspection of imports is done at Liberia's ports of entry.

Hotel Africa: A potential investor has expressed interest in developing a portion of the hotel facility. Liberia Land Authority (LLA) has provided a mini-budget to conduct a survey of the said area.

Lottery: His Excellency George Manneh Weah, President of the Republic of Liberia, constituted an IMCC for the procurement and award of the Lottery Gaming Service.

Postal Financial Services: This project seeks investors for possible partnership in the provision of electronic money transfer (domestic and international) and other financial service products at the Ministry of Post and Telecommunication (MPT). The MPT has recommended that the project be sole sourced. MPT is to present the project to the Cabinet for endorsement as sole source. When endorsed, the Cabinet's resolution will be submitted to the Public Procurement Concessions Commission (PPCC).

Cemenco: Cemenco submitted a request for a 15-year long-term incentive. The Inter-Ministerial Technical Committee (IMTC) commenced evaluation of Cemenco's submission. The group requested Cemenco to submit audit reports for the two prior short-term investment incentives granted.

Liberia National Gold Refinery (LNGR): A 15-year investment incentive proposal for refining gold in Liberia was submitted by LNGR. The investment incentive agreement was signed and submitted to the investor for signature.

Sime Darby: Sime Darby Concession Agreement was signed in 2009 for 220,000 hectares of land at the old Guthrie Rubber Plantation for the cultivation of oil palm and tuber trees, and subsequent production of oil palm and rubber products for use in Liberia and/or export. The group transferred its concession agreement to Mano Industries Limited, a company based in Liberia. The Sale & Purchase Agreement has been signed for MANCO to manage the plantation. Mano has requested an amendment to the concession agreement seeking fiscal relief and change of name. The Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) is reviewing Sime Darby's liabilities, and has requested Mano to provide information on its Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) to the Government.

Nimba Rubber Incorporated (NRI): The National Investment Commission (NIC) contracted CROWE, an auditing firm, to audit NRI to established all of its liabilities to the Government of Liberia. The audit has been duly conducted.

LIBINCO: The Government of Liberia and the Liberian Operations Inc. (LIBINCO) entered in to a concession agreement in 1965 for the development of oil palm and other related agricultural products on a tract of land situated in Grand Bassa County. This year the company requested for fiscal relief/amendment to its existing concessions agreement in order to reduce losses from its operations. The NIC has requested the LRA to conduct preliminary audit of the company's operations prior to its request for fiscal relief.

Liberia Agriculture Company (LAC): In 2012 the Government requested LAC to provide a business and development plan. LAC presented a 10-year development plan under which it plans to expand the amount of land used for rubber and palm oil production up to approximately 50,000 hectares of land. This requires an investment of One hundred thirty-three million ($133,000,000) over ten years. The Government requires technical, legal and financial support to review and amend the concession agreement. The IMCC through the LLA will conduct a Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) process for the acquisition of additional land for LAC.

The Commission is working on two (2) ongoing PSIP projects. They include the following to wit::

The National Investment Fund Policy: The first draft is completed pending review and inputs from other relevant MACs. Circulated to the Economic Management Team for inputs.

United Development Programme (UNDP) Phase II of the Private Sector Development Program: The Commission is working with the UNDP to determine its role in Phase II of this project.

2021 LOW: Despite recurringly trumpeting Liberia as open for business, lingering challenges continue to hurt the climate. The economy for example remains extremely underdeveloped, largely due to the First Liberian Civil War (1989-1996). ... Liberia is richly endowed with water, mineral resources, forests, and a climate favorable to agriculture, but poor in human capital, infrastructure, and stability. Domestically, the service sector, particularly wholesale and retail trade, and the hospitality industry continue to struggle with Inflation persistently in decline.

During the course of the year under review, President Pro-Tempore of the Liberian Senate, Albert T. Chie challenged the NIC and its partners to continuously play a major role in the economic transformation of the Country by aggressively promoting investment opportunities, and supporting the growth of foreign direct investment.

During the second Liberia Business and investment Forum (LIBIF), a virtual event in Washington D.C, in June, Pro-Temp Chie said the NIC should advocate for, and strengthen the domestic private sector; and to ensure that the economic and social development objectives of the people of Liberia are achieved by and through favourable investment environment that guarantees security.

GRADE: B+

2022 OUTLOOK: Despite the COVID 19 pandemic impact, the NIC is exploring alternative avenues such as better investor care, more targeted information, better promotional materials, and strategic digital marketing campaign to attract potential investors in Liberia. Discussions and negotiations are in advance stages with about twenty-four (24) potential investors and are expected to be consummated in the upcoming year, and this will lead to an increase in revenue generation and job creation. Additionally, investment interests in Liberia across all sectors of the economy are expected to increase given the invention and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines globally. The outlook for 2022 looks promising as the economy has stabilized and growth projected from 3.6% in 2021 to 4.7% in 2022.

LIBERIA ELECTRICITY CORPORATION

THE LOWDOWN: The entity tasked with the responsibility of increasing reliable access to affordable electricity throughout the country , in the quickest, most prudent and sustainable manner possible continues to be a sore in flesh of Liberia's post-war recovery.

During the course of the year under review, access to electricity remained a major challenge for Liberia's economic recovery despite recent efforts by the government to reform the sector.

The LEC is a public utility created in 1973 by the Government of the Republic of Liberia through an act of Legislature with a mandate to produce and supply economic and reliable electric power to the entire nation, while at the same time maintaining the corporation financial viability.

From 1973 until late 1989, Liberia's electricity service was largely limited to the capital of Monrovia and environs; around 35,000 customers--almost 13 percent of the population--were served by 1989. LEC also handled the electricity supply of rural areas outside Monrovia through 10 small isolated power systems with a total installed capacity of 13 MW. The remainder of Liberia's electricity infrastructure was almost entirely destroyed during the periods of civil unrest in Liberia. Efforts have been underway since 2006 in order to restore the Monrovia grid, expand the mini-grid, and expand stand-alone power systems in the interior.

2021 HIGH: During the course of the year under review, Liberia's efforts to transform the lives of poor people have received a huge boost with financing approved today by the World Bank. Two new operations were launched to increase access to sustainable, reliable and affordable energy, and boost economic recovery by providing employment opportunities and business skills training to vulnerable Liberians.

Funded by the International Development Association IDA, these projects aims at improving Liberia's economy and helping to build resilience for vulnerable households that are greatly at risk of falling into poverty due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Poverty remains widespread in Liberia and is now on the rise. An estimated 44% of Liberians were living with less than $2 a day in 2016 and is now projected to reach 52% in 2021. Access to healthcare, education, and basic utilities like energy, are also particularly low compared to the rest of the region.

"Given the devastating impact of Covid-19 on the economy and people's livelihoods, improved energy access will stimulate inclusive economic growth while support to the informal sector will help the most vulnerable Liberians to recover from the loss in incomes," said Khwima Nthara, World Bank Country Manager in Liberia.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on Liberia's economy and people's livelihoods and poses a major threat going forward. When the global pandemic emerged in early 2020, Liberia was already facing a challenging domestic and external environment. Weak consumption and declining output had caused the Liberian economy to contract by an estimated 2.3 percent in 2019 and a further 2.9 percent in 2020. According to the High-Frequency Phone Survey of Households conducted by the Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services, more than 70 percent of households reported experiencing food shortage and increased food prices. This call for a comprehensive response focusing both on the need to protect the poor and vulnerable in the short term, as well as support economic recovery in the medium term.

2021 LOW: International stakeholders were particularly concerned about the state of the electricity crisis in Liberia. In August, the United States Ambassador, Michael McCarthy told a news conference in Monrovia that the US Government and other partners have contributed US$257 million to Liberia's Energy Sector to rehabilitate the Mount Coffee Dam and restore power, but lamented: "If power theft and corruption continues in Liberia, the country will lose donors' support."

The US envoy declared that the LEC has lost US$220 million to technical and commercial losses and unpaid bills. He lamented "Nowhere in the world is electricity-free. I pay an electric bill at my home in the United States." Ambassador Michael McCarthy's revelation is evidence that the horrendous energy sector in Liberia has become a source of national embarrassment and is arguably the most debilitated sector of the Liberian economy.

Also during the year, the head of delegation of the European Union Mission in Liberia, Amb. Laurent Delahousse, made a resounding call on the Government of Liberia to draw up a master plan for the electricity sector. The energy sector is viewed as one of the areas with huge potential that could boost Liberia's economy in its post war recovery and reconstruction drive if managed properly. It has received massive support in hundreds of millions of dollars from Liberia's partners including the EU and the United States.

Addressing the Ministry of Information regular press briefing, Amb. Delahousse said addressing the electricity challenge in Liberia requires a joint exercise involving the Government of Liberia, the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC), the people of Liberia and the international donor community.

The Government, he said should craft a master plan to clearly spell out its strategies for the energy sector. "We are calling Liberia to define, under the leadership of His Excellency President George Manneh Weah and the Honorable Minister of Mines and Energy, a master plan for the development of its power sector," Amb. Delahousse said.

The strategies, he said, should include new generation capacities to meet the expected increase in power consumption; ambitious use of Liberia's assets for renewable energy such as hydro and solar power; sustainable participation to the regional network offered by the CSLG line, strengthening of the client base through the connection of more Liberian businesses, delivery of power to many more Liberian households and families, and bringing the tariff of electricity, which is exceptionally high in Liberia, to levels more affordable for ordinary Liberian families.

GRADE: C

2022 OUTLOOK: The electricity tariff in Liberia is still among the highest in the world. What efforts are being made to improve energy access for Liberians, local businesses, and essential services across the country? Is Affordable energy on the horizon? When Will electricity be available to all?

NATIONAL PORT AUTHORITY

THE LOWDOWN: The gateway to Liberia is the state-owned corporation responsible for managing, planning and building all public ports in Liberia. The NPA system comprises of four ports: Freeport of Monrovia, Port of Buchanan, Port of Greenville, and Port of Harper.

During the course of the year under review, Managing Director Bill Twehway was keen to see his administration committed to ensuring the Port of Monrovia operates in a safe and efficient manner and the partnership between the Maritime Authority, APM Terminals Liberia and International agencies play important role in ensuring that Port of Monrovia retains is position as the gateway for commerce for Liberia." APM Terminals operates a multi-purpose port in the Freeport of Monrovia, the gateway to the Liberian economy.

The NPA, during the year under review, was badly hit by host of war and post war effects - coupled with serious quagmires that caused poor infrastructural wreck that hampered smooth delivery of needed supplies for economic growth and development. As a result of the effects of the war, the main flagship dock- the Freeport of Monrovia became a work environment of a near neglect with host of mis shift offices - most of which were housed in abundant containers and shabby buildings.

2021 HIGH: Under the watch of Managing Director Bill Twehwy, the entity saw the construction of the first-ever modern multipurpose state-of-an Art corporate office, changing the old narrative −wherein, most offices at the country's principal seaport were hosted in gargantuan containers and dilapidated buildings.

During the course of the year under review, the Twehway's administration made payments to secure the first 175 acres of land and at the same time settled some crops owners. As part of this initiative, a completive bidding process is being finalized by the Port Management consistent with Public Procurement and Concession PPCC Protocols. This will allow the deforestation/clearing of the land so as to pave the way for the construction of the Dry Dock. When completed, the Inland Port will generate huge revenue, create thousands of jobs and set the stage for competitive trade to further enhance economic viability.

In fulfillment of the necessity to further deepen the navigational channel of the Freeport of Monrovia which would effectively address other critical factors responsible for the quick buildup of silt over a short period, the Bill Twehway administration acted expeditiously by the removal of a total sum of 510, 193 Cubic meters of dirt from within and around the navigation waterway. This exercise otherwise known as dredging, achieved the actual depth of 13.5 meters. at a minimum cost compared to other dredging within the Port's region. For this reason, Throughput and quick turnaround time have been very Impressive at the Freeport.

On Budgetary Suppor, a record figure of US$5 to 7 million in direct support was submitted to the National Budget. This, by all indications, signaled support to the overall objectives of President Weah's Pro poor agenda for development and Prosperity. It is gathered that the NPA has also made immense contribution to several Presidential projects: i.e the New Kru Town Housing and the Old Market et al.

Consistent with the need for manpower development as a requirement to hone employees potential for effective performance of their duties and functions, a host of employees of the NPA have obtained professional certificates and diploma in specialized port related courses abroad. The NPA Management has reported that a host of their stafff were sent to the United States of America, Egypt, Toga etc, adding that Most of them are currently contributing to their respective departments in a positive way. In the same vein, at least two thousand additional staff have been employed at the National Port Authority by Bill Twehway. This, according to the Port's Management, is meant to provide job security for the ordinary Liberians − most of whom were long term contractors at various ports for many years without permanent employment status.

As port of the NPA's Strategic vision to unlock the full potential of the out station Ports : especially Harper and Greenville, progressive works are being done on the refurbishment projects which include a brand new multipurpose office complex and Petroleum storage facilities at those two ports under the direct supervision of the Bill Twehway administration . This is critical to help address the age-old constraints associated with the supply of petrol products to major southeastern counties: Maryland, River Gee, Grand Kru, Grand Gedeh et al;

2021 LOW: During the year under review, port users protested against APM Terminals, saying that the company is inefficient. APM Terminals is an international container terminal operating company.

The protesters cited limited manpower and equipment as gaps in the company's operations which results in delays in removal of cargos and high tariffs.

Addressing the issue, the port authority called on the company to address the concerns of port users, saying that failure to do so would amount to economic sabotage. Citizens complain that delays in releasing goods and high charges on cargos are resulting in soaring prices of basic goods and commodities on the local market.

During the past year, the NPA was also drawn into a major controversy when the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) interrogated NPA MD Twehway, over his alleged connection to the dubious transfer of US$300,000 from the Port of Buchanan by the then Manager and the awarding of a contract to a company which his brother had 50 percent shares.

While the LACC will not give details of its investigation on Tuesday, the NPA has continuously said Mr.

Twehway has never been involved in any act of corruption at the NPA. However, Mr. Charles MacArthur D. Gull, the former manager at the Port of Buchanan who is at the center stage of the US$300,000 transfer disclosed that he was going to expose all those behind the transfer and other illicit acts that took place at the port. He posted to Facebook: "It is about time I speak and make clarity about the entire allegation. I had no option than accepting under duress, fear of death, being in imminent danger," he said.

The port management was also taken to task when the Chair of the Senate Committee on Defense, Security, Intelligence, and Veterans Affairs, Senator Stephen J.H. Zargo, blamed the Management for poorly handling circumstances surrounding the sinking of the vessel Niko Ivanka in Liberian waters on July 17, 2021, leaving about a dozen persons drowned, including eight staff of the West African Examination Council (WAEC) Monrovia Office.

The Liberia Maritime Authority in collaboration with Liberia National Cost Guard rescued about 11 persons, including the two Chinese captains that led the voyage. But the committee, which conducted its own investigation, says the NPA "blundered and didn't do its job well."

Senator Zargo explained that the vessel, which Liberia's Maritime Commissioner Lenn Eugene Nagbe said was never registered or authorized to sail, did not have an Automatic Information System (AIS) to ensure tracking in case of distress, and that the NPA itself never had a record of people onboard.

Presenting findings to the Senate during a session in the chamber on Tuesday, August 17, Zargo lauded the Defense committee for a job well done, noting that through its intervention they were able to rescue some people that were onboard the vessel.

He quoted the Minister of Defense Daniel Ziankan as saying it was difficult for them to locate the vessel during the rescue mission due to lack of an Automatic Information System.

Zargo detailed that during the investigation, the Maritime Boss didn't turn out on grounds that he (Commissioner Nagbe) received the communication late, while the Managing Director of the National Port Authority Bill Tweahway had little or no knowledge of the vessel or how many persons were on board.

However, the NPA management last week announced the suspension of the Pier Supervisor at the Freeport of Monrovia George D. McGill for allegedly authorizing the sailed of the vessel. The NPA said Mr. McGill has been turned over to the Ministry of Justice for further interrogation.

"George D. McGill is the Pier Supervisor at the Port of Monrovia, he, without approval and notification of the management, allowed the sailing of the wrecked vessel. And so the NPA constituted an internal committee and the committee has established that he did that without the approval of the NPA", said the director of public affairs at the NPA, Malcolm Scott in a news conference.

Neither the Maritime Authority nor the NPA management seems willing to accept responsibility for the disaster that led to the loss of lives and indefinite suspension of the 2021 West African Senior School Certificate Exam by the WAEC Monrovia Office.

Ironically, neither the Maritime Authority nor the NPA management have accepted responsibility for the disaster that led to the loss of lives and indefinite suspension of the 2021 West African Senior School Certificate Exam by the WAEC Monrovia Office.

GRADE: B-

2022 OUTLOOK: Will the fugitive Charles Gull resurface in the new year? How will the port management recover from the fallout of the entire saga?

LIBERIA MARITIME AUTHORITY

THE LOWDOWN: The authority tasked with building a vibrant domestic maritime program that is financially self-sustaining, internationally compliant and effective in protecting Liberia's maritime domain, endured a tough year. Despite the unprecedented disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequential economic fallouts, the overall performance of the Liberia Maritime Authority for the reporting period was positive. Many milestones were achieved and the capacity and focus of the Authority in achieving its statutory mandate were significantly enhanced.

The Liberian Maritime Program was established in 1948 with strong support from the United States of America. In 1949, Liberia became a founding member of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and has over the years played a critical role in promulgating maritime safety, security and environmental protection. The Bureau of Maritime Affairs (BMA) administered the program under the supervision of the Ministry of Finance and later the Ministry of Transport. With the passage of Liberia Maritime Authority Act of 2010, the BMA then transitioned into the Liberian Maritime Authority (LiMA); a public corporation with greater responsibility of managing all commercial activities within the maritime domain of Liberia. The rational for this transition was to diversify the Authority’s activities from its long-standing focus of being a nation with a leading maritime shipping and corporate registry program, to a nation that strategically focuses on building and, or supporting enterprises across the domestic maritime domain for greater economic and social benefits to the Nation and its People.

The Liberian Maritime Program is currently recognised as the second largest ship registry in the world. Its activities are governed by the Liberia Maritime Laws [Title 21 of the Liberian Code of Laws revised], with a mandate to regulate all foreign and domestic waterborne commerce, enforce maritime treaties, including Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS); Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL); the Standards for Training, Certification and Watch-keeping for Seafarers (STCW) and the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC).

Hence, with over seven decades of international maritime presence, we are poised to fully explore the coastal resources and vast biodiversity that exists within our domestic maritime domain.

2021 HIGH: During the course of the year under review, the LMA, for the first time in more than 70 years, completed and moved in its modern Corporate Headquarters located in Monrovia, bringing an end many decades of leasing private buildings as its offices.

Also, during year, the International Registry performed satisfactorily with Liberia maintaining its status as the second largest registry in the world and the largest white-listed registry globally.

As of November 2021, there were 4,965 vessels in the International Registry. This represents a 6.1 percent growth, compared to the previous year. From 2016 to 2021, a period of 5 years, the number of vessels in the International Registry has increased by 22 percent.

As of November 2021, the total gross registered tonnage of vessels registered in the International Registry was 210,753,046. Compared to 2020, there was an increase of 10.2 percent. Between 2016 and 2021, the total GRT of the International Registry increased from 144,813,549 to 210,753,046 representing a 45.5 percent increase. The International Registry also continues to serve as a source of employment for thousands of seafarers globally. As of November 2021, there were 322,978 licensed seafarers in the Registry

In the midst of the challenges posed by COVID 19, the Authority is pleased to report that as of November 2021, the International Registry contributed a total of US$13,834,236 as the Government of Liberia Share of net program revenues with US$6 million directly deposited in the Consolidated Fund as Maritime Contribution to the National Budget. These figures are reliably certain to increase since a lot of lump sum payments are made in December. And for the past 16 years, the Program has contributed more than US$263 million to the Government of Liberia

The Port State Control Building of the Liberia Maritime Authority located in the Freeport of Monrovia is about 85 percent complete at the time of reporting

During the year, the LMA enhanced its regulatory effectiveness through the drafting and completion of vital maritime instruments for the effective regulation of the sector. This includes the amending of the National Maritime Law of Liberia, the National Maritime Strategy, the Oil Spill Response Contingency Plan and others

The LMA also achieved various milestones in the area of capacity building. The Authority is presently sponsoring 17 students at the Regional Maritime University in Ghana. The students are studying in various specialized fields including Marine Engineering, Nautical Science, Marine, Electrical and Electronics Engineering, etc. Also, during the period completed 3 employees completed their master's studies at the World Maritime University in Sweden. The students obtained master's degrees in Maritime Law and Policy, Shipping Management and Logistics, and Maritime Safety and Environmental Administration. The Authority is presently sponsoring additional 3 students at the World Maritime University and another student in the Netherlands

The authority also increased presence at the Ports of Buchanan, Sinoe and Maryland. The Authority has increased its port state control presence at the above mentioned ports. This is intended to ensure maritime safety and security and the protection of the marine environment in those ports.

In addition, the authority increased Port State Control Inspections. During the period, the Authority conducted Port State Control 367 Inspections, totaling over 8.72 million Gross Tons,

The authority also improved service delivery through the drafting of a Maritime Service Delivery Charter and the drafting of a Maritime Investment Guide and the process of automating the domestic vessel registration process commenced with the software already designed and developed.

During the year, the authority enhanced and Increased Navigational Safety & Maritime Security in Liberia's jurisdictional waters and ports. This includes increased monitoring and follow-ups on Port State Control (PSC) inspection and detention. It also includes increased monitoring and alertness of suspicious activities against vessels within the port limits of Liberia through radio checks every three hours.

2021 LOW: There were a lot of blames to go around during the course of the year under review when at least seven people went missing after a cargo ship that had been barred from sailing sank off the coast of Liberia.

The Liberian-registered Niko Ivanka left the capital Monrovia in Mid-July for a port in the country's south, despite being under a Liberia Maritime Authority detention order for failing to meet basic safety requirements.

The vessel sent out a distress signal that afternoon notifying the coast guard that it had taken on water, Maritime Commissioner Lenn Eugene Nagbe told a news conference. By the time authorities arrived, it had already partially sunk. "We are commissioning an investigation into how a vessel that was detained for failure to meet rudimentary safety requirements managed to get on the sea with passengers and cargo. That investigation is subsidiary to the ongoing search and rescue effort."

The ship's manifest showed 18 people on board at the time of departure but authorities suspect that more could have been on board, given that the vessel was not licensed to carry passengers in the first place, Tonpoe said.

Ironically, neither the Maritime Authority nor the NPA management have accepted responsibility for the disaster that led to the loss of lives and indefinite suspension of the 2021 West African Senior School Certificate Exam by the WAEC Monrovia Office.

GRADE: B

2022 OUTLOOK: With the Liberian Registry becoming the preferred tanker flag in the world, with the recent addition of 2.7 million gross tonnes of new tankers, how close is the former world number to returning to its pre-civil war record?

LIBERIA TELECOMMUNICATIONS AUTHORITY

THE LOWDOWN: The LTA has been the driving behind Liberia's rapidly growing telecommunications sector. The regulatory and competition authority is charged with the statutory responsibility to ensure a vibrant telecommunications sector in Liberia. The LTA was created by the Telecommunications ACT of 2007 (Telecom Act 2007), which repealed in its entirety Act No. 18 of the erstwhile National Transitional Legislative Assembly of Liberia creating an Interim Framework for Telecommunications Regulation in September 2005.

Over the course of the year under review, the LTA, amid challenges, worked to provide leadership in the creation of a vibrant socioeconomic environment, through the effective use of telecommunications and Information Communications Technologies (ICT).

The LTA's regulatory responsibility include ensuring that the telecommunications sector is competitive. Today, the main players include two private Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) network operators, Lonestar Cell MTN and Orange Liberia (formerly Cellcom). Both invest in network infrastructure and services. They use GSM, 3G/4G, and WiMAX technology to provide a wide array of services including voice/SMS, fixed-wireless, and mobile data/internet services to the mass market, and value-added services for government and private sector organizations. The GSM network operators compete for customers by offering services over their wireless networks. Competition between them led to price reductions for voice and data services and prompted the regulator to establish a tariff floor.

Mobile and internet use continues to grow due to increased investment by the GSMs throughout the country. According to the Digital Liberia 2020 report, mobile connections increased by 995,000 or 32 percent between January 2019 and January 2020. The report said that in January 2020 there were 4.13 million connections; increases in mobile connections are spiked by many people, mainly the wealthy, having multiple connections. Internet penetration was 12 percent in January 2020, equating to 624,000 internet users in the country. In the mobile sector, competition led to some of the lowest call prices in Africa, but with the price floor, prices have increased to a minimum of $0.0156 per minute for a voice call and $0.0218 per megabyte for data.

The telecommunications sector continues to experience substantial improvement through international fiber optic submarine cable, benefitting more than 80 commercial and diplomatic locations. Moving beyond these clients, however, would require considerable investment in domestic fixed-line infrastructure.

The Liberian government, in partnership with U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Google, continues to invest in building a fiber ring around Monrovia and its environs to increase broadband penetration. In 2017, Google entered a joint venture with Mitsui & Co (Japan), Convergence Partners (South Africa), and the World Bank International Finance Corp. to create an independent company called CSquared to complete this project. CSquared signed a licensing agreement with Liberia Telecommunications Authority in 2021. When complete, the quality of internet service and accessibility to rural areas will increase internet subscribers. However, mobile operators face major constraints including the high cost of electricity, poor national infrastructure such as roads, high taxation including import duties and tariffs, an insufficient customer base, inadequate skilled manpower, problems in ensuring network security, and the high cost of network operations and maintenance.

2021 HIGH: The leadership of Acting Chair, Edwina Crump Zackpah over the past year saw the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) surpass budgetary targets to maintain its status as one of the highest contributors to the Government of Liberia's revenues.

Within just a year of assuming the helm at the LTA, Edwina Zackpah has brought stability to the telecommunications sector after the turmoil of consumer price increases and network operator resistance experienced over previous years. At the same time, she has successfully steered the LTA to implement a number of critical regulatory interventions in the interest of consumers and in compliance with Regional and international conventions.

Among notable achievements was the revision and piloting of the SIM Card Regulation which requires telephone users to register their number using a national identification card. Madam Zackpah and the LTA led the National Identification Registry and network operators in successfully testing this system over the past year. SIM card registration is a measure to prevent telecoms fraud, and is a key step towards the digital transformation of Liberia.

Bringing order to what had previously been a chaotic regulatory regime for FM radio stations is another hallmark of the actions taken by the LTA in the past year. As LTA Acting Chairperson and Commissioner for Licensing & Regulation, Madam Zackpah drove the passage of the FM Regulations to prevent frequency interference and provide regulatory standards for the mushrooming FM radio industry.

Over the past year, the Zackpah leadership at the LTA also took action to increase the access of students to the internet by granting a license to the Liberia Research and Education Network (LREN). LREN aims to support the country's educational system by providing affordable Internet Broadband services for research and educational institutions.

Another important milestone of the Zackpah administration at the LTA has been the granting of a nation-wide infrastructure license to CSquared to permit the private company to roll out fiber optic telecommunications cables to parts of the country with little or no telephone and internet connection. The CSquared license is in line with Liberia's revised ICT Policy which seeks the economic transformation of Liberia through the use of broadband technology.

The long-planned construction of a corporate office building for the LTA took a giant leap forward in the past year when the Zackpah-led LTA acquired 7.4 acres of land in the Shiefflin area and launched the procurement proceeding to design and build the LTA headquarters. Actual construction is expected to begin in 2022.

2021 LOW: The LTA has been under fire over the controversial decision to begin issuing five-year licenses to FM radio stations, replacing one-year licenses issued under the old regulatory regime. Radio operators have called the related fees onerous, but the LTA's chairwoman defended the new regulatory regime in August, saying it was meant to ensure stability and regulatory compliance. The original announcement came a day after a civil court restored the license of Punch FM, which was suspended in 2018; Punch FM's operators alleged that it was targeted for its presumed antigovernment stance.

During the year under review, the government warned the managements of Sky Communications and Radio Bushrod (D15 Radio) against relaying in the future the broadcast of Mr. Henry Costa, who is currently a fugitive from Liberian justice. The warning was given by Information Minister Ledgerhood J. Rennie during a meeting intended to discuss Sky Communications and D-15's decision to broadcast a program of Henry Costa against the expressed interdiction of the government of Liberia.

GRADE: B+

2022 OUTLOOK: How is the new five-year license regime faring? What will happen in the coming year?

NATIONAL ELECTIONS COMMISSION

THE LOWDOWN: The autonomous agency tasked with supervising the national elections had a rugged year under review.

The NEC's duties include: administering and enforcing all laws relative to the conduct of elections throughout Liberia and submitting an annual report on the general operation of the Commission to the National Legislature and the President of Liberia, while it has the right to propose amendment to, and repeal of, any provision of the Election Law to the National Legislature and to formulate and enforce guidelines (or regulations) controlling the conduct of all elections for elective public offices.

The Constitution affords the NEC a prominent role in hearing and adjudicating electoral complaints and appeals (hereafter, 'election disputes'). An amendment to the NEL adopted in 2014 provides that "A voter, candidate or a registered political party may file a complaint with the Commission alleging that an offence against the Constitution or the Elections law or a violation of a regulation issued by the Commission has occurred in connection with the administration of an election, during any stage of the election."

In addition, Article 83(c) of the Constitution provides that "Any party or candidate who complains about the manner in which the elections were conducted or who challenges the results thereof shall have the right to file a complaint with the Elections Commission" and that "Any political party or independent candidate affected by such decision shall not later than seven days appeal against it to the Supreme Court." These provisions establish a broad accountability mechanism such that the legality of virtually all NEC decisions and the actions of its staff can be challenged, in the first instance to the NEC, and subsequently to the final arbiter, the Supreme Court.

Much of the emphasis for NEC over the past year centered around the issue of biometric voter registration. During the year, NEC's Chairperson Davidetta Browne-Lansanah made a request to her counterparts in Nigeria as she sought to learn more about how to integrate biometric technology into Liberia's voter registration process and deal with the technology's potentially high cost.

A key concern for the Senate has been on the cost of the NEC's proposed biometric voter registration system as a barrier to its adoption.

2021 HIGH: During the year under review, the Legal Section of NEC presented a draft Proposed Hearing Procedures document to the seven-member -Board of Commissioners, (BOC) for endorsement.

The ceremony took place in Ganta City, Nimba County at the end of a three-day deliberation which commenced on Monday, 18th October 2021. The National Elections Commission streamlined its hearing procedure aiming to conform to the timeframe for hearing of election cases within the constitution and other statutes as a matter of law.

A year earlier, during the conduct of the 2020 Special Senatorial Elections and Referendum, the NEC faced numerous challenges that led to the slow adjudication of cases by the Commission.

The NEC Legal Section, with funding by the Commission, is conducting the 4-day Legal Forum focusing on the Proposed Hearing Procedures, Election Cases, and Training in Ganta, in Nimba County, ahead of the conduct on the 16 November 2021 Representative By-elections to be in Bong, Bomi, Grand Gedeh, and Nimba Counties. 35 participants including BOC members, the former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia, M. Wilkins Wright, Deputy Justice Minister, Cllr. Nyenati Tuan and Senior Technicians of NEC are participating in the Ganta Legal Forum

During the year, NEC held four by-elections in four counties which include Bomi, Bong, Grand Gedeh and Nimba Counties with some 33 candidates contesting. Bearing a few glitches all four elections were free of irregularities.

Also during the year, the NEC chair led a four-member high power delegation from the Liberia National Electoral Commission (NEC) to complete a study tour of Ghana's electoral system ahead of their elections in 2023.

The team visited Ghana to learn about the usefulness of the biometric system, cost implications in setting up the process, and to explore the possibility of resource and technology sharing between the two countries.

2021 LOW: The departing year ended on a rather sour note for the election body as it struggled to justify payment of US$182,320 for facial 20 facial recognition thermometers. The Public Procurement Concession Commission (PPCC) distanced itself from the approval of said contract, putting NEC in a difficult position. The thermometers were rented from Tuman Enterprise by the NEC to be used during the just-ended by-elections in Nimba, Grand Gedeh, Bong and Bomi Counties.

The thermometers were used to perform non-contact automatic body temperature detection, brush human face, and perform high-precision infrared human temperature acquisition, and high effect.

The actual price of the non-contact face recognition thermometer cost at most US$1,300, however, it is baffling how the NEC rented each piece for US$9,166.

This has raised eyebrows and subjected all the commissioners of the Elections Commission to investigation by the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC).

Sources within the LACC informed FrontPageAfrica the NEC Chairperson admitted to investigators that the company from which the special thermometers were rented belong to her brother. She reportedly added that PPCC approved the rental, thereby, the contract went through due process.

GRADE: C -

2022 OUTLOOK: Further probe into the issue of the controversial thermometer could prove costly for NEC and its chair.

NATIONAL FISHERIES AND AQUACULTURE AUTHORITY

THE LOWDOWN: Liberia's overall fisheries sector goal is: Sustainably managed and economically viable fisheries that generate prosperity for the present and generations. NaFAA was created by an Act of National Legislation on October 9, 2017. It functions as a fully-fledged autonomous body pursuant to the Public Authorities Law of the Republic of Liberia. NaFAA has its roots in the erstwhile Bureau of National Fisheries, which operated as a unit within the department of Technical services of the Ministry of Agriculture from 1956 to 2017.

The entity is responsible to harmonize the varied and numerous long-term expectations of the primary, secondary and tertiary stakeholders, and recognizing the strengths, weakness, opportunities, and threats of the fisheries sector.

Among NaFAA's tasks, it is also responsible for providing increased profitable fisheries employment opportunities while offering an enabling environment for upgrading technical skills for enhanced value-added fisheries vocations; engaging participatory fisheries management institutions based on community and stakeholder structures for the creation of opportunities for socio-economic development; contributing to Gross Domestic Product, national food and nutritional security and improving living conditions, by upgrading and adopting appropriate, modern and efficient fisheries capabilities for increased fish production while reducing losses through illegal fishing; and deriving net benefits from a vibrant fish trade supported by, value addition systems and fisheries infrastructure for fish landing and export, as well as efficient fishing input supply and distribution systems.

In order to facilitate the attainment of the overarching vision of the sector, Government, as essential operational actions, will promote: an improved institutional and legislative framework for fisheries management; adaptive research; community and stakeholder participation in capture and culture-based fisheries management and development; effective international, regional, sub-regional and bilateral cooperation for fisheries management; enhanced monitoring, control, and surveillance capabilities; and improve fish quality and value addition technologies for enhanced economic returns in fisheries.

2021 HIGHS: During the course of the year under review, NaFAA signed a US$40million agreement with the World Bank for an investment in fisheries infrastructures which include a modernized industrial fishing port with processing facilities as well as the construction of five landing and storage facilities within densely populated fishing counties of Liberia affecting at least 300, 000 vulnerable and indigenous fisher folks thereby increasing their daily earnings.

The entity also received a consignment of high technology and sophisticated laboratory equipment under the Icelandic agreement signed in 2019 for the establishment of a National Competent Fish Laboratory for certification and testing of fish product for imports and exports to international markets

Additionally, NaFAA received a consignment of 420 pieces of Yamaha Outboard Motor engine from the Japanese Government for free distribution to local fishermen which will increased local production by at least 40% thereby making fresh fish available on the local market so as reduce our fish consumption deficit and enhance the fish dietary protein supply for the greater population.

The entity also attracted new private participations and investments in the sector with regards to the experimental shrimp fishing for the purpose of acquiring scientific data which is geared towards reopening of the Shrimp Fisheries Program which has huge untapped potential with prospects of attracting millions in the economy.

NaFAA, during the course of the year under review, developed and adopted a five years Fisheries Strategy Policy document mapping out both short-term, medium and long-term goals of the sector with a five-year operational manual to govern the operations of the sector.

The entity also received two (2) forty (40) feet containers of standardized fishing net for free distribution to local fishermen to promote responsible fishing and protect the marine environs, particularly against fishing juvenile fish species and against ghost fishing. This initiative will support sustainable fishing and strengthen food security system of the country

The entity also officially launched an official national uniform for Liberia's fisheries inspectorate program; for the purpose of manning fisheries personnel at all exit and entry point with respect to the regulatory function as inscribed in the 2019 fisheries law of Liberia so as to ensure that quality standards are applied on imports and exports of fish products.

In addition, NaFAA received and distributed fish handling, processing, storage and transportation equipment from the FAO to the Women in Fisheries (Fish Mongers) in a effort to reduce post-harvest loss and improve the quality of fish on the local market. The equipment included, solar powered Freezers, tricycles, cutting tables and other utensils, aprons and safety gears.

Commence the implementation of a joint project with the FAO to construct two fish markets in Monrovia and Buchanan cities respectively as well as supply additional fish handling equipment, improve fish mongers (women) capacity in learning new skills and techniques in fish processing. The Project will also introduce a new smoke oven technology the FAO-Thiaroye Technique (FTT) smoke oven, which is environmentally friend and healthy for the women.

NaFAA also signed a US&3.6 M with the FAO for the construction of landing and storage facilities in Grand Bassa County and additional 300 Outboard Motor engine to enhance fish catch production of local kru canoes, additional fish handling and processing equipment for fish mongers (women) in order to empower them and increase value addition to the product. The project will also support an integrated rice -fish farming activity.

2021 LOW: During the course of the year under review, NaFAA came under fire from a fisheries watchdog group which accused a Senegalese-Spanish company of plundering valuable Liberian shrimps that retail for around $80 per kilogram, using an experimental licence intended for research purposes.

Brussels-based Coalition for Fair Fisheries Arrangements (CFFA) said three bottom trawlers belonging to SOPERKA S.A., a subsidiary of the Spanish Grupo Pereira, were taking advantage of the license to pay fewer taxes and that Liberia was potentially losing millions of dollars in profits.

Authorities of the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority, NaFAA has lifted a temporary ban on Beach Seine or (draw-way) fishing which is highly prohibited according to the Fisheries law of Liberia.

The Director General of NaFAA explained that the temporary lifting of the ban on Beach Seine fishing across Liberia's coastal waters is a result of a consultative meeting held recently with the leadership of Beach seine fishermen in on Bushrod Island.

According to Glassco during the consultative meeting, the Beach-Scene fishermen leadership appealed for a grace period of one year beginning July 2021-July 2022, at which time they promised to transition from such fishing method into a more productive and internationally acceptable fishing method.

GRADE: B +

2022 OUTLOOK: How much impact will the World Bank US$40 million financing have on the fisheries sector management; more importantly, how will it enhance the livelihoods of targeted beneficiaries and increase Government revenues?

LIBERIA TELECOMMUNICATIONS CORPORATION (LIBTELCO)

THE LOWDOWN: Much of Liberia's telecommunications infrastructure ruined as a result of years of civil war has been steadily resurging over the past decade.

There are two mobile operators - MTN Liberia, majority owned by MTN Group, and Orange Liberia, the local unit of Orange Group. Both have steadily invested in network infrastructure while MTN Liberia has been active in promoting its m-money services in a country where most people are un-banked. Competition between these operators has led to a reduction in pricing for voice and data services, and since this impacted on tax revenue the regulator was prompted in mid-2019 to impose a tariff floor.

Today, internet services are available from a number of wireless ISPs as well as the mobile operators. The high cost and limited bandwidth of connections means that internet access is expensive and penetration rates are very low. Although additional bandwidth is available from an international submarine cable, considerable investment is still needed in domestic fixed-line infrastructure before end-users can make full use of the cable.

Over the past twelve months, LIBTELCO recorded more than 4.13 million connections and saw an increase in mobile connections. Additionally, internet penetration was 12 percent over the course of the year equating to 624,000 internet users in the country. In the mobile sector, competition led to some of the lowest call prices in Africa, but with the price floor, prices have increased to a minimum of $0.0156 per minute for a voice call and $0.0218 per megabyte for data.

Overall, the sector appears to be experiencing substantial improvement through international fiber optic submarine cable, benefitting more than 80 commercial and diplomatic locations. Moving beyond these clients, however, would require considerable investment in domestic fixed-line infrastructure.

2021 HIGH: The signing of a partnership agreement with Csquared, granting the company a license to deployed fiber optic cables across the country.

Research has shown that despite it relatively small population, Liberia has an active and competitive telecommunications sector.

The year also saw LIBTELCO being granted a five-year tax break by the House of Representatives. In September, the House voted overwhelmingly in favour of passing the 'Act to award the tax Incentives as a Government Owned Entity'. Only three members of the House abstained, arguing that the Act should have been sent to committee first, in order to carry out an in-depth cost analysis before allowing its passage.

According to TeleGeography's GlobalComms Database, in October 2020 national regulator the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) issued a mobile network services licence to state-owned LIBTELCO, allowing it to offer GSM-based services. The Monrovia-based company has been focusing on the deployment of its fibre-optic network to homes, businesses and educational institutions, but will now be able to join incumbent operators Lonestar Cell-MTN and Orange Liberia in the domestic market, offering a range of voice and mobile data services.

A year earlier, in August 2020 the lower House voted to amend the Telecommunications Act of 2007 to expand the functions of LIBTELCO to become a GSM operator. The report noted that the amendment effectively expanded the Libtelco's functions and role as a 'revenue operator, to contribute towards the national budget'. The committee had concluded: 'The amendment of those provisions of the Telecommunications Act of 2007 as cited herein will enable the Government-owned Corporation 'LIBTELCO' to provide world-class telecommunications products and services at cheaper, affordable prices for all Liberians that will enable growth of various sectors, such as education, healthcare, banking, energy and serving the masses, at large, for a sustainable economic growth of our society.'

2021 LOW: During the course of the year under review, IT experts at a two - day technology symposium under the auspices of African Virtual Campus (AVC - Global) in collaboration with Cuttington University, stressed the need for Liberia to embrace a culture of cyber security in order to effectively confront potential cyber security risks that may come along with the increasing utilization of technological programs in the business sector, academia, governance and security in the country. In a keynote address, Cllr. Oswald Tweh said "innovation breeds business," and since technology paves the way, it can be safely said that business needs technology to be sustained.

Tweh said technology in business is a necessity, explaining that as the years go by, the world is leaning more and more toward technology, making it almost impossible to separate the two from each other.

The call came amid serious concerns that LIBTELCO was potentially a llow fraud risk ISP, meaning that web traffic from this ISP potentially poses a low risk of being fraudulent.

According to Scamalytics, which monitors risk to ISPs, LIBTELCO operate 8,171 IP addresses, some of which are running public proxies. "They manage IP addresses for organisations including Liberia Telecommunication Corporation. Scamalytics see low levels of web traffic from this ISP across our global network, little of which is, in our view, fraudulent. We apply a risk score of 3/100 to Liberia Telecommunications Corporation (libtelco), meaning that of the web traffic where we have visibility, approximately 3% is suspected to be potentially fraudulent," the group noted.

GRADE: B-

2022 OUTLOOK: Despite the fiber optic cable, some consumers continue to experience faulty internet. Will LIBTELCO and the LTA get to the bottom of the inconsistencies?

NATIONAL TRANSIT AUTHORITY

THE LOWDOWN: With the ever-rising cost of gasoline and fuel on the Liberian market, thousands of commuters rely heavily on public transport - mainly public buses - as the most affordable means of transportation in the capital and inter-county. Hence, the relevance of the National Transit Authority.

The National Transit Authority (NTA) was established in the city of Monrovia, by the Government of Liberia through legislative enactment on September 11, 2008 and approved into law by former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf on March 24, 2009. The NTA has its root in the erstwhile Monrovia Transit Authority (MTA), created in 1977 as a department of the Monrovia City Corporation (MCC) to provide affordable mass transit service to the residents of Monrovia.

The Sirleaf government envisioned that to holistically address the challenge of poverty in Liberia it was important to decentralize governance and all services appertaining there from.

Significantly, the remodeling of the MTA into the NTA sought to decentralize the provision of affordable, convenient and reliable mass transit services to citizens throughout the length and breadth of our country. The government was confident this policy would facilitate the safe movement of people and goods within and out of the country at affordable cost and would further expand and enhance our national development agenda - to reduce poverty, create more jobs and stimulate domestic trade and commerce.

The framers envisaged that the NTA will grow into a viable and sustainable public transportation outlet for the people of Liberia. It is also expected that the NTA shall endeavor overtime to establish subsidiaries in other parts of the country as and when appropriate and shall encourage private participation of small, medium and large transport companies to promote an efficient and effective mass transit system in Liberia.

2021 HIGH: The NTA in an effort to address transportation constraints in 2021 increased its round town buses from 10 to 25, especially in the morning hours to help students, marketers, workers, etc.

Plans were disclosed to reduce transport fares on the NTA buses at various pickup points.

The NTA has managed to put up 11 buses running daily in counties such as Cape Mount, Grand Bassa, Nimba, Bong, and Margibi. Grand Gedeh and Lofa County benefit most during the dry season when the road condition is good.

2021 LOW: Reports of corruption, nepotism, salary discrepancies, accidents blemished the 2021 performance of the National Transit Authority.

In July this year, disenchanted workers and contractors of the NTA gathered in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where the temporary office of the President is, to demand their four months' salary arrears.

The workers said, they had worked for four months without being paid. They cried out to President Weah to remove the Managing Director of the NTA, Mr. Herbie Tecombla McCauley.

Veronica Doe, an employee of the NTA as Conductor, said their action to protest is due to the constraints they have been faced with at the entity for the past three years and the Managing Director's alleged refusal to pay their Daily Sustenance Allowance and salary for four months.

The aggrieved employee claimed that the Managing Director was directly involved with collecting fares generated from the buses by demanding the conductors to transfer the funds to his mobile money number. He was also accused of hiring and paying his daughter, Tracy McCauley, US$750.00 while conductors are paid L$22,000 (US$150.00) which barely came on time.

McCauley denied the claims but he was subjected to an investigation by the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission.

He later expresssed regret and apologized for the incident which led to the paralyzing of normal operations of public transportation service across the country. He admitted to "issues" being at the entity but disclosed that the management team has been striving to address those issues.

In early October, NTA Bus No. 5138 left Monrovia on Tuesday at 8:00am and headed for Ganta, Nimba County.The bus crew consisted of Mr. Robert F. Lamie (driver) and Saymon Jarwleah (conductor). The bus departed Red Light with 68 passengers, including women and children.

Bus No. 5138 left Monrovia on Tuesday at 8:00am and headed for Ganta, Nimba County.The bus crew consisted of Mr. Robert F. Lamie (driver) and Saymon Jarwleah (conductor). Bus No. 5138departed Red Light with 68 passengers, including women and children but was involved in a tragic accident when it skidded off the road around Zeanzue severely injuring six people.

GRADE: D

2022 OUTLOOK: As 2022 brings us closer to the political season, there is an outlook for the NTA to grant political parties the equal use of NTA buses to commute supporters for their rallies. The NTA must do more to increase its daily fleet.

LIBERIA CIVIL AVIATION AUTHORITY

THE LOWDOWN: Making aviation safe and expanding the provision of quality aviation services in Liberia remains cardinal to increasing the daily flights and encouraging new airlines to fly to the country. This is why the Liberia Civil Aviation Authority (LCAA) comes in with the provision of quality service and productivity by providing innovative technical regulatory supervision geared towards the promotion of a safe civil aviation sector as well as place high-value in fostering teamwork, training and continuous improvement in the level of professionalism commensurate with ICAO's standards.

2021 HIGH: In September 2021, the Liberia Civil Aviation Authority, the Ministry of Transport, and the Banjul Accord Group Accident Investigation Agency signed a resolution to establish an Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) in Liberia by July 2022. It also advocates for the execution of the AAIB ACT of 2019, which will see the independent AAIB operate more effectively.

This development came after the conclusion of a two-day joint meeting of the Ministry of Transport (MOT), the Liberian Civil Aviation Authority (LCAA), the Roberts Flight Information Region (RFIR), and the Banjul Accord Group Accident Investigation Agency (BAGAIA) in Monrovia on September 16-17, 2021, according to a press release issued by the LCAA.

The resolution was reached after extensive stakeholder negotiations involving the four parties, the Liberia Airport Authority, and others interested in Liberia's aviation business. The two-day discussions were led by BAGAIA's Commissioner, Engineer Charles Irekefe Erhueh, along with technical team members from the LCAA, MOT, and RFIR. BAGAIA is an international organization that assists African member states in conducting independent investigations of aircraft accidents and incidents in accordance with international standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The Bureau will be known as the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB-Liberia) once it is created.

The resolution also directs the Minister of Transportation to put in place measures that will allow the Liberia Civil Aviation Authority (LCAA) to assist the newly established Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB-Liberia) in clearing outstanding fees and obligations to BAGAIA, with the Bureau's subsequent payment of the subscription being budgeted for. It further states that the Minister of Transport, in collaboration with the Director-General of the Liberia Civil Aviation Authority will contact the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to discuss levying fees on tickets as a manner of funding the AAIB-Liberia.

During the year under review the LCAA began to make frantic efforts to ensure that Liberia regained its status to register aircrafts. This meant meeting all the safety and security standards and upholding international practices in keeping with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards.

2021 LOW: The Liberia Civil Aviation Authority came under criticism from aviation experts and pundits for endorsing a decision by President George Weah to build a mini-stadium right under the nose of the James Payne Spriggs Field. Many argued that this breached of the standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the global body which creates regulations for aviation safety, security, efficiency and regularity and environmental protection. The organization also regulates operating practices and procedures covering the technical field of aviation.

The space on which the mini-stadium is being built for the Invincible 11, the former team of President Weah, had been reserved for years for airport use.

Over the years, previous governments had been randomly clearing the area and asking residents encroaching on or around the space because it is reserved for aborting planes taking off and landing.

But the LCAA argued that all precautionary measures have been put in place to ensure a safe distance from the James Spriggs Payne Airport and the Invincible Park being undertaken by the George Weah-led government.

There have been atleast five air crash incidents closed to the airport since 1951.

Section 3.5.1 of the Annex 14 to the ICAO convention insists that airport runway end safety areas be provided at each end of a runway strip. The standards state hat a runway end safety area shall extend from the end of a runway strip to a distance of at least 90 meters. "If an arresting system is installed, the above length may be reduced, based on the design specification of the system, subject to acceptance by the State."

The standards insists that the runway end safety area be as far as practicable and extend from the end of a runway strip to a distance of at least: 240 meters or a reduced length when an arresting system is installed.

The ICAO further recommends that the width of a runway end safety area should, wherever practicable, be equal to that of the graded portion of the associated runway strip, which is why the space now being used as a sports park poses serious risks to safety of air travelers.

GRADE: C-

2022 OUTLOOK: As the Invincible 11 Park nears completion, there are expectations on the safety measures that would be put in place by the LCAA to ensure the safety of aircrafts that may use the James Spriggs Payne Airport and users of the park. There is also the need for the improvement of aviation services that would attract more airlines to the country.

LIBERIA LAND AUTHORITY

THE LOWDOWN: One of the critical constraints to Liberia's sustained and inclusive growth is its land ownership which has a complex history with land rights alternating between individuals, communities and the GoL. Less than 20 percent of the country's total land is formally registered.

The Commission is to propose, advocate and coordinate reforms of land policy, laws and programs in Liberia. It does not have adjudicatory or implementation role.

The goal of the Commission is to develop a comprehensive national land tenure and land use system that will provide equitable access to land and security of tenure so as to facilitate inclusive, sustained growth and development, ensure peace and security, and provide sustainable management of the environment.

As the one-stop-shop for land matters in Liberia, the Act, provides LLA with three key functions, which are summarized below:

Land governance functions include the control and management, in the interest of equitable development, access to and use of Public and Government Land except for Reserves, Protected Areas, Proposed Protected Areas, and Diplomatic Missions;

Land administration functions include administering the deed registry and land registry systems; establishing standards and regulating survey and mapping services; administering public survey and mapping services, and the national cadastre, promoting and regulating the proper development of private surveying profession, and therefore under no condition shall a surveyor or other staff of the Authority engage in the survey of private land or in the survey of communal land in a private capacity; value land and buildings for the Authority's land registry system; implement programs in support of property rights, including those of customary land owing communities; and adjudicate disputes arising in the context of systematic land registration.

Land use and management functions include to promote, support and ensure the development of land use management plans and zoning schemes and their implementation through counties, districts and other local government structures (clans, etc.)

2021 HIGH: During the course of the year, the Liberia Land Authority was robust carrying out regional awareness on land rights issues, especially on women's land ownership.

Liberia Land Authority has also certificated several communities across the country that have completed Community Self-Identification (CSI) process.

In September this year, the LLA conducted its first ever nationwide sensitization, education and information campaign on the Land Rights Act (LRA) and LLA Act (LLAA) since the enactment of the two laws in 2016 and 2018.

The robust land rights awareness being conducted by the LLA has been very significant in helping reduce the rate of land dispute in the country.

The awareness activities covered several districts, communities and schools within the counties. The awareness were intended to inform, sensitise and educate our people of their rights and responsibilities as it is enshrined within the Liberia Rights Act and the LLA Act.

The LLA Chairman, Atty. J. Adams Manobah asserts that ethical reforms in implementing Public Policy and Law can shape Land Registration in the economy to ensure Better Business Climate.

The LLA Chairman made the statement on Wednesday, June 9, 2021 at the 4th National Judicial Conference in Monrovia, under the theme "The Law, Public Policy and the Economy" with his focus on "Building a Modern and Transparent Land Title Registry".Addressing the conference which had Judges, Lawyers, Law Makers, Policy Makers, Government officials, amongst others in attendance, Atty. Manobah said the land service delivery system still needs policy, legal, institutional, technological implementation enforcement and ethical reforms to ensure a secured and transparent Land Registry which support a competitive Business Climate.

The LLA Chairman further stated that an enhanced understanding and appreciation of how a modern and transparent Land Registry can improve doing business to ensure economic growth and development must be embraced by all. He called on key actors in the land service delivery framework to collaborate in order to improve doing business.

2021 LOW: Many believe that the LLA failure to proactively intervene in the Gayea and Gblor Clans land conflict led to the situation degenerating into violence that claimed the life of one person, and injuries of several others.

Tensions flared up when the Gayea clan sought to claim their rights under the Land Rights Act to part of the 11,957-hectare forestland that lies on the fringes of the Gio National Forest and stretches along the banks of the Cestos River at the Liberia-Ivory Coast border.

The clan says it wants to make a deal with logging companies to extract timber from the forest. They say they want to use the funds to improve the only clinic serving the entire population, upgrade the school, provide hand pumps and build roads linking the clan with other settlements.

The Gayea clan also says it wants to conserve a portion of its forest. The clan had worked with Parley Liberia, a civil society organization that is guiding a number of communities in Nimba, Lofa, and Bong Counties to legally own their lands. It had completed all the first two of the five steps required by the Act to claim customary land title: it self-identified itself and completed participatory mapping of its land. But when it came to step 3, harmonizing its boundaries with its neighbors, the problems began.

Gblor protested that it would not accept the demarcation decided through the PROSPER project. Elder John Miah of Gboutuo, a boundary town in Gblor Clan, says his people were fooled by Gayean leaders during the 2014 negotiation.

But Gayea Clan elder Bah claims that during the demarcation, both parties agreed with the boundary that was drawn up. He points as evidence to the monument erected at the starting point of the boundary and the resolution signed.

GRADE: C

2022 OUTLOOK: In addition to the massive awareness being carried out by the Liberia Land Authority, there is the need for the LLA to be more proactive in engaging averting land conflicts by playing its mediating role and bringing actors to the table or taking them through the legal system and engaging the courts to fast track cases that have the propensity of escalating into a dispute if not speedily handled.

FOREST DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY

THE LOWDOWN: In the midst of global discussions to curtail climate change, Liberia's forests are becoming the pride of the world in the combat of climate, hence the role of the Forestry Development Authority in this fight cannot be overemphasized.

The Forestry Development Authority is a semi-public autonomous corporation created by an act of the legislature on December 20, 1976, with the mandate to sustainably manage and conserve the forests and related resources of the country for the benefit of present and future generations.

Liberia's forests provide a wide range of significant benefits to the Liberian people and the international community, such as habitat for globally important biodiversity, a range of ecological services, ecotourism potential, timber and non-timber forest products and significant revenue for the country from commercial forestry development. To put it in perspective: Only one-tenth of West Africa's original Upper Guinean rainforest remains, and 40 percent of that is in Liberia. Kept intact, this extensive forest has the incredible opportunity to help mitigate climate change.

2021 HIGH: In June this year, the FDA recommenced the training on Field Activities for the Implementation of The VPA and Support Unit.

Liberia in 2013 ratified a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the European Union (EU) in the context of EU's Action Programme Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT). This programme aims at reducing illegal logging by strengthening sustainable and legal forest management, improving governance and promoting trade of legally produced timber. To further strengthen Liberia's ability to comply with the Agreement, the VPA Support Unit (VPA-SU) was launched in 2013 with the primary function to build the capacity of key stakeholder groups playing a direct role in the implementation of the VPA, including the Forest Development Authority (FDA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Ministry of Labor (MoL), among others. The first 5-year phase of the Support Unit, which ended in September 2018, gave tremendous support to these stakeholders and other actors including infrastructure, furniture, equipment, improving systems, and manpower development.

The capacity building activities have strengthened the participants' ability (i) to conduct inspections using the Inspection Checklist of the Code of Forest Harvesting Practices and to identify non-compliances in logging operations; (ii) to improve the knowledge and competence in log scaling and volume calculations, and the essentiality of the Chain of Custody System; (iii) to enhance the understanding and use of LiberTrace (a software for verification of legality, traceability and fiscality of the logs being exported from Liberia); and (iv) to strengthen field reporting skills.

The opening of a state-of-the-art chimpanzee sanctuary and conservation center in May this year in Charlesville, Margibi County was a result of the sustained collaborative efforts of Liberia Chimpanzee Rescue & Protection (LCRP), the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) and many key partners and supporters from both in and outside of Liberia.

The event served to further promote initiatives to save this critically endangered species and promote national and regional conservation as well as community development and tourism in the country.

The FDA has been working assiduously hard with Fauna and Flora International (FFI) and the Skills and Agricultural Development to make Wonegizi in Lofa County Poised for Gazzettement

The Forestry Development Agency was appointed chair of the EU US$125,000

International Support for Mangrove Forests Conversation.

The Liberia platform shall coordinate and monitor all projects activities, serve as lead advocate for the project, serve as decision-making platform on the review and validation of project outcome and the exchange of experiences to ensure cross fertilization of ideas that will support project success.

2021 LOW: Civil society groups say logging companies are exploiting weak monitoring and enforcement of Liberia's forestry laws. A new briefing highlights the illegal harvest of as much as 14,000 cubic meters (494,000 cubic feet) of timber in Grand Bassa county; despite knowing about the case for more than two years, the authorities have taken no action.

In July 2020, investigators from the Independent Forest Monitoring Coordination Mechanism (IFMCM), a group of seven Liberian civil society organizations to which SDI belongs, found stocks of logs marked "TTC/RGI" and "FGL," 6 kilometers (4 miles) south of a concession area known as TSC-A2. TTC refers to the Tarpeh Timber Company; RGI and FGL to logging companies subcontracted to harvest timber from TSC-A2, TTC's concession in Grand Bassa.

The logs were also tagged with Forest Development Authority barcodes, indicating they had been entered into the chain of custody meant to ensure only legally harvested timber can be exported.

IFMCM's investigation confirmed an earlier finding French sustainable development consultancy SOFRECO, which alerted the Liberian government to potential illegal logging in Grand Bassa in November 2019. SOFRECO was part of a consortium hired to improve management and verification of legal timber sales as part of the Liberia-EU Voluntary Partnership Agreement.

GRADE: C

2022 OUTLOOK: With the position Liberia has taken in the combat of climate change, it is imperative that the Forestry Development Authority be proactive in enforcing forestry laws and combat illegal logging and mining in Liberian forests. If Liberia is to achieve its expectations of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) as determined by the Environmental Protection Agency, the FDA must be proactive in protecting forest reserves and ensuring that illegal logging activities are minimized to the lowest if not stopped totally.

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