March 30 Press Briefing

Monday, 30th March 2009
Welcome to another Executive Mansion briefing session.
  • Lets us begin, on behalf of the President, by extending heartfelt condolences to the family of the late Ben Donnie, head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of Liberia. Mr. Donnie died over the weekend following a brief illness. The late Donnieís work in promoting the environmental justice in the country will be missed. His loss has left a void in Governmentís environmental program. The President prays that the family will find solace as they mourn the loss of their loved one.
  • I am pleased to inform you that the General Auditing Commission (GAC) has submitted six new audit reports to the Office of the President.  The reports submitted by the GAC are:
  1. Sale of Iron Ore stockpile in Buchanan (Jan. 2004 Ė Jan. 2006);
  2. Liberian Holdings in the International Maritime Program Satellite Ltd (INMARSAT           2003- 2006);
  3. Ministry of Internal Affairs (County Development Funds 2005 -2006);
  4. Fiscal Accounts of the Government of Liberia (Expenditure 2005/06 & 2006/07);
  5. Monrovia Transit Authority (June 30, 2006 Ė July 31, 2007);
  6. and the Sale of road construction equipment by Consolidated Group, Inc. to the Ministry of Public Works (2006 Ė 2007).
The reports are being carefully reviewed by the President. Following the review, the President will exercise a number of options at her disposal, which may include dismissal and/or prosecution by the Ministry of Justice where evidence of impropriety is strong. Letís make it clear that whatever action the President takes on these audit reports are in no way tied in to legislative action contemplated by the National Legislature.

It is worth noting that more than 50 other cases are already before the Justice Ministry awaiting prosecution. The limited capacity of the Ministry continues to pose a challenge to speedy prosecution. It is the Presidentís hope that an understanding will be reached with the Judiciary for the establishment of a fast-track court to handle some of these cases.

The Presidentís fight against corruption remains unwavering.  She is determined to prosecute anyone who violates the public trust, but insists that such action be taken in keeping with the rule of law.

I am also pleased to inform you that through the personal insistence of the President, GSM companies in the country have agreed in principle to pay licensing fees amounting to USD$15 million each.  The 15-year agreement, which has already been signed by Lone Star Cell, also includes a USD$1.5 million payment of each GSM company's yearly gross revenue.
 
Lone Star has already paid USD$5 million in Government revenue as part of its licensing fee.  Other companies will also follow suit after the signing of agreements between the companies and the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA), a Government regulatory body.

You may recall that GSM companies in the not too distant past paid USD$50,000 to $100,000 per year. The amount each company paid depended on the level of contact a company had with the regulating authority at the time.  There were no clear policies.  If there were any, they were simply ignored.

Today, the situation has changed.  Liberians are getting their moneyís worth, where revenue generated from the licensing fees will go into Governmentís development programs. The President welcomes the cooperation of the GSM companies, especially Lone Star, and believes that theother GSM companies will comply. Libercell and Cellcom, we understand, are expected to sign on this week, while negotiations with Comium are being concluded.

The promised reshuffle is still on course. The President will effect the changes when she is ready.  I just thought to throw that out, since I know that would have been one of your questions.

Thanks for your attention.  I will now take your questions, if any.