29 June Press Briefing Notes

Monday, 29th June 2009
Members of the Press:

Let me welcome you once again to another Executive Mansion press briefing session.

  • Iíll begin by providing an update on the Dunn Commissionís report regarding the appointment of a Special Prosecutor.

Following the submission of the Commissionís report more than six months ago, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, in January this year, wrote the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) requesting that the Commission take responsibility to follow-up on the recommendations of the report. The President was advised by the Chairman of the Commission that the legislation governing the LACC would not permit it to do so.

To ensure that the matter is brought to closure, the Justice Ministry, upon directives of Her Excellency, did request the Liberia National Bar Association, through its President, Cllr. M. Wilkins Wright, to nominate a reputable lawyer to serve as Special Prosecutor.  

The process of nominating a Special Prosecutor has taken much longer than expected.  The exercise, the National Bar Association recently informed the Justice Ministry in a letter, is proving to be challenging because most of the lawyers who may be suited for such an assignment are neither available nor willing to take up the task, which may require foregoing their full time private practices for an unspecified period of time.

Our understanding now is that some progress has been made by the National Bar Association in recruiting a Special Prosecutor. The nomination is being finalized and will be presented to the Ministry of Justice shortly.

Let it be made clear that there is absolutely no individual in this country who may be so anxious in bringing this matter to a close than the President. The sooner a Special Prosecutor is nominated for this important aspect of the Dunn Commissionís report, the closer we will be to bringing to an objective conclusion all facts surrounding the email saga.

  • A Special Task Force set by the President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in January this year to physically audit county development projects has submitted its report to the President. The team, headed by Mr. Samuel P. Jackson, visited all fifteen counties and inspected 122 projects in 64 districts.  Only five projects could not be verified due to inaccessible road condition.

In its report to the President, the team disclosed that of the 122 projects inspected, 56 are incomplete or abandoned.  Some counties, the team noted, were better than others. Cape Mount, Grand Bassa and Gbarpolu had higher rates of completion and standard than the rest of the counties. The Task Force concluded that the County Development Fund is reasserting civilian authority in the counties, but political interference, lack of capacity, ineffective monitoring and incompetence characterize the process.  The Task Force also informed the President that many of the projects are unconnected to the real socio-economic needs of the citizens.

The team has advanced a number of recommendations intended to improve the administration of the funds:

  1. Revisit County Development Mandate to design a mechanism to provide varying amounts to counties based upon size and population;

  2. Make strong attempts to connect county development projects to real socio-economic needs of communities;

  3. Minimize political interference in the award of contracts by redesigning procurement process in the award of development projects;

  4. Develop close coordination between the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Special County Development Council and Project Management Communities;

  5. Design and implement a strong and effective evaluation and monitoring mechanism for country development projects;

  6. Redesign legal contracts to include performance bond or guarantees to ensure contractors complete projects according to schedule and specifications;

  7. Retain larger portions of contract amounts as insurance against unforeseen circumstances;

  8. And build capacity in the counties by providing construction engineering or architectural education to development superintendents and project planners, or hire outside professionals to monitor projects until capacity within counties are built.

The President thanked members of the Task Force for a job well done and has promised to share the findings with members of the Cabinet for discussion.  Other members of the Task Force included Ronald Mitchell, Mark Marvey and Emmanuel Akyempong.

  • Finally, on the much talked about contract between the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC) and the Zakhem International Construction, Ltd. for the expansion project of the Product Storage Terminal Rehabilitation and Expansion Project, the President has ordered that the contract be put on hold pending a review of the project.

A five-man Independent Technical Committee has been constituted to review whether the contract was awarded in accordance with applicable laws of Liberia, and whether it reflected the principles of accountability, transparency and fairness as stipulated in the Public Procurement & Concessions Act of 2005, as well as other statues. Of equal importance to the President is whether there is value for money in the contract.

The Committee, chaired by former Chief Justice, Cllr. Henry Reed Cooper, has already begun its work and is to submit its findings to the Cabinet in six weeks, commencing June 18, 2009. Members of the Independent Technical Committee are Alex Cuffy; Matthew N. Clarke; Anthony M. Autride and Aloysius T. Jappah.

Thanks for your attention.