….Over US$30M Spent In 14 Years
By Mark N. Mengonfia: email@example.com
Eyebrows raising toward the renovation of the Executive Mansion as it has surfaced again in the fiscal year 2020/2021 National Budget.
It is nearly fourteen years since the mansion was gutted by fire on July 26, 2006 during the celebration of the nation’s 159th independence.
It was exactly seven months ten days following the inauguration of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on January 16, 2006, when this fire invasion took place.
Since then, there have been lots of allocations in the national budget for the renovation of the mansion as then President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf spent 12years outside of the mansion at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs without using the mansion, the home of Liberian presidents.
According to South African Forensic Scientists, who investigated the fire incident, the fire eruption at the Executive Mansion was caused as a result of electrical fault. Due to this incident, President Sirleaf said she was unable to perform state functions at her official office for 12 years.
So, she moved her office to the Chinese-built Foreign Ministry.
The estimated cost to renovate the Executive Mansion in 2008 was US$7million according to Milton and Richards Architecture Firm. The total amount of US$3million was allocated in the 2008-2009 national budget to fund phase one of this project, but this has increased to over US$34m in the space of 14 years.
The failure of the past administration to renovate the mansion, made the then Representative Dr. Bhofal Chambers to lash at Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for what he termed at the time as waste of resources.
The Liberian legislature has since been placing millions of US dollars for it renovation projects.
This unprecedented delay caused the House of Representatives to setup a Special Committee a year ago to probe what was causing the delay in the completion of the project.
The seven-man Special Committee chaired by Grand Gedeh County District number two Representative George S. Boley, in its report, said to date, 14 years after the fire incident which occurred on July 26, 2006, the Executive Mansion remains unusable.
The renovation is incomplete and artifacts of historic significance preserved at the Executive Mansion before and after the armed conflict, have not been found and are yet to be accounted for.
There were unconfirmed reports that those items were taken away by a team of Chinese engineers.
The seven-man committee said in their last year’s report that the Executive Mansion’s renovation project is a ‘complex web’ of apparent collusion by individual actors at practically all levels of governance, and that no one has been held accountable for his or her conduct in the misapplication of the national resources expended.
The 14-year ongoing project of the mansion according to the committee, 50% of the renovation works has been done
The committee spoke of some complex web associated with the project, but till date, nothing has been done to ensure that those associated to the apparent collusion are brought to book.
New Budget for Mansion Again:
On Thursday, July 16, 2020, the fiscal year 2020/2021 national budget appeared on the floor of the plenary of the House of Representatives again capturing the renovation of the Executive Mansion.
The renovation of the Executive mansion is captured under the caption “Public Administration”.
“Public Administration: US$5.9million renovation of Executive Mansion and support to small businesses”
The latest from the Executive Branch of the Liberian Government headed by President George Weah according to political pundits has widened the longstanding public perception of gross corruption and misapplication associated with the renovation of the Executive Mansion.
Prior to this year’s allocation in the budget, the House of Representatives Special Investigative Committee, setup in 2019 recounted that despite massive sums of money (US$33,492,101) spent on the renovation project over a 13-year period, the Executive Mansion remains in a state of abandonment.
The report submitted on September 18, 2019 said to date, 14 years after the fire incident which occurred on July 26, 2006, the Executive Mansion remains inoperative.
General Auditing Commission:
It can be recalled that a total of US$24,788,101.18 was expended to repair the Executive Mansion between April 2011 and January 2015 according to the General Auditing Commission (GAC). The report captured several contractors, subcontractors and individuals involved.
The report reveals that for the period of July 1, 2006 through December 31, 2015, the Executive Mansion’s renovation contract was awarded in three phases.
Phase 1 Contract was for the fourth floor only, where the fire took place. Phase 2 contract was for the renovation of the seventh and other floors unaffected by the fire; Phase 3 contract was to undo all the renovation work previously done due to the use of substandard materials by the first contractor, CNQC, a Chinese construction firm.
The Special Committee noted that CNQC Quinlian (LIB) was the first major contractor hired to renovate the Executive Mansion, despite the fact that the company had no extensive work experience in Liberia. Other contractors included Milton & Richards, Pan African Engineering Group, Cape Resources and Vax.
The report furthered that the CNQC contract was terminated July 1, 2015 as the materials used to renovate the mansion were grossly substandard.
Some members of the governing Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) while in opposition for 12 years sharply and repeatedly criticized former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s Unity Party (UP) for the slow pace of the renovation and alleged misapplications of funds.
Current House Speaker Bhofal Chambers once accused former President Sirleaf of causing ‘claustrophobia’ (tight places) at the Foreign Ministry that was used as a temporary office of the president at the time.
However, it was anticipated that President Weah would have immediately focus on the completion of the Executive Mansion because discharging presidential functions from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs overtly contravenes statutory guidelines which are in compliance with democratic due diligence.
About The Executive Mansion:
The Executive Mansion is the official home of the Liberian Presidency. It was built by over 2000 workers and 150 foreign technicians and officially dedicated in 1964 under the administration of President William VS Tubman. The eight-story Executive Mansion costs US$9million.