Concession Agreement review pending
The Plenary of the House of Representatives has unanimously voted to nullify or halt the unprecedented 9.67% rise in service fees, especially for the clearing of containers at the Free Port of Monrovia, levied by APM Terminals.
Members of the House of Representatives through a motion, proffered by Rep. Samuel Kogar, also voted to formally write the Chief Executive, President George M. Weah, in the spirit of coordination and collaboration, to oversee its decision on the reversal of the tariff.
The House’s Plenary mandated its committees on Judiciary, Commerce and Trade and Ways, Means, Finance and Development Planning to review the 25-year APM Terminal concession agreement and report within two (2) weeks.
APM Terminal Chief Finance Officer, Khalid El Laiti, who is also serving as Acting Managing Director, argued that the increment was in line with the company’s concession agreement with the Government of Liberia, which allows a 2021 tariff adjustment using predefined formula.
He further said that the APM Terminals contracted a private company (investor) who has credited to invest and thus prompted the increased tariff by 9.67%.
Responding to the National Port Authority’s (NPA) Managing Director, Bill Tweahway’s outburst that the concession agreement of APM Terminal is a “Bad agreement” and should be amended, the House of Representatives has ordered NPA to submit reports of compliance with APM Terminals regarding the marine services, top managerial positions and concessional agreements with the signatures of Ministers of Justice and Finance on Thursday, January 28, 2021.
However, APM Terminals was also requested to bring their audited financial reports from 2011 to 2020; 75 copies each.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has summoned the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA), BIVAC and GTMS to show cause why they should not be held in contempt.
The LRA and GTMS failed to appear on Tuesday, citing reasons including busy schedule in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, and health problem. Both letters of excuse from the two institutions were written by their respective deputies without attached authority from their bosses (heads), which members of the House described as gross insubordination.
Tuesday’s plenary was interchangeably presided over by Speaker Bhofal Chambers and Deputy Speaker Cllr. J. Fonati Koffa.
It may be recalled that last Tuesday, following a motion filed by Representative Dixon Seboe after the report by the House’s specialized committee set up to investigate APM Terminals’ operations in Liberia, the House Plenary summoned APM Terminals, BIVAC, LRA and major shipping lines to appear on Tuesday, January 26.
Presenting the highly anticipated report that contains a comparative analysis of APM Terminals’ operations in Liberia and that of Ghana, the Chairman of the Committee, Representative Clarence Massaquoi (District #3, Lofa County), said unlike in Liberia where APM Terminal has a 100 percent ownership right, APM Ghana has 70 percent share, while the Ghanaians are awarded three percent, with the Ghanaian Government is privileged to buy any of the remaining shares.
Rep. Massaquoi said handing total operation of the port to a foreign firm does not only have economic disadvantages but also security implications.
His colleagues, including rep. Rustonlyn Suacoco Dennis and Francis Dopoh, backed him and called for a comprehensive review of the concession.
They also called for the submission of the company’s financial statements to ascertain if it has invested US$100 million in Liberia as it is being alleged. Other lawmakers, including Rep. Edward Karfia, called for a repeal of the agreement, but Rep. Vincent Willie differed, in that it will affect more Liberians that are already in the employ of the company.
Owing to the prolonged debate over the report on the floor, the plenary decided to further extend the discussion on the report before taking a definite decision.
However, while the committee’s report is being reviewed, plenary opted to invite key players to address the pressing need on hand; some of which include the astronomical increase of service fees charged at the port.
Rep. Francis Nyumalin said while APM Terminal was in the spotlight, there were other key parties including shipping lines and BIVAC, who have also increased their fees and, therefore, they should be invited.
Rep. Seboe, who proffered the motion, calling on all parties to appear with relevant financial documents to state reasons for the continued increment. The officials are to appear next Tuesday, February 2.
The House’s move came as a result of APM Terminals’ latest increment of all current charges of its services at the Free Port of Monrovia.
Recently, the company announced a 9.67 percent increment on all current charges of its services at the Free Port of Monrovia. With the increase, the fee for clearing a 20-foot container is now US$207, up from US$189.