House Probes LEC, Lands Ministry Today

Over Alleged Procurement, Financial Irregularities by Manitoba involving US$42m

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(L-R) LEC Chairman Ian Yhap; LEC Statutory Member and Lands, Mines & Energy Minister Patrick Sendolo; and the Managing Director of LEC, Foday Soko Sackor

By Leroy M. Sonpon III

The Board of Directors and Transitional Management Team (TMT) of the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) are expected to appear before the plenary of the House of Representatives today.

Montserrado County District #13 Representative Saah Joseph wrote to inform Speaker Emmanuel Nuquay that the Ministry, together with the LEC Board of Directors, proceeded improperly with the Manitoba Hydro International against the interest of the public.

In his letter, Rep. Joseph argued that a procurement audit carried out by the General Auditing Commission (GAC) against Manitoba unearthed serious irregularities that need to be addressed.

“In keeping with our national duties, I pray that this plenary invites the Chairman of the Board of Directors of LEC, the Minister of Lands, Mines, and Energy and the Managing Director of LEC to appear to explain why they rushed towards negotiating another Management Services Agreement when the former is under a cloud of inconsistencies and is being investigated.

“It is my opinion that these officials will provide some information that will help us to make a firm determination in the event of ratification of any such agreement. Also, this will go a long way to curtail the level of inefficiency in our governance process,” the Montserrado County lawmaker wrote.

The LEC Board and TMT were summoned to explain the “irregularities” of procurement carried out by Manitoba, to ascertain how US$42m was allegedly used, and why the Board of Directors want to negotiate another Management Services Agreement (MSA).

The LEC TMT includes Foday S. Sackor, Managing Director; Ernest R. Hughes,  Deputy Managing Director, Finance and Administration; Thomas Z. Gonkerwon, Deputy Managing Director, Commercial and Operations; and Zahnga E. Peabody, Deputy Managing Director, Projects, Planning and Rural Electrification.

It may be recalled that in March, the plenary of the House of Representatives unanimously agreed to summon the IMT of LEC to answer why it should not be held in contempt for disrespecting and disregarding the Committee on Contracts, Public Procurement and Monopolies, after failing to reply to four letters from the committee.

The lawmakers said the lack of respect shown the committee encompasses the House’s plenary, which has empowered the committee to do its work.

Rep. Henry Fahnbulleh, Montserrado District #4, told plenary that the LEC IMT had ignored the committee’s letters, which were based upon a list from Public Procurement.

“The Interim Management Team at LEC is not only attempting to stall the committee’s work but also to undermine the authority of this plenary by creating the false impression that it is a super entity and therefore cannot be brought under our oversight,” Rep. Fahnbulleh wrote.

The Manitoba Hydro International Limited (MHIL) managed the Liberia Electricity Corporation for five years, when it entered into a strategic partnership with the LEC. At the inaugural meeting in Monrovia, then LEC Chief Executive Officer Peter Graham of the LEC’s High Level Steering Group (HLSG) said the potential partner was expected to invest in the public utility and operate on a performance-based concession agreement.

Graham also said under its short to medium term plan, LEC would be managed by a partner under a “Management Service Contract” with the goal to stabilize the corporation’s operations and performance and the management would split the Amended and Restated Management Contract (ARMC) between the Government and MHI into two separate agreements–one dealing with the LEC management services, while the other deals with the Mount Coffee Project Implementation Unit (PIU).

After five years of MHIL management, the objective of the MHIL’s contract was far from realized and after the expiration of its agreement, the Liberian government set up a Board of Directors and a Transitional Management Team (TMT) to manage the LEC.

In one year after becoming LEC Managing Director, Soko Sackor began to make significant achievements, but it appears that due to reasons that some officials at the LEC are not prepared to disclose, the Canadian company has been able to persuade certain government officials who are now prepared to enter into another five-year contractual agreement with the company, a position that Rep. Saah Joseph is vehemently opposing.

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