The failed US$30 million Mechanized Rice Production Project funded by the Libyan government through a concession grant from the African Development Agency (ADA) is under investigation by the House of Representatives.
The Foya Agricultural Project was managed by Wendell McIntosh.
The House has mandated its Committee on Agriculture, Fishery & Forestry, chaired by Grand Bassa County District #2 Representative Byron W. Zahnwea, to probe why the project was shut down, and to report in two weeks.
The investigation was prompted by a letter from Grand Bassa County District #4 Representative J. Byron Browne.
“Four years following the consummation and operationalization of that important concession, it remains a sad commentary today, how its implementation has impacted the lives of our people. To date, there is no official explanation as to the status of the people even though it is being speculated that expensive equipment brought in for that project is grounded in the concession area,” Rep. Browne said.
He added, “It behooves us, therefore, to institute the necessary actions to salvage the ADA Project to institute measures that would correct the wrongs that may have been committed in the implementation of the concession.”
In his letter to the Speaker on Tuesday, July 4, the Grand Bassa County lawmaker said the management of ADA must appear before “this august body to provide a comprehensive status report covering the ADA concession.”
Some political pundits told the Daily Observer that the ‘true intent’ of the letter from the Grand Bassa County lawmaker, who is also an executive member of the Liberty Party, is “actually to find out whether the claim from Wendell McIntosh that the Vice President was bribed with US$30,000 is true.”
In a radio talk show, Mr. McIntosh accused the UP standard bearer of bribery in the amount of US$30,000, an allegation the communication officer in the office of the Vice President, George Saah, has categorically denied.
It may be recalled that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and then Libyan President Colonel Muammar El Gaddafi signed the grant concession to fund the project to improve bilateral cooperation between the two countries.
Both leaders expressed concern at the slow progress and the bureaucratic hurdles in the implementation of the project, as well as the renovation of the Ducor Intercontinental Hotel, a Rubber Processing Plant, and the Rice Project. The Libyan government donated a number of tractors.
In a related development, the former managing director of ADA, Elvis G. Morris, has refuted claims that the entity dished out US$30,000 to Vice President Joseph N. Boakai to facilitate his trip to the company’s project site in Foya, Lofa County.
ADA/LAP is an agriculture company that has a concession with the Liberian government to cultivate and produce rice in Liberia. The project is a joint venture of ADA, an NGO established by Wendell McIntosh and the Libyan government. However, the failed project has been attributed to the upraising in Libya which led to the death of former President Muammar Gaddafi.
The head of ADA, Wendell McIntosh, recently accused Vice President Boakai of extorting US$30,000 from ADA/LAP. The money, he alleged, was demanded by Boakai to enable him to visit the organization’s rice project in his hometown of Foya.
But, the man who managed the organization’s activities has dismissed the allegation.
The former ADA managing director, Elvis G. Morris, told a news conference on Thursday, July 6, in Sinkor that at no time did the ADA/LAP give Boakai any money, as alleged by his former boss, McIntosh.
Morris said he was aware of what ADA spent and noted: “In my time, I didn’t know about US$30,000 given to Mr. Boakai.” He recalled that Mr. Boakai had spent his own money to ensure that rice cultivated on 1,200 hectares in Foya didn’t fail, when the unfortunate problem started in Libya. Morris said Vice President Boakai personally bought fuel for the organization’s equipments that were parked at its offices in Congo Town. He said McIntosh is on record for praising Boakai for his contributions to the project and indicated that his extortion claim is a complete contradiction.
Meanwhile, Morris blamed McIntosh for the failure of the project, disclosing that most of the equipments bought by the organization were useless and a waste of resources. He disclosed that when he was called in to manage the organization, he did an evaluation of the rice project to ascertain what was wrong with the project. According to him, it was established that there was a shortage of US$18 million. He disclosed that the project’s financier, Libya, had pumped US$30 million in the project.
Morris further stated that following the evaluation, the Libyan government agreed to recommit the US$18 million that was mismanaged, but said it was not made available due to crisis in the North African country.