More Revelations in LIBTELCO Saga

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Mr. Ben Wolo, suspended LIBTELCO MD.jpg

There seem to be more reasons than originally revealed behind the recent suspension of the Managing Director of the Liberia Telecommunication Corporation (LIBTELCO), Ben Wolo and the entire board of the corporation aside from the few that were highlighted by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf last week when she took the decision after a brief meeting with the entity heads.

President Sirleaf recently suspended LIBTELCO’s board chairman Mr. Francis Horton; LIBTELCO MD and secretary of the board, Mr. Ben Wolo; and members Ms. Ciata Victor, Mr. Floyd Thomas, Mr. Mohammed Sherif, Mr. James Cooper, and Mr. Jackson E. Doe, for their failure to follow PPCC procedures and other laws of the executive branch of government.

But one of the suspended LIBTELCO directors, Ciata Victor, has disclosed that their suspensions were predicated (a result based on something) on a stratagem (scheme).

That plot, her argument runs, was a political maneuver by Deputy Finance Minister for Fiscal Affairs, Sebastian Muah, to ease in his brother, Paul Muah, LIBTELCO’s current Deputy Managing Director, as the next Managing Director of LIBTELCO.

In an article written by Madam Victor on TLC Africa, a website she administers and controls, the suspended commissioner suggests that President Sirleaf’s decision to suspend LIBTELCO’s MD along with its entire Board, was politically influence by some big operators in government, to place the Muah brothers in control of Cable Consortium of Liberia (CCL).

Ms. Victor argued that Paul Muah’s rise would give him control over LIBTELCO’s 20% share in CCL, while the older brother, Sebastian, is strategically and ideally positioned to become the new Chairman of the Board of Directors of CCL, given the recent resignation Eden C. Reeves, the government’s representative to the Consortium. That will leave the two in total control of the government’s 55% share in CCL.

Other shareholders in the CCL include Lonestar Communications with 10%, Cellcom with 10% and Novafon with 5%.

“The resignation of the government representative to the Consortium, Eden Charles Reeves, citing a lack of support from the Finance Ministry for the IT-related projects he managed, has opened the way for Sebastian Muah to slide into CCL in the key position of Chairman of the Board of Directors with responsibility over the management of GOL 55% interest in the Cable Consortium.”

Madam Victor noted that if the Muah brothers succeed in their maneuverings for these top positions at CCL, they would end up in full control of 100% of the Government of Liberia’s investment in Fiber Optics and managers of 75% of the country’s fiber capacity including LIBTELCO's 20% share couple with GOL 55% share.

“With Paul Muah strategically placed at LIBTELCO and set to take over the leadership of the Corporation which includes the management of LIBTELCO’s 20% interest in CCL, the brothers Sebastian and Paul Muah, (if Paul is appointed by the President to serve as Managing Director of LIBTELCO) are set to control 75% of Liberia’s fiber capacity and 100% of the Government of Liberia entire investment in the ACE Cable System and the Cable Consortium of Liberia,” she reiterated.

 “Is it coincidental that the brothers are about to find themselves in the position of controlling Liberia’s fiber capacity?  I don’t think so.   Some in the sector have seen through the recent play at LIBTELCO—in which MD Wolo and the Board were suspended by the President late last year, (December 20) for failing to follow PPCC procedures—as a result of political maneuvering by Sebastian Muah . With all the pieces in place, the stage is set for them to take over,”

She continued that the amount of political maneuvering that occurred in the last year and a half to get Paul Muah in and Ben Wolo out of LIBTELCO, was carried out by individuals who control the government’s purse string—who can make or break one’s project by providing or denying funding.

Madam Victor said it is no wonder that LIBTELCO could not get the Government Guarantee needed from the Finance Ministry, to start construction of the Distribution Network.

“It also makes sense now why Amara Konneh would ask John Davis to wait, when Amara was approached on the subject of Government Guarantee for LBDI to facilitate the loan for LIBTELCO.  "Just wait a little bit," Amara said—perhaps long enough until Ben was kicked out.

Should the government of Liberia be concerned about the brothers’ attempt to gain control of all of its investment in CCL, I would think so

When contacted, the former CCL boss, Eden Reeves, who was also Chief Information Technology Officer at the Ministry of Finance said that he was not pushed out of the job at CCL.

“My appointment to the Chairmanship of CCL was because of my position as CITO. When I decided to leave MOF as CITO, I also automatically resigned from the Chairmanship of CCL,” Mr. Reeves posted his reply on his facebook page.
I do not believe that Deputy Min. Muah tried in any way to push me out of MOF or CCL (nor is this stated or implied in the article; but people seem to think so.)

Mr. Reeves said he never got a dedicated budget for IT and decided that he would not work under such conditions; “I began my exit strategy to leave (from MOF). On October 1, 2013, my resignation from MOF and CCL became effective.

But the Executive Mansion has sharply reacted to Ciata Victor’s claims rejecting the contents of the article, which it considered misinformation with no bearing or connection as to why the LIBTELCO Board of Directors and its Managing Director were suspended by President Sirleaf.
The Executive Mansion, clarified that the LIBTELCO officials were suspended based on a recommendation from the Ministry of Justice, as a result of a dubious agreements as well as an MOU entered into with a Swiss Company, K3 Telecom Liberia (K3Telecom).

The agreement is a joint venture and K3 Telecom Liberia (K3Telecom) is a company organized under the laws of Liberia.

Both arrangements, according to the Mansion were not consistent with the laws of Liberia, including, in particular, the Executive, PPCC and the Public Financial Management Laws.
The release states that the suspension was based on the fact that the LIBTELCO Board and Management failed to submit the draft Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Ketter Telecom (K3), and the Agreement with K3 Telecom to the Ministry of Justice for attestation, as required by law.

The Justice Ministry also established that some provisions in both document are onerous and not in furtherance of the interests of the corporation, the government and people of Liberia.
The release notes that LIBTELCO is a 100 percent government-owned corporation, vital to the national defense and security of the Republic of Liberia; as such, no one has the authority to unilaterally sign contracts without the approval of the Government of Liberia.
Regulation No. 003, on Thresholds of the Amended and Restated PPPC Act, 2010, section 10 on Contracts over US$250,000 states that: “The Ministry of Finance shall take part in negotiations and signings of contracts over US$250,000 and the contracts shall be attested to by the Ministry of Justice.”

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