Public Works Minister Gyude Moore has lashed out at people who he said are trying to tarnish his hard-earned reputation by insinuating that road construction contracts are awarded to firms for a kickback.
“There is no way anybody at the Ministry of Public Works under my leadership would award a contract to a firm that does not qualify for it simply because somebody has been given money to be able to do it,” he said.
In an interview in Monrovia yesterday, Minister Moore described himself as a professional. “I think it is important for people to understand that my training is not in engineering. I am a good manager and that is why the President sent me to the Ministry of Public Works.”
Trained in foreign policy and international security, Moore said he is not one of those people who want to spend their entire lives working for the government. “What I want to be able to do is I believe what the President was trying to do for this country, and that is why I left graduate school and came back home to work for her, for our country in the government that she has established. So when this is done, I am walking away from the government,” he said.
Moore said that as Minister of Public Works, he does not by himself evaluate the bid to award a contract. Rather, the Minister is the head of the procurement committee. “But when bids are open, all of the prices are announced and every contractor who bidded on the contract hears the prices. Then the Ministry appoints an ad hoc committee or bid evaluation committee which does the evaluation and makes a report to the procurement committee,” he explained.
The procurement committee, according to Moore, does not do the evaluation, but listens to what the evaluation does, and then they vote up or down.
In this fiscal year, Moore disclosed, his Ministry has US$23 million for ongoing works, US$4 million of that amount for repairs and maintenance while US$3 million is put under the Small Business Act (SBA) so that only Liberian companies can compete for it. For instance, he said the US$1.5 million side walk construction project from Vamoma House to S. D. Cooper Road was won by the Liberian company MDNC.
“When I first came to public works, one of the things that I noticed, and it happened in the middle of the Ebola crisis, was that almost all expatriate firms left the country and the only people who remained and were working were Liberian companies,” he noted.
Based on this, Moore disclosed that he had a meeting with the African Development Bank (AfDB) and raised the suggestion that certain percentage of civil works expected on the Fish Town-Harper road project should be subcontracted to Liberian companies.
“This will allow them to be able to copy and transfer knowledge so that in the future these companies would be able to bid for some of the big contracts,” Moore said.
The AfDB told him that it was a good idea, but that such a change occurs during the project appraisal and that the Fish Town-Harper road project had already been appraised, he said
However, he said AfDB noted that whoever wins the contract during negotiations, the Ministry can negotiate with them so that part of it would be given to a Liberian company.
Moore said a similar discussion was brought up when the Arabs came for the Gbarnga-Mendikorma road.
“So when people say that we don’t care about Liberian companies, I have no idea what they are talking about because I want to see evidence of any Public Works Minister before me that approached international lending institutions to talk about the possibility of subcontracting, putting it in the appraisal documents for subcontracting civil works to Liberian companies.
“We are doing everything within our power to be able to empower Liberian companies, but by the same token, we have to get value for money. If a Liberian company is deserving and meets the criteria, that company will be awarded the contract,” he said.
This practice of trying to destroy a person, to damage his reputation, is giving reason for a lot of young people to think that maybe as soon as one goes into government, “you have to be corrupt, which is not the case,” he contended. “But because people cannot win a contract legitimately, they do everything within their power to destroy other people,” the Minister observed.
Moore, however, said he was not troubled by what he described as “wild allegations of bribe taking” because “some of those people making those claims are not credible characters, and everybody knows some of them offer opinions for money.”