“As I open this annual forum to discuss the status of implementation of the Amended and Restated Public Procurement and Concessions (PPC) Act, I would like to call your attention to the fact that this is one of very few chances that we have to set the tone that will transform this country into the Liberia that we all want to see. Let us seize the moment, for it is now.”
These were the exact words of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s closing statement as it relates to the implementation of what could be referred to as the nation’s most controversial piece of legislation that has stigmatized the country globally—wrapping the state in one of the biggest corruption webs while at the same time telling the world how far (low) Liberian government officials can go to destroy the image of their country.
At the center of the much publicized Global Witness (GW) report is the PPC Act, which was amended and restated in 2010—a process that was allegedly marred by manipulations by top government officials to enable British firm Sable Mining to gain access to one of the nation’s coveted prize assets, the Wologizi Iron Ore deposit in Lofa County.
It is the implementation of this highly controversial PPC Act that President Sirleaf, at the PPCC Annual Forum held at the Monrovia City Hall Thursday, rallied Liberians to seize the moment and have it implemented effectively as it has the potential to create a Liberia that everyone desires.
In the shadow of the GW allegation, PPC Act might have done the country more harm than good, arousing much confusion and public anger. The presidency has also been accused of tampering with the original act passed by the national legislature.
In spite of all the woes, President Sirleaf seems to have a much bigger picture in mind. According to her, the new PPC Act has help Liberia shift from a past that was laden with high level of efficiency and systemic corruption.
As a result of the amended and restated PPC Act and the way in which it is being implemented, “Liberia is proud today for the significant and dramatic shift from the past, which was laden with a high level of inefficiency and systemic corruption, to public procurement and concessions systems that are working to promote the economic development of Liberia in a fair and transparent manner while equally confident that despite the setbacks, our peace will be sustained and the road ahead will be easier,” she said.
Her perspective may appear debatable, however, since the verdict is still not in about whether or not the PPC Act was tempered with between the Legislature and the Executive.
With the exception of constituting an investigative body, whose mandate continues to increase even more, the President is yet to make any public statement GW report or respond to the grave allegation against her office.
The President also said at the occasion that there has been an increased participation of Liberian businesses in the first year of implementation of the Small Business Empowerment Act. “I am pleased that today we have 177 registered Liberia firms who will benefit from over US$90 million of our projected US$200-million-dollar procurement expenditure exclusively set aside for Liberian businesses,” she said, adding that this is in fulfillment of government’s promise to give Liberian businesses at least 25% of the government’s overall procurement budget.
“The result is relatively small in the first year of implementation, but I am confident that our target benefits to our Liberian businesses will be achieved”.
“Let us not just talk but commit to action—action that will see Liberian businesses grow into multi-million dollar enterprises; action that will see improvement in the quality of education and healthcare, action that will provide opportunities for our young people to maximize their God-given potentials” – she stressed.
She lauded development partners for the support while looking forward to their deeper involvement in building and maintaining the confidence required in our public financial management systems.
She commended the PPCC for spearheading and guiding the process of ensuring the economic and efficient use of public funds in public procurement, and to ensure that public procurement and concession processes are conducted in a fair, transparent, and non-discriminatory manner.
She alluded to the significant improvement in human and institutional capacity in the government as well as in the private sector, which, according to her, is an indispensable partner in the country’s national development.
PPCC Executive Director recounted numerous achievement of the commission and some of the challenges that it faces. Meanwhile, the annual forum, which according to the Act should be held every year but hasn’t been since 2008, was meant to share views and experiences on the recent Procurement Client Perception Survey conducted, improved ratings of efficiency in the public procurement system. Authorities indicate that and at least 51% of ordinary Liberians’ views on the public procurement system as being corruption-free.