1000 Homes ProjectAmid reports of the Board of Directors of the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) taking a decision to fire the entire team of the 1000 Homes Project, former Housing Minister under the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration Irfaan Ali has called the move “sinister”.His comments were in response to an article published on Friday by another section of the media under the title: “Amidst fraud, otherFormer Housing Minister Irfaan Aliirregularities on 1000 Homes project…Central Housing to sack entire team.”The article states that “According to a senior housing official yesterday [Thursday], the decision was taken to send home all the staffers of the project after it became clear that mismanagement, fraud and a number of irregularities were discovered.”However, Ali pointed out that the Board of Directors need to identify the “many instances of fraud” that they are claiming were found within the 1000 Homes Project and produce evidence of same. In fact, he said he is of the view that these allegations were fabricated as part of a plan to dismiss the project’s team and have them replaced by new persons.“It would appear that some sinister motive is at hand to concoct allegations of fraud and corruption in order to get rid of all the staff at the 1000 Homes Project to make way for an entirely new batch that would be handpicked and nurtured to execute the agenda of a select few for their own benefit,” the former Housing Minister stated.Last week, the Hamilton Green-headed CH&PA Board came under fire after it was reported that contractor Ivor Allen was single-sourced to execute ‘corrective’ works on some 11 homes under the Government’s 1000 Homes Project.Guyana Times understands that the CH&PA Board handpicked Allen; a close associate of the coalition A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government.Allen was once the Chairman of Region Two under the People’s National Congress (PNC), and served as a Member of Parliament of that party up to 2006.Chairman of CH&PA Hamilton GreenIt was also disclosed that the cost for the works is at $7,467,227, but the internal memorandum issued by the Secretary to the CH&PA Board put the cost for the same 11 homes at a whopping $16,727,623, a difference of over $9.2 million.Moreover, the newspaper article claimed that several of the staffers, inclusive of management members, were not listed as being part of the CH&PA, and that several staffers were related to former Finance Director of the Project Taslim Baksh. It was noted too that during the Board meeting on Thursday, CH&PA Project Manager Fazal Wahab and former Chief Executive Officer, Myrna Pitt, distanced themselves from the 1000 Homes Project.However, according to Ali, the project was managed by a committee headed by Pitt. He pointed out that according to the Project’s Standard Operation Manual, the 1000 Homes team “will be headed by the CEO and will comprise a Project Manager, two Supervisory Engineers, Clerk of Works and other field staff”. He added too that the former Finance Director was only a member of the 1000 Homes Project team and was not responsible for the management of the project as the article is falsely claiming.“The Board of Directors need to produce evidence that staff employed on the 1000 Homes Project is related to the former Director of Finance of CH&PA. No staff working on the 1000 Homes Project has any family relation to the former Director of Finance,” he posited.The former Housing Minister, under whose watch the Project located at Perseverance (behind Providence), East Bank Demerara, began, went onto address reports that the project was poorly supervised, hence substandard work on the two bedroom houses that will require millions to repair.“The supervision of the construction of the houses at the 1000 Homes Project was done by the Projects Department of CH&PA. The site was headed by a Superintendent of Works and several Inspectors of Works that reported directly to the Director of Projects,” the former Housing Minister highlighted.Moreover, there were reports that the CH&PA Board had discovered that a 22-year-old Data Entry Clerk was promoted to Procurement Officer, handling the purchase of $500 million in materials for the project, without there being any records to show why he was appointed.However, Ali explained that the young man, who holds a degree from the University of Guyana, was highly recommended for the position by his supervisor since it was felt that his skills were being under utilised as a Data Entry Clerk. He further stated that the Procurement Officer is housed in the Projects Department and reports directly to the Director of Projects of CH&PA; hence he was not solely responsible for the procurement of over GY$500 million in materials.Furthermore, in response to reports of inaction by the CH&PA in relation to several cases of vandalism, the former Housing Minister noted that steps were taken to have the area secured.“There was vandalism and thefts at the 1000 Homes Site that usually occurred after dark, in spite of security arrangements that were in place. The CH&PA tried to engage the Guyana Police Force to put an outpost in the area because it was impossible for CH&PA to prevent the vandalism and thefts that were occurring on the homes because of the vastness of the project site,” he remarked.
The National Elections Commission has issued its Writ of Elections, mandating all of its Commissioners in the 15 counties to proceed with preparations for the impending October vote. It is vote that will not replace the entire Legislature but half of the 30 seats in Liberian Senate.But who will participate in this most critical electoral exercise, when hundreds of thousands of Liberians, especially most of our young people who would have been voting for the first time, have been effectively left out of the process?And how were they left out? The National Elections Commission failed to organize properly the last Voters Registration. NEC made three cardinal mistakes: first, the Commission, in the exercise of the penny wise and pound foolish philosophy, did not advertise the voter registration, so very few people knew about it. For such a critically important process, no stone should have been left unturned to LET THE PUBLIC KNOW what was happening. For what is the point in spending all that money on the people’s thing without first informing the people about it?The Commission’s leaders could have approached some newspapers and radio stations, sat down with them and negotiated minimal advertising costs, and even mobilized the media, print and electronic, to speak and write about the voters registration, its crucial importance to the democratic process, when it would take place, where, in what parts of every city and district, on what dates and at what times. Special segments of such media engagement could have been targeted to the young, the 18 and 20 year-olds who were poised to cast their votes for the first time.Many media institutions would have been only too happy to contribute to this critical national cause, in patriotic response to NEC’S plea for help. At least the Daily Observer received no such overture from NEC.Secondly, what kind of budget did NEC ask for from government? The Commission should have carefully crafted a budget for the exercise, taking into consideration ALL the possible costs, and telling the Liberian government it could not execute that exercise without the requisite budgetary allocation. NEC should NOT have settled for less.This leads to the third element of NEC’s fiasco: its decision to organize rotating voter registration points. Who ever heard about such a thing? If you are serious about getting people to register to vote, specifically designated sites should have been established and made known, clearly pointing out the exact address of the site, and the time it opens and closes. That was what was done in 2005.To rotate the voter registration points is to totally confuse the citizen seeking to register because there was no one to tell him or her where the registration team would be, at what time, and where next it would go.No wonder, then, NEC painfully but shamelessly announced last month that it had achieved under one third of the projected registration target. From the projected 400,000 or more, NEC announced that it had registered only 104,000.It was sometime after the announcement of this dismal result that the Daily Observer published its story on the paper by the three Islamic women who said that Saudi Arabia had a plan to Islamize the world, including West Africa, especially Liberia. The writers, from Saudi Arabia, Iran and Syria, respectively, said of the plan for Liberia that theNational Elections Commission would be “manipulated” to deprive certain people from voting in elections.The question could legitimately be asked, did NEC unwittingly contribute to this sinister scenario by failing to register hundreds of thousands of Liberian youth? It would be also be appropriate to ask, WHO were those that were registered?There are growing concerns that many foreigners crossing our highly porous borders are already acquiring Liberian identity cards, passports, etc., by which they may be eligible to be registered to vote. This is scary.We make another appeal to the Liberian government and to NEC, despite the paucity of time, to reopen the voters registration to give our young people another opportunity to fulfill their civil duty by registering to vote. It is their constitutional right which NO ONE should deny them.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
Members of the joint Public Accounts, Audit and Expenditure Committee of the Legislature have said that the continuous non-appearance of key witnesses from the Ministry of Commerce at Public Hearings on the 8,612.2722 metric tons of the 2008 Japan KR rice donation to Liberia will be considered proof of guilt. On Wednesday, February 8, the joint PAC Chairman, Representative Thomas Fallah, said the committee has written the Commerce Ministry on four different occasions to appear alongside the General Auditing Commission (GAC) to answer various claims levied against it as stated in the audit report. The Ministry of Commerce has repeatedly refused to honor the committee’s request with no justification, Rep. Fallah said.According to Fallah, who is also the Representative for Montserrado County District #5, the Commerce Ministry was written on May 6, 2016; May 19, 2016; June 2, 2016 and February 1, 2017, but failed to appear for all the hearings.The joint PAC of the Legislature examines reports produced by the Auditor General of the General Auditing Commission (GAC) and all anti-graft agencies on the value of money in compliance with Section 37.6 of the Public Financial Management (PFM) Act of 2009 and Rule 51 of the Interim Financial Management RulesIn the report, the then AG (John S. Morlu II) observed that the rice donated was not handled in line with the bilateral agreement and exchange of notes signed between the governments of Liberia and Japan, which caused the loss of US$831,624.09 from under-pricing, missing bags, and other irregular (unaccounted) transactions.Members of the committee, who were present during Wednesday’s hearing, included Reps. Garrison Yealue and Clarence Massaquoi, Senator Dallas A.V. Gueh, among others. The committee termed the action by the Ministry of Commerce as a “deliberate attempt to undermine the Public Accounts Committee and above all to diminish the work of the General Auditing Commission in the eyes of the public as a meaningless institution.”The irate lawmakers said there is a need to levy the necessary punitive action on the Commerce Ministry to serve as a deterrent to other ministries and agencies that may want to emulate its bad example.The lawmakers said the Commerce Ministry’s actions suggest that the ministry is guilty of the charges levied against it as enshrined in the GAC audit report.Following hours of debate on the matter, Representative Clarence Massaquoi made a motion for the committee to accept the GAC audit report on the Japanese grant. They also unanimously agreed that punitive actions be taken against the Commerce Ministry and that such recommendations should be communicated to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.It may be recalled that in 2008, the Government of Japan provided 8,612.2722 metric tons of KR rice as Japan Food Aid to Liberia. The donation was aimed at helping to stabilize the price of the country’s staple food on the Liberian market.The GAC’s audit report was commissioned by former Auditor General John S. Morlu II on May 1, 2010.There was an agreement through the exchange of notes that the minimum revenue to be generated from the sale of donated rice would be US$4,035,552.52 or its equivalent L$256,257,556 with exchange rate of L$3.60 to US$1.Given the quantity of rice supplied by the Government of Japan, the minimum price was set at US$14.12 per bag of rice. The Inter-Ministerial Committee, based on market conditions at the time, adjusted the price to US$11.50 without a written approval from the Government of Japan or an amendment to the bilateral agreement. This resulted in an overall under-pricing variance of US$734,046.59 and contributed significantly to the overall revenue loss of US$831,624.09. This loss in revenue was due to the purported damaged bags of rice, according to the AG report.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)