Liberia’s Transitional Government Buys Luxurious Vehicles For Lawmakers
By Josephus Moses Gray
June 22, 2004
Amidst abject poverty, misery and hardship besetting the greater Liberian population, the National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL) with what is believed to be the approval of Chairman Charles Gyude Bryant, has paid deaf-ears to public outcry and proceeded to purchase luxurious vehicles worth over United States two million dollars for members of the First Branch of transitional government.
According to reports gathered at the seat of the National Transitional Legislative Assembly (NTLA) on the Capitol Hill, each of the 74 members of the House is to receive one of the 74 luxurious jeeps. Already, 12 Mitsubishi jeeps were been delivered to the First Branch of government last week..
The vehicles have been purchased through the Alliance Motor Corporation (AMC). Lebanese businessman Mr. George E. Haddad is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the corporation. Mr. Haddad is also the president of the World Lebanese Cultural Union of Liberia, a position he has occupied for about six years.
The vehicles according to reports will be distributed to member of that assembly in three categories: the chair-person of each Standing Committee in the House receive a “first class” vehicle purchased for about US$60,000 to US$75,000, members of each Standing Committee (“second class”) will each be given vehicle purchased for about US$48,000, while rest of the members of the House placed in “ third class” will vehicles purchased for members of that class cost about US$34,000.
It is not yet known as to when the other members of
the assembly will receive their vehicles but unconfirmed reports indicated
that each members of the House is expected to receive a vehicle within
the period of two weeks.
In defense of the House, the Chairman of the House Standing Committee on Ways, Means and Finance, Mr. Tarpple Doe on Friday, June 18 held a major news conference at the Capitol Building to justify the purchasing of the luxurious vehicles.
In his justification, Representative Doe told the Liberian media that the vehicles will enhance the activities of members of the assembly to carry out their official functions across the country. He further indicated that members of the House will on a constant basis be able to visit their constituencies to interact with their people.
He put the estimated cost of each of the vehicle to at least US$34,000 to US$36,000, noting that 12 of the 74 vehicles have been delivered to the House for onward distribution to members of the assembly. Some of the Representatives are seen in their vehicles on the various streets of Monrovia.
Meanwhile, Chairman Bryant on several occasions promised to bring into the country several buses to help reduce the transportation problem but that presidential commitment is yet to become a reality, as Chairman Bryant and his officials of government ride luxurious cars.
On several occasions, some ordinary Liberians petitioned the House to compel Chairman Bryant to deliver his promise regarding the buses he promised the Liberian people. But instead, the House protected its own interest.
Several persons who spokes with The Perspective in central Monrovia at the various street corners and entertainment centers have taken Chairman Bryant to task for approving the payment of the huge amount used to purchase the 74 luxurious vehicles for members of the first Branch of government.
Speaking separately, the interviewees said while members of the House need vehicles to reach their various constituencies, the government should had purchased less expensive cars and not vehicles that cost between US$34,000 to US$75,000. Some of them termed the buying of the vehicles as waste of needed cash to develop the country devastated by 14-years of bloody war.
An elderly woman reminded Chairman Bryant of his inaugural address in which he promised to fight corruption at the zero degree and promised to provide basis social serves such as pipe born water, electricity, better education, sanitation, transportation, health care delivery system, creation of jobs and the reduction in the price of basic commodities. But the price of the commodities continue to increase on a daily basis while government officials live lavish lifestyle.
In April, Bryant's Economic
Advisor Harry Greaves told The Perspective that the purchase of
vehicles for the assembly was not authorized and was therefore cancelled:
“We did not buy cars for the legislature and the Chairman never authorized the purchase of new cars for the assemblymen and women. The story was completely twisted. While the Chairman was here in the US attending the Donors’ Conference back in February, the Speaker of the House, Mr. George Dweh, wrote a letter to the Minister of Finance asking him to arrange payment for cars for the NTLA through George Haddad’s firm. Upon his return to Monrovia, the Chairman wrote a letter to the Minister of Finance and asked him to cancel the order as well as retrieve from Haddad the US $645,000 he had already paid in advance for the cars. We retrieved the letter Mr. Dweh had written and the story was clarified in Monrovia papers…”
Liberia’s Finance Minister Kamara also stated: “The leadership of legislature came to me and asked me to finalize arrangements they made with George Haddad for the purchase of cars and I advanced portion of the money. There were some other orders for cars from GSA but upon his return from the Donors’ Conference, the Chairman cancelled all these orders. The order to buy the cars for the legislature came from the Capitol, not the Chairman.”