Eighteen months after theses promising events, the Liberian people have yet again been duped and let down by those entrusted with managing the affairs of our State. The administration of the NTLG from the onset engaged in perhaps some of the worst corruption Liberia has ever seen. The current crops of so-called Interim Liberian leaders can easily and correctly be referred to as the "Fellowship of Thieves."
This gang of corrupt inviduals is now in overdrive in an attempt to mortgage the future of our Country. They are being facilitated by unscrupulous elements that are using the corrupt interim government counsel to constrict the entire economic lifeline of Liberia. Without a doubt, these cadres of corrupt characters have disengaged themselves from the suffering of the masses and have concerned themselves simply with looting the meager resources of the country. In their unfettered attempt to dole out all facets of our revenue generating business sectors before the elections in October, the people of Liberia only hope lies within the legal realm of our society. Particularly, we must ask ourselves the following questions: Is it legal for an extra-constitutional authority to form long-term agreements with rogue companies? Will it be wrong for the next duly elected government to abrogate all of these contracts that have been awarded in a less than transparent fashion? While I do not have the legal acumen to discuss this intelligently, I would hope that some of our legal scholars would look into this issue.
The University of Liberia Science Bulding
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I: The Telecommunication Industry – GSM Licensing and the LTC – Privatization Scheme: With the emergence of GSM as the primary means of communication in the world today, and the only means of communication in Liberia and much of the third world, this vital industry in most of Africa is a cash rich business. Structuring ownership of this industry so that significant portions of revenue generated is circulated within the country and benefit the mass of the population would be the right thing to do. Encouraging local ownership and helping to facilitate that ownership would ensure the emergence of a progressive Liberian middleclass. On the contrary, the current administration in its zeal to harness as much bribe money as possible has frustrated any attempt by Liberian entrepreneurs to participate in the Telecommunication sector in the country. They have provided tremendous incentives to the Lebanese and one of Taylor cronies to control the sector. The foreign operators have simply focused on Monrovia and its metropolis and have literally ignored the outlining areas of the country. These operators' systems are barely functional just 15 miles outside of the city.
This centralized communication disenfranchises the population outside Monrovia and just about 99.5 percent of our land mass. The communities outside Monrovia are arguably those areas most in need of reliable communication systems, especially during emergencies. These foreign investors are not particularly concerned about improving the network of communications around the country, but are focusing only on Monrovia because that is where the perceived profits will be made. I submit that more local ownership of the telecommunication system would consider and provide the important network to the interior and more remote areas of Liberia because Liberians would understand that such communication links are vitally necessary for the sustained development of the entire country. Monrovia needs communication links into the interior because the interior is Liberia's "bread basket" – that is, our ability to farm and feed our population.
While I am in no way professing that any government of Liberia should give unfair advantage to me or any Liberian when issuing licensing for key sectors of our society, I am simply saying that common sense should prevail when decisions are made for properties that are an integral and vital part of our national security. Clearly, the functioning communication facilities and its entire infrastructure are today in the hands of Lebanese and other foreigners. The recent tender for LTC (Liberian PTSN) has been manipulated and choreographed to again be handed to a foreign vendor, despite the fact that well meaning Liberians have raised and have in hand more than 15 million US dollars that is more than adequate to resuscitate LTC.
This unpatriotic tendency by the Fellowship of Thieves now running Liberia have taken a business sector whose annual revenue is about 125 million US dollars and whose economic impact to the country could well be around a half of billion US dollars if the funds were circulating in Liberia and relegated it to a point where the economic impact is almost zero. Why is this? The foreign owners of these businesses simply siphon all of the hard currencies from these companies and export them to their home countries. Clearly, these companies are not concerned with any form of quality as almost all of their infrastructures are substandard. This poor quality of service can definitely be construed as state sanctioned robbery as millions of minutes are lost because of drop calls with no mechanism in place to refund the customer. The mismanagement of this vital sector of our economy is a travesty and a betrayal of trust of the Liberian people. These actions, in my view, are tantamount to treason and decisions made by the NTLG government that are so blatant and contemptible of the citizens of Liberia should be rescinded when a legitimate government is in place.
II: The Half million US Dollar Armored Car Scheme: On my last visit to Liberia a few months ago, I was struck by the complete lack of progress in any form since the seating of the NTLG government. I was privy to visit the executive mansion, the capitol building, postal and telecommunications and several other government buildings. All of these buildings were in complete disrepair. All schools and of course the University were in a rundown state. The roads were filled with pot holes large enough to envelope a small compact car. The streets in the city and on the main thoroughfares were strung with garbage. The filth in the country was comprehensive and unlike anything I have ever seen. Traveling in the interior, I was stunned to see thousands of Liberians internally displaced living in tents made of thatch with donated plastic sheeting for their roof. These once proud Liberians were dependent on handouts from foreign NGOs for survival. In the midst of this suffering, destitution and depravation, it was announced that the NTLG government had decided to take millions of US dollars of state funds to spend thirty thousands each on SUVs for state representatives. This was a glaring example of how cold-hearted and uncaring the current government of Liberia is. The millions of US dollars spent on those SUVs could have easily renovated the University Science building, Tubman Hall, Library and fully equip them with books and furniture. In addition, those funds were sufficient to pave the capitol bypass highway probably all the way to Paynesville. Why then did the NTLG choose to divert scarce fund to such frivolous activity?
All of the anecdotal evidence suggests that the current government has engaged in such massive fraud for one purpose - and that is to connive with the Lebanese and steal as much money as possible during this interim period. I have learned from reliable sources that the government of Liberia paid about a 25 percent premium on the total cost of the SUV'S. That is, 25 percent more than the vehicles are worth. The overpayments were then distributed amongst a select group of government officials. In addition to the travesty of the SUVs, a more recent slap in the face of the destitute Liberian people comes from the Chairman's purchase of a couple of armor-plated limousines worth approximately three quarters of a million US dollars. Without a doubt, this government just does not get it. It is either totally incompetent or lacks any sense of judgment. How does one justify the allocation of almost 25 percent of the country's budget to automobiles when there are no roads to drive them on?
If that is not enough, consider yet another example of the current government's contempt for the people and resources of Liberia in the case of the Chairman's private residence. It is believed that Mr. Bryant renovated his sister's home using scarce government funds to the tune of about a quarter million US dollars, signed a sweetheart lease with the sister, and is now believed to be paying her thousands of US dollars monthly. Mr. Bryant is doing all of this when the average government employee earns about $14.00 US or roughly $800.00 Liberian dollars and does not receive their pay on time. What is wrong with this picture my friend?
What is wrong with this picture is that Liberians have once again put their trust, the responsibility of the leadership of their downtrodden nation, and the management of their resources in the hands of a Band of Thieves with the primary objective of self-enrichment and aggrandizement. At the head of this group is a man who was presented to the conference in Accra as a successful businessman who possessed the capability to steer this nation through its transition between tyranny and democracy. What we have come to realize is that this man, who was neither successful nor a true businessman, is still only one of many who are out there to rape our nation and defraud the Liberian people of what little we still have.
This is more than just another exposé of the NTGL's ineptitude and lack of consideration for the Liberian people who have suffered immense losses over the past 25 years. It is a clarion call to those of you who care to do whatever you can to ensure that this sort of activity does not continue and that the perpetrators of such crimes are someday brought to justice.
About the Author: Mr. Stephen O. Adams is a Telecommunication/Computer Systems expert currently residing in the US. He holds advanced degrees in both disciplines and consults for fortune 100 companies and the Defense industry. Steve plans to relocate to Liberia after the October 2005 election. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org