LIBERIA: As Weah Awards East International Group US$94,5M RIA Road Expansion Contract, Senator Dillon Says Senate Not Aware

The RIA Highway

Recent groundbreaking ceremony for the expansion and pavement of the Roberts International Airport road valued at US$94.5 million and awarded to a Chinese owned company, the East International Group, a company many are saying  has a tainted reputation in the sector, Montserrado County Senator Abraham Darius Dillon speaking on a local radio station said the House of Senate is now aware on the awarding of the contract by President George Weah to the East International Group.

As Liberians pondered over the awarding of the contract to this Chines company, a local daily, FPA has been raising a number of issues regarding the reputable of this company as outlined below:

Since the inception of the President George M. Weah-led government, the country has witnessed controversies in which some companies with tainted history including bad records of performance have been awarded lucrative contracts.

From awarding contracts for the construction of roads to companies with no prior records of roads construction and good performance to the awarding of cargo tracking at the Freeport of Monrovia and many other contracts have all come under the spotlight for the wrong reasons.

Many justified these wrong events by arguing that during the first year of Weah’s presidency, the regime was in its early days and still in the learning curve with managing contracts and making big decisions.

But the Government now in its second year is still struggling to get many things on the right path and as such continues to come under heavy criticisms, some of which could impact the ability of the government to source the needed funding for crucial infrastructural projects.

Already, cash strapped and struggling to meet up the local needs of workers and provide other basic social services, the government heavily relies on foreign donors and partners’ support to implement big projects and controversies regarding the capacity of contractors to perform donors funded projects could instill fears in donors that their goodwill might end up in the wrong hands, thereby making no impact as anticipated.

When the news broke out about the groundbreaking ceremony for the RIA Monrovia Highway with an ambitious plan by the government to raise more than US$94 million dollars to finance the construction of the modern highway, Liberians greeted the news with joy especially when supporters of the CDC-led government in their usual Public Relations stunt started the postings of exotic photographs of quality roads in foreign countries and creating an impression that those photographs are the engineering design of the future RIA-Monrovia highway.

The level of optimisms about the RIA-Monrovia highway project has been overshadowed within less than two days after the groundbreaking ceremony by the past track records of the contractor that has been selected by the Government to undertake the future project.

With funding yet to be mobilized, how the Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Public Work selected East International Group Incorporated remains a big question lingering on the minds of many Liberians.

    “We have seen and heard several questions and concerns that must be answered by the appropriate authorities of the Executive Branch before commencing this project. As senator, I am concerned as well.”

    – Abraham Darius Dillon, Senator, Montserrado County

East International Gbarnga Project fiasco

A FrontPageAfrica investigation has uncovered big incompetence in the implementation of past projects by the East International group Incorporated with the local administration of Bong County spending more than one million United States for substandard work performed by the company where the Gbarnga Main streets had to be reconstructed to suitable standard by another local contractor.

In 2016, the local administration of Bong County hired East International Group Inc. to pave 2.4 kilometers of streets in Gbarnga City.

 

The streets included the Gbarnga Broad Street (1.8 km) and Madam Suakoko Street (0.6km). When the contracts were awarded to the East International and work commenced, citizens of Bong County expressed optimisms about the project meant to make movement easier in the city.

Within months, the Citizens expressed dissatisfaction over the level of implementation of the project especially complaining about the use of substandard materials for the construction work and following a tour of the project, Bong County’s Assistant Superintendent for Development, Anthony Sheriff, ordered a halt to the project demanding that the rightful and quality materials be used for the project.

A very angry Assistant Superintendent Sheriff appearing on a local radio station said: “After several complaints from citizens about the ongoing road pavement my assessment is in line with what the citizens have been expressing. So, it’s on that note, I have ordered the project stopped until the company can do some adjustments”.

The cost of the Gbarnga project estimated at US$1.35 million is now a failed performance by East International as other local contractors are currently carrying out the project.

The dark side of East International Group

Besides the Gbarnga streets project, investigation from the Ministry of Public Works has gathered that the company has failed to perform on a number of projects including a pre-financing agreement with the Government of Liberia in 2017 to pave 30 feeder roads as part of the Feeder Projects across the country.

Several feeder roads projects contracted to East International Group still remain uncompleted but the company has now maneuvered its ways into getting a bigger contract.

Many Liberians including Senator Abraham Darius Dillon of the opposition Liberty Party have gone public expressing concerns over the RIA-Monrovia highway project.

Senator Dillon wrote “No well-meaning Liberian, whether “Ruling Position”, or “Opposition” or “No Position”, should ever be against positive initiatives for the development of our country and growth of our people. That is why some of us from the “opposition” always dare to commend the positive things whilst mustering the courage to expose and condemn the wrong/bad things but with constructive suggestion as the way forward.

He added: “It is in this light that we embrace and support the planned development of the RIA Highway. We, however, have some concerns that must be addressed regarding this project. We have seen and heard several questions and concerns that must be answered by the appropriate authorities of the Executive Branch before commencing this project. As senator, I am concerned as well.”

Martin K. N. Kollie, a youth activist, says East International Group is a mafia company with no website, blog or link to enable the Liberian public review the past performance of the company and get more information about a company that has been selected by the Government of Liberia to implement such a huge project as the RIA-Monrovia way road.

According to Kollie, East International came to Liberia as a Building Materials store in 2010 and was located around the S.D. Cooper Road Junction in Paynesville City but later changed into a Construction company in 2015/2016 before gaining projects for Feeder Roads Construction in 2017.

East International Group is said to be a joint venture of Liberians and Chinese and despite the poor track records of performance by the company, it has been successful in getting lucrative contracts based on contacts with senior officials at the Ministry of Public Works.

With the level of resentments from the public about East International Group, the government remains mute on the issue raising further fears that like previous situations, the contract for the RIA-Monrovia highway project will eventually fall in the wrong hands thereby scaring donors from pumping their money into such project.

Donors confidence is a major factor haunting the Weah led government as in some instances the Government is unable to account for donors funded projects.

Back in 2019, the head of the One United Nations Office in Liberia wrote a communication expressing dissatisfaction over the failure of several ministries and agencies of the Government of Liberia to provide full account of donors sponsored programs. The situation got worse when the Government of Liberia withdrew and expended funding belonging to donors being kept at the Central Bank of Liberia.

Ambassadors of several countries in a joint communication to the Weah led government expressed dissatisfaction over the use of their funding and at the time warned the Government to replace their money.

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About Cholo Brooks 12575 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists, and is currently contributing to the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation as Liberia Correspondent.