Bryant’s Death Versus NPA’s Tugboat Bid …Unraveling The Myth In The Unthinkable Smear Campaign By: Michael Roberts

On Wednesday, April 16, 2014 at approximately 5:00pm, Liberians were mournfully greeted with the news that the former Chairman of the erstwhile National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL) – 2003 – 2005, Mr. Charles Gyude Bryant had succumbed to the hands of death at the age of 65. The cause of the late 65-yr old Chairman demise was unknown until the media frivolously conducted a ‘psychological autopsy’ to the dismay of many level-headed intellectuals.   

As a way of showing respect for the fallen statesman and the role he played in the Liberian peace process, the Government of Liberia (GOL) through President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf thereby ordered that the National Ensign be flown at half mast on all public buildings within the Republic for a period of fifteen (15) days, effective April 17, 2014.

“Former Chairman Bryant will long be remembered for the capable stewardship he demonstrated in steering the Liberian nation through a difficult transition from a period of protracted civil crisis to a peaceful and vibrant democracy from October 14, 2003 to January 16, 2006. The nation deeply mourns his demise.

Little did the Liberian government know that the late Chairman with bitterness against the Johnson-Sirleaf led administration for what the family called “ill-treatment” reportedly meted against him.

Within less than 12-hour following former Chairman Bryant’s death, a scathing news broke out that he (Chairman Bryant) died of frustration resulting from a “cancel bid” by the management of the National Port Authority (NPA) under the meticulous leadership of Madam Matilda Wokie Parker.
According to the media report claims that family members and lawyer of deceased opined in separate interviews that “Bryant’s last few months on earth was marred by frustration and what the former head of state believe was an unjust treatment by the government, particularly, the National Port Authority.”

The media report continued: “Bryant who had been ailing, fought in vain with the NPA over a tugboat contract he had legally won through a competitive bidding process. Bryant, who was the Liberian representative for Damen Shipyard, a Netherlands-based company, had filed a complaint before the Complaints, Appeals and Review Panel of the Public Procurement and Concessions Commission(PPCC) against the NPA for Tugboats that the company had bid for and the NPA illegally cancelled in contravention of the PPCC Act.” The report, however, failed to state which part of the PPCC Act was violated, leaving a huge vacuity of doubts.

Interestingly, the report inadvertently admitted that the NPA in a letter to the Damen Shipyards indicated that it was aborting the contract negotiation process because the company did not have the capacity (money) to purchase new tug boats.

The NPA stated in support of its action to abort the contract negotiation that “in an effort to support the PPCC Law by affording all bidders equal opportunity, coupled with the fact that it does not have the capacity readily to purchase new tugs, the NPA has decided to exercise its rights as stated under E: ‘Evaluation and Comparison of Bids Prior to Contract Award’ in section 39.1 (Purchaser’s Right to Accept Any Bid And To Reject Any or All Bids) of the bid document to abort all negotiations relative to the purchase of tugs and hereby abort the process until it is financially capable of purchasing new tugs; at which time bid documents for new tugs will be published.

The report also insinuated that President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf through the Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs wrote the NPA Management ordering the port authority to go ahead with awarding the contract.
In paragraph-2 of a communication referenced MOS-RL/EBM-COS/0407/2013 dated July 18, 2013, from the Minister of State, Dr. Edward McClain, Jr. and addressed to Madam Matilda Parker, said “it is imperative, however, that whenever such used equipment are being purchased for use by government or an agency of government, all care should be taken to ensure the items are thoroughly examined and under proper reasonable warranty.

These tugboats to be purchased are necessary to facilitate safe international and domestic trade by ocean-going vessels that carry goods and passengers within territorial waters. The National Port Authority has confirmed that all procurement requirements under existing laws have been duly met. We understand that these have been or are being further confirmed by the Public Procurement and Concessions (PPCC) and because of the amount of money involved, the Ministries of Finance and Justice will participate in concluding the acquisition of the tugboats.”

Pundits believe that the communication from the office of the President that is being ‘misinterpreted’ as an “order” does not in any way mean the NPA should not exercise prudence. “The communication clearly says go ahead but exercise sound judgment,” the pundits maintained.   
Additionally, the PPCC in a communication dated May 22, 2013, referenced PPCC/RL/ED/715/’13, objected to awarding of the contract on grounds that the NPA had not submitted a procurement plan for 2013- a year in which the tugboat was bidded for.

The Letter reads: we present our compliments and wish to acknowledge receipt of a set of documents on May 10, 2013 which provided additional information on your request for the Commission to allow the National Port Authority (NPA) award a contract in the amount of six million United States Dollars (US$6,000,000.00) for the supply of two (2) tugboats (“the Goods”).
The commission wishes to inform you that as stated in its letter of May 18, 2013, it cannot grant your request for “no objection” based on a review of its records which reveal that NPA has not submitted for approval its Annual Procurement Plan for 2013, in keeping with Section 40 of the PPCC Act. The Commission observed that your annual procurement plan for 2012 was submitted along with document because the proposed award is stipulated therein. However, due to the proposed award date, which falls in 2013, the Commission requests that you submit s procurement plan for 2013.”
Evidently, it is clear that the acted with prudence as suggested by the office of the president and if there was any sinister motive to deny the interest of the late chairman, the NPA would not have persistently exerted efforts to exercise due diligence in ensuring that the Liberian Government gets value for money.
Moreover, the management of National Port Authority could not allow the misinformation go unattended ton without erecting the necessary punctuation to checkmate the falsehood being spewed out to the public. Thus, the Port Authority in a press release said its attention was drawn to what it calls “misinformation filtering in the Liberian media about a bid the NPA published for the purchase of used tugboat” in which a company named Damen Shipyard participated and won; and that   the National Port Authority is trying to get out of the deal. The report, however, failed to say whether the port authority had a legal obligation to award the contract to the shipping company that won the bid but insinuated that the cancelation of the bid process purportedly led to the frustration of the company’s agent in Liberia, the late Charles Gyude Bryant; thus leading to his death.
“Contrary to the misinformation, we would like to clarify that the bid was canceled and the NPA is not trying to renege or get out of the bid as is being reported in the media,” the NPA’s press release said.
The NPA management also stated in its press release that section I (39.1) captioned: “Instruction to Bidders” of the bid document published in local and internal media clearly says that “the purchaser reserves the right to accept or reject any bid and/or annul the bidding process and reject all bids at any time prior to contract award, without thereby incurring any liability to bidders”.
The NPA pointed out that while it is true that Damen Shipyard won the bid, the port authority had no contract whatsoever with the shipping company and therefore, is in no way obligated in any form or manner to Damen Shipyard.
The Port Authority Management stressed that it remains committed to the promotion of transparency and integrity in the procurement of goods and services for the entity.
The NPA emphasized that the bid was canceled because the port authority through the office of the President of Liberia submitted to the National Legislature for ratification a US$14 million loan deal agreement between the National Port Authority (NPA) and the Kuwaiti Fund for Development which among other things provides for the purchase of tugboats that must be bidded for following specific rules that must also be preapproved by the Fund. The ratification of the loan agreement is still before the Legislature for scrutiny at a slow pace.
Therefore, the NPA management said, it reached the decision that it would be appropriate to cancel the referenced bid avoid duplicated purchases.
Despite the clarification from the NPA, there has been a sustained smear campaign in the media (online, radio and newspaper) intended to vilify the throng of transformation taking place at the NPA under the stewardship of Madam Parker and her team of committed professionals.
A British Politician, Winston Churchill once said “the truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.” This maxim is nifty to describe the improbable insinuation that a man who spent most part of his life as an international businessman would die simply because a contract negotiation was canceled due to lack of funds.
The Liberian parlance: “no one dies for nothing in Liberia” was the case of the former interim leader’s death with an apparent already-lined-out reason that was just waiting to explode after the former statesman ‘gave up the ghost’.
To add fuel to the fire, the family of the deceased statesman has announced that wake Keeping, Funeral and Interment will be held on May 9th and 10th, 2014 respectively, and details for these events will be announced.
“It was Chairman Bryant's wish that there be No Panegyric, No Official Gazette issued, No Laying in State, No 21-Gun Salute, No Military Escort, or any State function over his remains. The families intend to carry out his wishes,” the family said in a press statement sent to one media institution. The Liberian government, through the Ministry of Information Culture and Tourism (MICAT) has compulsorily agreed to adhere to the family’s wish.
Paradoxically, Jowel Ama-Hansford, a student of the African Methodist Episcopal University (AMEU) who claimed to be an employee of FrontPage Africa in a Facebook post, pointed accusing fingers at the Madam Matilda Parker of being responsible for the death of the late former interim chairman but his received swam of lashes from readers.
Also, discussions regarding this insinuation of Mr. Bryant died of frustration resulting from the cancel contract negotiation, the social media Facebook has been bloated with comments from Liberians home and abroad most of whom described the allegation as “illogical and farfetched” whilst others considered it as “wickedness” on the part of government.

Davor Lawrence, a Liberian living in the US writes: “WHAT AM I READING HERE??? IS IT ONLY BY STEALING PEOPLE CAN BE FINANCIALLY SOUND?!? THIS ARGUMENT IS ABSURD! Mr. Bryant stayed in from October, 2003 to January 16, 2006. He spent most of his life as a BUSINESSMAN (not petty trader). Are we saying that the two (2) years his stayed in government would cover up the rest of his life??? Or is it ONLY government money can be good for people and not their own earnings??? Before becoming the chairman of the interim government, he operated a company that supplied machinery for the Freeport of Monrovia. Didn’t he earn some cash that could keep him going and to take care of his medical bills??? I think he took his health for granted.”

Hassan Fadiga: “while the passing of Mr. Bryant is a sad moment, one should not ignore the fact that his leadership was marred with rampant corruption, and bogus concession agreement. May his soul rest in peace.”

Jesse Fahngon , Metropolitan State University: “Is this becoming "bread to butter" situation now in Lib? Every former gov official that demised, we cast blame on the sitting gov. Let bury this man and forget about this NONSENSE of blaming others for death. Do you know how many of our citizens that died daily in poverty? What social safety net policies these leaders formulated to befit their retirement? They were busy signing feebleness calling them "contracts." I am sick and tired of this blame game. We have more challenges as nation that need urgency and now; wasting time on…our citizens are engulf in darkness, poor water system n list go on and yet we spending NPA T-boats. Let me hear mehn. What are you talking about? Conflict of interest?”

Joe Cassell: “Gyude Bryant died of some disease..people of African descent whether male/female at age 65 are susceptible to Hypertension (high blood pressure), Heart Disease, Strokes, Diabetes, etc, etc..Mr. Bryant, like most Africans his age.. was probably eating foods with saturated fats and not taking exercise….that's a recipe for death…..there's no disease called government neglect.”

Emmanuel Jackson, Knoxville Business College: “The press in Liberia must stop entertaining, sensationalism when it comes to realism. The reality, of it all is the reflection of the current state of the Liberian people- two years administration interimship was a farce and no benefit to our helpless people. Bryant, was supervised by ECOWAS and UN Mission, who indicted him for misappropriation of government funds but you see, this is Liberia that has a family government structure; sending Liberia into a perverse circle of never-ending corruptions. As Christians, we know corruption is synonymous with evil.”

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