The Ministry of Commerce and Industry, through its Inspectorate Division, has shut down the FUZION Restaurant in Sinkor for failure to pay a fine of US$3,000 (or its equivalence in Liberian dollar) imposed on the business by the Ministry.
Commerce Ministry Inspector General Josephine Davies told the Liberia News Agency Monday following the shutdown that her team’s decision to fine the restaurant was based on the business’ refusal to allow a regular inspection by authorities.
“We went to FUZION on the 28th of August, identified ourselves and told them we were there for inspection. The sales manager told us that she was not the owner of the business and that we should wait for the Manager. She called the Manager on speaker phone and he instructed her not to allow us in to do the inspection,” Davies said.
“I stood there for over thirty five minutes and the manager refused to come. When you tell us not to carry on our inspection that means you are hiding something that you don’t want us to discover. The law says once you refuse inspection it is our responsibility to issue you a fine,” she added.
According to her, after the incident, the management of FUZION was given a week to reconsider its decision to permit the inspection which they never did.
The Commerce Ministry then issued FUZION a citation to come to the Ministry to explain why they refused inspection, but the Inspector General said the restaurant refused to honor the invitation.
“They refused to come, they even refused to take the citation or sign for it, which means that they don’t want to subject themselves to the inspection and that calls for a fine. The business laws say once you refuse a citation from the Commerce Ministry that means you have automatically rejected inspection,” Davies narrated.
“So we imposed the fine on them on the 4th of September to be paid into government revenue within 72 hours and the time has elapsed. It is our responsibility to close down the business because they are in defiance. The restaurant will remain closed until they can pay the fine,” the official emphasized.
In the meantime, the proprietor of FUZION, Telia Urey, soon after the closure of her business, took to social media, terming the Ministry’s move as “an act of political harassment and witch-hunt by the government.”
Urey indicated that in a conference on September 9, she and her lawyers pleaded with the commerce Inspectorate Division to reduce the fine on grounds that the cashier, whom Davies previously engaged regarding the inspection, did not know the procedures for inspection and it did not fall within her scope of work.
But Davies said that was no excuse “because the law says whomsoever is left in charge of a business should be quite knowledgeable of that enterprise.”
Nonetheless, Davis said that Ms. Urey’s business was not targeted for otherwise reason as the owner claimed on Facebook.
She insisted the inspection exercise was routine and has been affecting several other establishments in Monrovia and other parts of the country – some of whom have also been fined for being in violation.
“If you are doing business in the country, it is your responsibility to make sure that you respect the laws on the books,” Davies stated.