Tony Lawal Whereabouts Unknown: As Millions Of Taxpayers’ Money Remains ‘Unaccounted For ’
Liberians mainly taxpayers whose taxes are usually used for development purposes and benefits for the economic growth and development of Africa’s oldest country and yet beyond development are calling on the current George Weah-led Government to speedily bring to justice the Chief Executive of a self-styled construction company, the Praise Glory Lawal (PGL) Construction Company for allegedly misapplying millions of United States dollars under the pretext of rehabilitating the Brewerville/Bopolu road which is yet to be rehabilitated.
Speaking to journalists over the weekend, the citizens mostly residents of Brewerville, Montserrado County and Bopolu, Gbarpolu County in discrete locations called on the Liberian Government through the Ministry of Public Works to intervene in making sure that the PGL justify the usage of millions of United States Dollars given it for the rehabilitation of their road which is currently in a deplorable condition.
Last year, 2017 during the administration of former Liberian leader, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, through extensive investigation by several media outlets including the widely read www.gnnliberia.com it was uncovered that US$5 million was paid to Praise Glory Lawal (PGL) Construction Company despite advice from the Liberian Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) to stop payments to PGL pending the outcome of an investigation.
According to the investigation, the LACC in May 2015 launched an investigation into the awarding of contract to PGL. Result from preliminary investigation showed that the company allegedly received US$1.9M for the rehabilitation of the Brewersville-Bopolu road project without submission of a Bill of Quantity (BOQ) to the Ministry of Public Works.
“The Commission would also appreciate were you to stop all furthered payments to Praise Glory Lawal Construction Company (PGL) pending the outcome of investigation,” the LACC recommended in 2015.
According to sources, in 2012 former Public Works Minister Samuel Kofi Woods, after the necessary bidding process was conducted, recommended that the contracts be awarded to two Liberian construction companies “Solid Rock” and “West Wood”.
In the documents in the possession of the media outlet, the 41.8km road from Bomi to Gbarpolu counties should have been awarded to “Solid Rock Investment”.
The project was value US$1,596,001.90 (One million five hundred ninety six thousand one dollars and ninety cents United States dollars) including labour and transportation.
The project had duration of hundred working days excluding Sundays and holidays.
On the other hand, West Wood should have been awarded the contract for the rehabilitation of a 57-mile road from Brewerville to Liviction Town.
The cost of the project was estimated at US$1, 710,000.00 with a duration of three months.
Contrary to Minister Woods’ recommendation, our investigation shows that things changed after Minister Woods resigned as Minister of Public Works.
During our investigation it was alleged that Deputy Public works Minister under Woods, Victor Smith, who was then Acting Minister transferred the contract to PGL and raised the amount from over US$2 million to US$5 million.
Sources also confirmed that upon her ascendency as Minister of Public Works, Angelique Weeks submitted the contract to the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission for investigation she got re-assigned while investigation into the matter had not concluded.
According to documents, Minister Gyude Moore increased the cost of the project to US$ 8 million upon taking over as Minister. Up to present, the amount in question has been paid to PGL Company.
In an inter-office communication submitted by the Sr. Compliance Officer Patrick S. Jackson to Mr. Hanson Kaizolu, Comptroller and Accounting General of Liberia dated June 27, 2017, on verification report title: “Verification Report For Brewerville-Bopolu Project” stated that an audit was being completed on the vouchers of the PGL construction Company in the amounts of US$225,000, covering payment representing Certificate of completion for the project at 75 percent work done.
Findings from the audit and physical verification done on the voucher, shows that; PGL is a company registered under code 4100, which is for the construction of building, instead of roads and railways and that F4210 second Certificate as presented by PGL is the proper code for roads and railways but it was issued on October 23, 2015 and expired September 12, 2016.
The investigation findings according to the document also showed that there is no invoice attached to the document presented for payment indicating that PGL has submitted a bill.
In paragraph four of the findings addendum requirement of the Physical Audit Unit (PAU) calls for a standardizing the road corridor, by upgrading said, corridor from 7.3M to 10.3 for the future asphalt pavement. The findings also states that 50km of the 7.3 m -10.3m road was already done prior to PC decision not to proceed due to cost overrun.
PAU investigation stated: “Under the Earth Works, we verified that Molton Corner Brewerville to Kpo hill in Gbapolu County excavation work-cutting and filling of the soil, clearing of the vegetation, roads works were observed to have been implemented since last payment.
From Brewerville store to the boundary between Gbapolu and Bomi counties- the road contains more soft and loose dirt than solid content, which is resulting to over flowing of the water. Kpo hill to Bomboma, there no earth works done. From Gandima to Bopolu City, there no earth works done.
The PAU report also disclosed that due to the poor installation on the wings walls and culverts, it is established that the wing walls broke from the culverts resulting into eroded road surface.
Based on all of these allegations against the PGL, a team of www.gnnliberia.com, independent investigators took up an assignment to publicly verify the authenticity of these communications from the LACC and other sources which gave rise to toured the entire road in question where unfortunately it was noticed that residents of the area (Brewerville/Bopolu) were in a constrained situation due to the deplorable condition of the road.
Following the publication of this alleged transaction between the Ministry of Public Works and the PGL in this online informative and investigative news outlet, the www.gnnliberia.com its Publisher, Journalist Joel Cholo Brooks was sued for Ten Million United States Dollars at the Civil Law Court by Praise Tony Lawal of the Praise Glory Lawal (PGL) Construction Company on Action of Damages for Libel.
But in response to the allegation leveled against the journalist by Praise Tony Lawal legal team, but the lawyers representing Mr. Brooks rubbished all 13 counts indictment in one of the counts said, “ 2nd Defendant does deny that his news organ, the Global News Network made publications referring to Plaintiff’s road construction contracts with the Government of Liberia and that the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) was conducting an investigation regarding said ; but denies that said publication was defamatory, as they were based on information from government sources including the LACC and were not made with malice or in reckless disregard for the truth,” the lawyers of the journalist among other things rubbished the claims of Mr. Lawal.
Also in the possession of this news outlet were the verification report on the Brewerville/Bopolu road project, a 5-page document from the Ministry of Finance & Development Planning (MFDP) described the poor performance of PGL on the rehabilitation of the Brewervill/Bopolu road noting, “PGL is registered under Code F4100 which is for the construction of building, instead of roads and railways”, this statement by the committee contradicts the role of the PGL in this latest report.
In its findings dated on June 27, 2017, the Committee said: “Physical verification established that from Kpo Hill to Bomnoma, there is no clearing of vegetation on the side of the road. From Gandima to Bopolu there is no evidence of clearing of vegetation. We verified twenty three bridges and eight drainages; out of the eight, six are untouched, there were two drainages constructed by the Company (PGL) with incomplete wing walls causing erosion that undermines the culverts. Bridges on this road are still in deplorable state, meaning that they were not improved by the Company in accordance with the contract. Approaching Winnie Town the culverts were poorly done which is resulting to the overflow of the water,” the Committee comprised of Ezekiel Korva; acting director, Accounting Service Unit, Steve Joe Joe; director, Physical Audit Unit, Juvenal C. Pearson; assistant director, Physical Audit Unit, Gabriel B. Nyenpan, II; Senior Compliance Auditor, Patrick S. Jackson; Senior Compliance Officer and Sando Adams Compliance Auditor.
Documents in the possession of this news outlet has revealed that PGL has defaulted in its contract with the Liberian Government for the rehabilitation of the concerned road project, this situation has compelled residents of the area to use detour route to travel due to its deplorable condition.
During a tour of the road followed series concern been expressed by the residents of the area, our team of reporters hired a 4runner jeep for the purpose of doing thorough investigation on the overview of the road, unfortunately, despite of the kind of vehicle that used for that road it was still difficult to go further as the road was inaccessible to vehicles.
Speaking to residents of the area, many of those interviewed by our staff expressed disappointment in the Liberian Government of been insensitive of their plight, making reference of the deplorable condition of their road.
However, with the 10 million dollars lawsuit being filed against the Publisher of the www.gnnliberia.com, Joel Cholo Brooks, the management says it is determine to bring to justice the management of PGL to book for defrauding the Liberian people of their taxes under the pretense of providing them with good and affordable roads network.
However, the whereabouts of Tony Lawal who also claimed to be a Liberian is unknown, while other reports gathered revealed that he is currently in Nigeria and has reportedly ordered for the removal and shipment to neighboring country most of his heavy equipment left behind.