The NPA expressed satisfaction over the work performed by the Contractor without verification of the work carried out/performed - initial survey to show existing seabed levels in locations normally specified in such contracts, dredging areas in locations normally specified in such Contract, disposal of dredged materials at location normally specified in such contracts, post survey to determine actual work performed in locations normally specified in such contracts for payment purposes.
The dredging of the port was a key deliverable under the Government of Liberia's 150 days Action Plan which ended few months ago. Despite its resounding success and the benefits the country expects to accrue from dredging the ports, the NPA has however, for unknown reason(s), refused to share the Dredging Contract with the media/public which is expected to inform the public on transactions relative to such major public projects and ascertain relevant information to ensure public resources were efficiently used.
Before the commencing of the contract, the Deputy Managing Director for Legal Affairs at the NPA, Mr.
Jeffery George, said: “The NPA is not allowed to share the contract with the media.”
Several attempts to obtain the dredging contract from the NPA have proven unsuccessful. The Liberia Media Center (LMC) was also “denied” copy of the agreement by the NPA Management despite a written request.
Months ago, Madam Parker, on a local radio talk show, (Truth FM) referred journalists to the Probate Court of Liberia to obtain the document. The Probate Court said it does not give out records, but rather, the National Archives. When contacted, the Head of Record of the National Archives, Mr. George Williams, said “The dredging contract has not been sent to the Archives by the NPA. Section 3.2 of the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) provides that “every person, irrespective of their nationality or residence, may request, receive, reproduce and retain any information held by (1) all public authority or (2) private entity that receives public funds or engage in public functions or provision or public service; provided that in respect of private entities, the information shall relate to the public funds, benefit, functions or service.”
Is the NPA Management Hiding Something from the Public?
The Freeport of Monrovia is the deepest port in Liberia according research conducted, and not the Port of Buchanan, as was mentioned by Madam Parker in a Press Conference in late October 2012.
It has a design depth of 15 meters (49.5 feet) in the entrance channel and 12 meters (39.6 feet) is required along the Marginal Wharf (main container and general cargo marine facility) currently being reconstructed by APM Terminals according to its Concession Agreement.
Sources at APM Terminal have disclosed that about 75 percent of the work has been completed and is expected to finish the project in May of 2013. However, the company has alleged it is yet to receive any official information from the NPA management concerning the dredging of the Freeport of Monrovia which is being operated by them.
“By right, the NPA should have presented us (APM Terminals) a post dredging information on the various depths in the harbor, because we are responsible to bring in and send out vessels from the port on a daily basis,” a source noted.
Madam Parker said she is “too busy” to grant me an interview but however asked me to speak with her Public Relation team. Several attempts to obtain a copy of the contract or even information relating to the contract from the Public Relation Office proved unsuccessful.
Before the commencing of the dredging, Madam Parker, in a text message interview with me, disclosed that “the Freeport of Monrovia will be dredged to 12.0 meters and the Port of Greenville to 9.0 meters (29.48 feet).
These depths were also disclosed in the Daily Observer Newspaper which published stories on NPA Dredging of the ports.
Recently, Madam Parker, at the Minister of Information weekly news conference, said the company dredged a depth of 12.5 meters of silts from the Freeport Monrovia. She disclosed the same information when former British Prime Minister Tony Blair recently visited the Freeport. This is 0.5 meters (1.65 feet) more than what was previously announced to general public.
Nevertheless, she gave no reason (s) for the increase in the quantity of silts that were dredged and how much was paid.
The Freeport of Monrovia channel was dredged to 15 meters because the iron ore piers could safely accommodate vessels requiring such a depth when fully laden.
The largest container vessel to be accommodated at the Freeport requires only 12 meters depth at the reconstructed Marginal Wharf and not 12.5 meters, according sources at APM Terminals and shipping agencies.
Why did NPA dredged more than what is required by APM Terminals? This difference multiplied by the total area dredged is indeed a huge unwarranted volume. After several attempts by this writer, the Management of NPA is yet to justify the reason for the extra volume dredged.
Another puzzling fact gathered is the unwarranted over dredging of the Port of Greenville. The port is said to have a design dredged depth of 8.1 meters (26, 73 feet). However, Madam Parker said the Port was dredged to 9.0 meters (29.7feet) to "accommodate bigger vessels" Why dredge to 9 meters when 8.1 meter (design depth) is required?
Our findings also show that there is no other facility in the Port that can accommodate vessels more than the established 8.1 meters depth. Our investigation further shows that the NPA, in a written instruction(early August 2012) to shipping agents, limited all incoming vessels to 145 meters (475.02 feet) length overall and 7meters (22.93 feet) draft (in and out of the Port).
If so, then why dredge to 9 meters when you require only 7 meters? Madam Parker also informed the Public that “there are 14 logging companies operating in Greenville.” However, Forestry Development Authority records show that there are only four companies who prefer to use the Port of Greenville.
Interestingly, engineers have said, If you dredge 9 meters alongside the main loading/unloading facility, the foundation of the structure will be severely undermined and eventual collapse sooner or later, because you will be dredging (digging) beyond the foundation of the structure. Furthermore, engineers have said activated propellers from ships could also exacerbate the situation. Again, this difference, multiplied by the total area dredged is indeed a huge unwarranted volume – and only the dredging Company benefits.
After spending millions of taxpayers' money, Madam Parker had the audacity to say that, “the NPA doesn't have the "sophisticated equipment to validate" the Contractor's work, but rather, sent in divers to validate the dredged water depths.” Divers, by the way, are not used anywhere in the world to undertake such specialized engineering work. Divers in Liberia are no exception to this fact, and NPA has no divers in its employ as disclosed by the Managing Director, sources at the NPA have said.
The "sophisticated equipment" needed is an echo sounder which could have been used to conduct such work using at least a canoe.
As a matter of fact, the NPA and the Company unprecedentedly "took eight months to negotiate” a single contract, according to Managing Director Parker. When did Madam Parker, get to know that the Contractor's work had to be “validated” with “sophisticated equipment” that NPA lacks?
In fact, how did the Dredging Contract get approved by the Board of Directors of the NPA? Did they also know that the NPA did not have the “sophisticated equipment” or they simply believed and trusted the Managing Director- who is not a dredging expert (Engineer) and had never managed such capital intensive and specialized civil work project – to do whatever she wanted? Anyway, I guess the board just wanted that ports dredged.
For instance, Madam Parker said “the silts from the dredged ports were taken four nautical miles off the coast of Liberia. She went on to say, "I went on board the vessel two to three times to make sure that the silts were dumped at the right place.”
After I listened to her statement, I wondered and asked myself, why a Managing Director would board a vessel to verify such civil engineering related work when she does not have the expertise to know whether the materials were dumped was the right place? She did not give the direction of the dumping location though – example: North, South, East or West, of the respective Ports. The silts could return into the ports rapidly if the dump locations were not accurately specified in the Dredging Contract and supervised/monitored by someone with the requisite expertise, according to engineers and maritime professionals.
How did the Management derived at the volume/quantity of 2 million cubic meters of silts to be dredged from these ports in the first place? There is no evidence to show that the NPA Management had any expert on dredging to provide such an advice. No expert was used to conduct/verify the initial survey conducted by the dredging company to show existing seabed levels before dredging work commenced. Is the Management telling Government and the Public that Van Oord did their surveys alone and dredged exactly this estimated quantity?
The answer must be a resounding yes, because the NPA allowed the Company to survey and dredge unsupervised—perhaps dredging more than required just to reach the targeted quantity (2 million cubic meters).
According to port sources, because the ports are highly technical in nature in their development, maintenance, and operations, it is the Technical and Marine Departments that do such work, unlike the Parker's administration who decided to handle this on her own as Managing Director. In the 70s and 80s, and even in the early 2000s, this department was responsible for planning and overseeing dredging of the ports of Liberia when contracted out.
For example, the US Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for planning and monitoring/supervision activities in all US public ports. In Liberia however, Madam Parker alone did the planning, supervision, monitoring, and payment with the approval of the NPA Board of Directors.
How many millions of dollars would have been saved had the NPA done proper planning and supervision in conformity with Good Industry Practice?
The saved amount probably could have purchased log handling equipment, forklifts, aids to navigation, among others that the current Management has failed to provide for efficient port operations and navigation safety.
Port users have to use their own equipment but are required to pay for services not provided by NPA.
Surprisingly, there is no evidence to show that any Expression of Interest or Request for Proposal was published anywhere for this $21million project. This is a clear violation of the Public Procurement Concession Commission (PPCC Law.
The Government did the right thing by providing such unprecedented amount of money to dredge the ports for the right reasons, under prevailing financial circumstances, and objectives have been achieved - vessels are safely entering in and out of these ports and seaborne trade and commerce are being facilitated, etcetera.
What is wrong with giving to the Media the dredging contract if the NPA knows that it did things right? Why would such a capital intensive endeavor with technical and navigational implications, not be properly planned?
Why should Government, international partners and the general public be made to believe that divers will verify the work ($21 million) of a dredging contractor, because the NPA lacks "the supplicated equipment” to do the job? How many other projects did the NPA Board allowed to be carried out in this manner, since Madam Parker became Managing Director in 2009?
There are many questions than answers concerning the dredging contract. Madam Parker has always thought that this writer wants favor from her, which is far from the truth. Madam Parker, on a local radio talk show (Super Morning), on ELBC said, “Mr. Perry has been writing all kinds of articles in the newspapers about me and telling people that he wants money from me.”
Let me use this medium to again clarify that at no time have I ever asked Madam Parker for a cent. As a Journalist, I am guided by the Press Union of Liberia Code of Ethic which forbids journalist from receiving gift (s) in return for story.
The net of it all, the NPA, under the leadership of Madam Parker, should publish the contract so that the public will be informed about the level of transparency and accountability that is being carried out by her administration in conformity with President Johnson-Sirleaf's Policy on “zero tolerance on corruption.”
I want to repeat that by not releasing this piece of public information to the media is a clear manifestation that Madam Parker has something under her sleeves that needs to be brought to public attention. Author's contact, 231886270297;