US$100m Investment Pinches -APM Terminal “Operations Economy Backlash”

By T. Michael Johnny 0886571899/0775820581

A 25-year concession agreement valued at US$100 million signed by the government and APM Terminal to manage, operate and modernize the National Port Authority (NPA) in February 2011, has been slightly criticized for its high taxes charged and undue bureaucracies in its cargo handling.

During public hearing of the Government-APM Terminal agreement in 2010, former Senators Isaac Nyenabo and Abel Massally of Grand Gedeh and Grand Cape Mount Counties respectively were apprehensive over the agreement both in contest of monetary value and scope of operations relative to the ailing economy.

The “meagre” US$100 million deal, according to the ex-vocal lawmakers was extremely minute in terms of investment for least developed countries like Liberia and doubted the institution’s immediate authority over the aging dilapidated port whose facilities dwarfed its modern counterparts.

Giving their input during deliberations and discussions at plenary session in 2010, the ex-senators argued that the investment capital provided by APM Terminal could have been allocated in government’s budget and continue its operation instead of conceding to US$100 million agreement in which profits accrued by the institution would be used for “snail modernization” as evidenced by ongoing works.

Shuttling through countless APM Terminal offices at the busy NPA facility, a custom officer only identified as Peters frowned that undue bureaucracies and high taxes charged by the company have greatly contributed to the increase in prices of goods on the local market.

“It’s now a little bit difficult since APM Terminal took over operations of the port back in February 2011; taxes previously charged when the government was firmly in control have increased and this is a direct result of the agreement signed by the Unity Party-led government headed by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf government,” Peters claimed.

Informed sources at the Freeport who prefer anonymity confided in the In Profile Daily that the government and APM Terminal agreement is strictly based on alleged mutual consent with authorities in officialdom pocketing “lump sum monies” to protect the business interest of the company.

“Even before the deal was signed and operations formally commenced in 2011, the concession agreement was heavily criticized by a cross-section of citizens who held the opinion that taxes would dismally increase; here we are today,” said one anonymous source.

Under the leadership of suspended Managing Director Matilda Wokie Parker, the APM Terminal agreement was branded as “important partner” in building an infrastructure that would be enviable among ports in Africa, but five years following operations, there are still visible signs of limited improvement, although they have two decades to their credit.

Operating on approximately 600 meters quay, APM Terminal Liberia operates the Freeport of Monrovia, which constitutes the gateway to Liberia’s economy and boasts of “impressive multipurpose facility” composed of equipment to handle cargoes such as rice, cement, latex, unitized or palletized cargo, vehicles, frozen products and timber.

Although importers have increasingly complained about high taxes, however, authorities of APM Terminal said they are committed in creating new jobs, careers and training opportunities for Liberians that will create lives for generations.

The company said in leadership ranks, they are also committed to have local Liberians comprise 50% of its executives by 2016, claiming that they are on track to achieve it with 40% of its leadership team already comprising Liberians following 2014.

 

Busted! -DEA Storms ‘Turtle Base’

By: Lewis K. Glay 886469835/lglay.inprofile@gmail.com

At late morning Tuesday, the premises of the ‘Turtle Base,’ a notorious terrain in Paynesville experienced the wrath of newly recruited officers of the Drug Enforcement Agency under the command of Major William J.S. Sarville assigned in Paynesville.

“Alarm blow, alarm blow,” a travelling bag seller shouted as more than a dozen of drug users forced their way out from a portion of a demolished structure that was still erected and sealed with rumpled tarpaulins.

Like a colony of bees, the drug users, predominantly car loaders, fled their hide-out leaving behind personal effects, leaping helplessly under the influence of substances they appeared to have consumed in the morning hours.

Shortly, scores of DEA officers rushed on the scene from the arrear with knives and other instruments and brought down the tarpaulins as the occupants were in disarray.

In a distance at the arrear, a multitude of young people, supposedly those who are said to be lured into using harmful substances stood agape tweeting into the direction where the DEA raid was taking place near the main Red-light-ELWA route.

In a brief chat with Major Sarville on the scene, he noted that the exercise is a regular routine aimed at discouraging any community to keep drug users to cause insecurity among the populace.

“I’m Major William J. S. Sarville, Deputy Commander of Red-light Detail.  We try to do this exercise for Liberia to be freed from drugs. In Red-light, we demolish all suspected drug selling places.  This is what we are doing today along with the new DEA recruits…,” the officer in command of the operation told the In Profile during the raid on Tuesday, August 4, 2015.

Deputy Commander Sarville used the opportunity to appeal to the Liberian Government to support the efforts of the DEA to demolish all ghettos in Paynesville.

He assured the public that with the breaking down of drug users’ hide-outs at ‘Turtle Base,’ officers of DEA in Paynesville will continue to make their presence felt in the area, emphasizing that the particular area being occupied by those under the influence of unauthorized drugs has remained fearful for ordinary citizens to pass because most people continue to be victims of regular robberies there.

Though onlookers, especially citizens who reside in the midst of the drug users  stood by and appreciated the exercise of the DEA by nodding their heads and whispering their disgusting feelings about the inhumane activities of the young people who find themselves in the use of  harmful substances, a single concern  on the lips of  the residents and officers of the DEA present  remains how the land  being misused can be properly taken care of by the rightful owner to get the drug users out of the community;

Phase One Textbooks’ Distribution Completed?

The Ministry of Education said it has completed the first phase of distribution of textbooks and school materials to some public schools in the country.

Though the process started in mid June and ended in July, some schools did not receive materials, Deputy Project Coordinator of the Global Partner for Education Project at the Ministry of Education, Joe Gbasakollie said: “When we did the assessment for the distribution, there were so many schools listed but due to the rain, we could not reach some schools. We have strategized that the CEOs and DEOs sign for books because it’s our primary goal for the students to receive the books.”

It is not yet known how many schools benefited, but Gbasakollie added: “We are doing a comprehensive report that will be concluded this week on all the schools that were served; [institutions] that were not reached. When we get that, we will tell you the total number of schools.”

Another reason that contributed to the unfinished process, Gbasakollie disclosed:  “We used the enrollment data gotten from the Ministry done in 2011-2012 for the distribution; we understand that some schools came into existence following that survey. The {pieces of}information need to be validated by CEOs and DEOs for such schools to form part of the distribution.”

With more than two hundred members of the distribution team, including County Educational Officers (CEO) and District Education Officers (DEO) to curtail irregularities, Gbasakollie stressed: “We did a school- to- school delivery unlike the methods used in the past in which we experienced shortfalls.”

There may be a second phase of textbooks distribution as Gbasakollie noted: “We still have textbooks, readers in excess at Ministry of Education warehouses around the city.”

In June 2015,  Gbasakollie  said “1,000,000  textbooks for grades 5-9 for the four core subjects, English, Math, Science, Social Studies with 20,000 teachers guides, supplementary readers for grades1-4, and instructional materials  for pupils in grade 1-9,   have been procured and stored at counties’ capitals to be distributed simultaneously nationwide.”

He further noted: “We are planning to dispatch a team by the 17  of this month; the distribution team is comprising  over 200 staff of the ministry’s central office, including 15 County Education Officers (CEO), 98 District Education Officers (DEO), and 5 professional staff  from each  county. “

The project is funded by the Global Partnership for Education, (GPE) and managed by the World Bank, while the implementing arm of the government is the Ministry of Education.

UNDP Enhances Border Management

In order to support the decentralization of key security services in Liberia in the wake of the drawdown of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), two specific interventions were identified.

A refresher training for the Liberia National Police- Police Support Unit (LNP/PSU) and the procurement of full sets of uniforms for the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization- Border Patrol Unit (BIN/BPU) required funding.

The LNP/PSU officers who are deployed across the country are helping to prevent and respond to security incidents and concerns in communities while the BIN/BPU officers are ensuring border surveillance along the country’s border posts.

In fulfillment of one of the two areas of interventions for security services decentralization and the enhancement of border management in Liberia, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) with funding from the Peace Building Fund (PBF), Tuesday, turned over 167 sets of uniforms and accessories to the BIN for use by the Border Patrol Unit (BPU).

The items include pants, shirts, boots, berets, inner and outer belts, socks, shoulder cords, shoulder patches, whistles, handcuffs, handcuffs cases, expandable batons, whistle chains, whistle hooks, rain gear ponchos, classic crewneck T-shirts, immigration badges and private badges. They were officially handed over by Nessie Golakai- Gould, UNDP Assistant Country Director and Governance Pillar Team Leader.

“On behalf of UNDP through the Justice and Security Program, I am pleased to hand over 167 full sets of uniforms and accessories for BIN/BPU officers and hope that it will be distributed to the Border Patrol Unit (BPU) officers throughout the country,” Madam Gould said.

The UNDP Justice and Security Program (JSP) seeks to support the efforts of the Government of Liberia (GoL), through the Ministry of Justice and the Judiciary in the consolidation of recovery of the country through a focus on reforms aimed at strengthening security and justice institutions. It also supports Government efforts to revamp rural communities and reduce crime thus, creating a safe and secure environment for conflict prevention and development.

The JSP, through the Peace Building Fund is providing support to the Ministry of Justice (MOJ), the Judiciary, the Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR) and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) for implementation of the regional security Hubs 2 and 3 activities.

Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization Deputy Commissioner for Administration, Col. Danny B. Sartee and Director of Border Patrol Unit, Col. Wilson S. Garpeh, separately expressed appreciation to UNDP for the continued support to the BIN.

Col. Sartee assured that the items will be immediately dispatched and distributed amongst BIN officers at the various border posts in Liberia. He hailed BIN officers in the field for their sacrificial services to the State and people despite the numerous challenges being encountered.

 

 

Gov’t, Partners Strengthen UNFPA Coordination

The government, through the Population Policy Coordination Unit (PPCU), Secretariat of the National Population Commission (NPC), on Friday, August 7, held a United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) partners’ coordination meeting for UNFPA project implementation partners.

Held under the theme, “Putting Human Face to Development,” the meeting brought together 30 participants from key agencies of government and representatives of none-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Mr. Daniel W. Garteh, Coordinator, PPCU Secretariat of NPC, informed participants that their presence at the meeting virtually qualified them as parts of government’s efforts to bring positive changes in the lives of Liberians.

Mr. Garteh appreciated the participants’ collaborative efforts in putting human face to development in the country, especially the interventions they made when they joined the fight against Ebola through spreading of anti-Ebola messages, providing items related to the fight, etc.

The meeting was held with funding from UNFPA in support of the participants, who are population policy implementers on behalf of the government that will bring quality lives to the citizens.

“The meeting was geared towards providing progress report through which PPCU would want to know the progress the implementers made during the period under review, your challenges, the lessons you learnt and what you would recommend as solutions to some of the challenges you may have encountered,” Mr. Garteh told the participants.

Dr. T. Edward Liberty, the director-general of Liberia Institute for Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS) in a special remark, extended gratitude to the participants on behalf of the government, and its partners including the United States, the World Health Organization (WHO), and all UN agencies that worked hard in the fight against the Ebola virus disease (EVD), which plagued the country last year.

LISGIS, he said, has been working strategically by providing the relevant data to the government and partners since the outbreak of Ebola in March, 2014; stands out as the foremost research institution, tasked with collecting and disseminating official statistical and spatial information/data for Liberia.

“Related to the Ebola fight, LISGIS national move has been focused on the gathering of spatial Research and Analytical data aimed at building EVD emergency response,” Dr. Liberty told the participants.

He said, LISGIS’ role does not only support an emergency response to the Ebola fight, but looks at developing a road map of Liberia’s recovery from the socio- economic and health impacts of EVD on the country with reference to the projects.

Dr. Philderarld Pratt, UNFPA Assistant Representative Liberia, promised to work with the partners or the participants to improve and or manage any future outbreak should there be any suck like the Ebola virus.

Participants represented by the Ministries of Health, Gender and Development, Youth and Sports, etc. presented papers of the first quarter reports of the implementation on the challenges, achievements, lessons learnt and recommendations to the UNFPA for review.

Plan To Combat SGBV, Harmful Traditional Practices Disclosed

By: Roland Davis-0776107962

The Government of Liberia and the United Nations Joint Programming Initiative to Prevent and Response to issues Against Sexual and Gender Based Violence and Harmful Traditional Practices in Liberia have designed a five- year strategic plan to deal with such situations in Liberia.

The five- year strategic plan program will run from July 2015 to July 2020, according to organizers.

This plan was disclosed at a meeting held recently at the RLJ Hotel, outside Monrovia, organized by UN Women in Liberia, facilitated by the Liberian Government and other UN agencies.

The meeting was aimed at finding a way forward for the implementation of the program in Liberia for the next five years, organizers indicated.

Giving  an overview of the strategic plan during the meeting, one of the facilitators, Patricia Jallah Scott, said the  plan is a proposal designed by the government and UN agencies intended to help build around a community-based approach, supported by five strategic pillars to prevent, response to SGBV cases and the issue of harmful traditional practices, particularly for Liberian girls.

Madam Scott indicated that the strategic plan is to also provide basic approach to the prevention, response to   survivor needs, safety, and protection in education, institutional strengthening and visibility or mass mobilization campaign against SGBV and harmful traditional practices in the country.

She noted that the program will help in protecting Liberian girls, including school- going population of the country, but called on the general public to collectively support the implementation of the program.

Madam Scott said the strategic plan has also been designed through a developed approach in local and consultative approach, including community dialogues conducted in ten of the fifteen counties of the country.

She said this was intended as a means of ensuring that the SGBV joint program builds on community solutions, informed by a robust context specific analysis of needs, based on communities’ knowledge and existing protection strategies, as well as disaggregated understanding of the diverse threats and opportunities within Liberia.

Madam Scott also noted that the approach was also intended to provide legal or policy analysis as well as institutional reviews to identify legal and policy enablers and the institutional readiness and capacity; a mapping of actors as an opportunity to strengthen synergies and avoid overlaps and duplication.

Meanwhile, also at the meeting, the organizers disclosed an estimated amount of US$50m as budget to be used for the implementation of the program in five years.

The meeting brought together several organizations, including government agencies, civil society groups, traditional council, UNDP, local media entities, WHO, UN Women, UNHCR, UNMIL,  UNFPA, among others.

The project is also facilities by the Ministry of Gender and Development, The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Information Cultural, Affairs and Tourism and the Ministry of Internal Affairs.