By Amunyahn K. Amafla
West & Southern Africa
October 14, 2013
There is a famous and old adage that reads: “Birds of the same feathers flock together”. Also, Amafla learned from his mother before her death that when a stranger (visitor) arrives to town, the primary possessions taken from his/her traveling luggage are the characteristics of the traveler.
And so, it was not difficult for Zoomlion, Ghana Limited (d/b/a Zoomlion) to find partnership in the corrupt circle of President Johnson-Sirleaf’s Unity Party (UP) Government. Moreover, it was not long before the sanitation service provider, Zoomlion’s true business practices were exposed in Liberia by the World Bank. We must posit that we were forewarned, informed and admonished about Zoomlion’s corrupt practices in Ghana as Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and business practice of the company prior to its arrival and pronouncement in Monrovia, the Liberian capital. Notwithstanding, we patiently waited to experience the truth to the admonition.
Allegedly, we were informed that Zoomlion’s triumphant entry into Liberia was facilitated by the former Monrovia City Mayor, Madam Mary Broh through the support of the Monrovia City Corporation (MCC). That allegation has been confirmed by FrontPageAfrica (FPA). Reportedly, FPA’s confirmation includes the unflinching advocacy of Montserrado County Senator, Geraldine Doe Sheriff and Project Manager for the World Bank, Mr. Peter Ofori Asumadu. These were the known catalysts, which created the path for Zoomlion’s success in winning the bid in Liberia. Montserrado County is a political sub division within which the City of Monrovia is situated.
According to FPA, five (5) companies bided for the World Bank sanitation contracts for Liberia. The contracts were for sanitization of two locations; the Stockton Creek and Fiamah regions of Monrovia. Accordingly, documentation proves that the NC Sanitors won the two contracts but it was awarded to Zoomlion. The World Bank Project Manager, Project Implementation Unit (PIU) at the MCC, Mr. Osamadu contributed by leaking out the bidding process and criteria to the Ghanaian company.
As part of the corrupt network, reportedly the former city mayor, Madam Broh wrote Mrs. Elfreda Stewart Tamba, Head of the Revenue Section at the Liberian Ministry of Finance (MOF) on March 29, 2011 instructing her to exempt Zoomlion from import levies. It is our honest guess and opinion that the exemption was justified as “investment incentives” for helping to abate the sanitation problem in addition to curbing the unemployment, underemployment situation in Liberia, a practice common with domestic and foreign investment in most developing economies.
As each African community has a unique expression, it was echoed in Liberian parlance and vernaculars that “when you pull rope, rope pulls bush”. For purpose of the reader’s quick and easy understanding, it can simply be translated as “Where there is smoke, there is fire”. Therefore, whist the World Bank exposure of Zoomlion’s corrupt acquisition of its sanitation contracts for Liberia and malpractices reported in the Ghana Youth Employment and Entrepreneurial Development Agency (GYEEDA) Report released by the Ghanaian Ministry of Youths and Sports (MOYS) pinpoints improprieties of Zoomlion’s activities in Ghana, it should not be truncated and placed on the shelf of oblivion.
As we attempt to lynch Zoomlion for corrupt practices, we should remember, “It takes two, baby ah, me and you…” according to the lyrics of the late Motown great, Marvin Gaye. If it takes two, then for bribery to occur there must be a receiver and giver of the bribe, who are equally guilty. Upon the foregoing logic, it is correct to assume and allege that corrupt practices highlighted herein involved several individuals in all instances and at all levels of Zoomlion malpractices which are not mentioned in our reportage due to the absence of full disclosure to us as of yet.
However, the World Bank released a report on the story acknowledging that the World Bank Group has placed a ban on Zoomlion over bribery charges in Liberia. Based on the published report, Zoomlion paid bribes to facilitate contract execution and processing of invoices. The charges are centered on the World Bank-financed Emergency Monrovia Urban Sanitation Project. Accordingly, Zoomlion will not qualify for any contract financed by the World Bank Group for a period of two years as of September 24, 2013.
The World Bank said, “Zoomlion needed to demonstrate full and satisfactory compliance with the World Bank Integrity standards in order for the ban to be lifted”. The bank said, “Zoomlion has acknowledged wrongdoing and accepted full responsibility”. As corrective measures to ensure that such malpractices do not re-occur, “the company is enforcing disciplinary action and commitment to a new standard of integrity governing its operations”, according to Leonard McCarthy, World Bank Integrity Vice President.
Prior to the ban on Zoomlion and based on the aforementioned premise and resurgence of new information relative to this story, the former Monrovia City Mayor, Madam Broh had travelled to Accra, perhaps to engage and encourage Zoomlion to apply for the world bank-financed contract. We believe she was introduced to Zoomlion by the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) Mayor, the honorable Alfred O. Vanderpuije. Thereafter, the former Monrovia municipal CEO encouraged and advocated Zoomlion’s participation in the bidding process. Under her guidance, the Monrovia City Government categorically recommended the Ghanaian sanitation service provider; and with the aid of the World Bank Project Manager, Mr. Osamadu, the company won the award. What is wrong with this?
As per past allegations against world organizing bodies such as; the International Monetary Funds (IMF), World Bank, International Finance Committee (IFC) United Nations (UN) organizations including the European Union (EU) officials and personnel, we are inclined to believe that the reported malpractices by Zoomlion could not only involve the Monrovia City Government officials and the service provider but also a multiple of individuals; some Liberian Government officials including World Bank authority.
Our inclination to include World Bank officials’ involvement is based on previously televised CNN documentary several years ago portraying some elements of international organizations’ participation in such practices. Nevertheless, we could not exclude Government of Ghana officials (GOG) either based on the GYEEDA (Ghana Youth and Employment and Entrepreneurial) Report. These officials may also have their hands in the cookie jar and are on the same band wagon with Zoomlion’s corrupt operations in Ghana.
It has been proven that Zoomlion is acclimatized to malfeasance and misfeasance. According to the GYEEDA REPORT released by MOYS, Zoomlion is guilty and responsible for over charging the Ghanaian Government; an assertion to which the African sanitation service provider giant admits and agreed to correct and re-submit its bill to the government. It appears Zoomlion has elected to use this as a tactic and solution to quench the fire (corruption charges) whenever it is caught in such practices as we shall read in the GYEEDA Report.
In 2006, the GOG felt threatened by massive unemployment and underemployment of the youths and promptly resolved to combat this insecurity by establishing the National Youths Employment Program (NYEP). Due to several institutional lags, the NYEP never got started on time as scheduled and intended when funding sources were identified by the government.
However, in 2012 after series of governmental discussions to respond to the youth’s unemployment and underemployment quagmire, it endeavored to transform the NYEP into a more formidable program. On November 01, 2012, the Ghanaian Cabinet of the ruling NDC Government gave approval to change the name NYEP and GYEEDA was born. It was charged with the responsibilities to coordinate all youth employment and entrepreneurial programs in the country.
Thereafter, GYEEDA created and implemented thirty-four (34) working modules as of the date and time the report was released. These modules were useful in awarding contracts to Ghanaian business organizations. During these developments and at this junction, GYEEDA awarded a contract to Zoomlion through Module 9. The contract was to commence on March 01, 2011 and mature two (2) years thereafter; to be exact, February 28, 2013.
The contract required Zoomlion to provide waste management and other related services to district assemblies. As a service provider and as per module 9, Zoomlion was expected to train for potential employment and entrepreneurial opportunities, Thirty-seven Thousand (37,000) lads as its contributions to the reduction of youth unemployment and underemployment problem in the country. The company proposed to achieve the above result by accepting Gh₵500 per beneficiary and management fee, an equivalent of US$238.10. The detail breakdown is as follows:
Youth Trainee Allowance: GH₵100 or US$47.62₵
Zoomlion Mgt. Fee: Gh₵400 or US$198.48₵
This compensation structure was approved by GYEEDA and the MOYS. Training and employment schedule was supplemented by provisions of tricycles, motor bikes along with operational, technical and other general overhead expenses amounting to Gh₵10,780,692 or US$5,133,662.86 per month.
According to the report breakdown, the above financial expenses were submitted deliberately erroneous, fraudulent and deceptively. At the conclusion of the GYEEDA Report and per its recommendation, Zoomlion agreed to have overcharged the GOG and is willing to re-submit a more accurate bill commensurate with services provided.
If this is the modus of operandi of Zoomlion, how many more victims are there, considering the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) with which it also does business not ignoring its activities in Angola? Just thinking aloud with concerns for the company, corporate staff, employees and the global public, which can affect employment situations in each of these African countries, a hint to the prudent is quite sufficient.
While addressing the opening session of a three-day conference of the African Association of Anti-Corruption Authorities (AAACA) in Accra, the Ghanaian capital, President John Dramani Mahama affirmed the government’s resolve to prosecute persons identified to have been involved in financial malfeasance in the GYEEDA) report. Accordingly the Ghanaian president said:
”We have started the process of restructuring GYEEDA and I have requested the Attorney General’s office to sanction any persons identified to have been involved in wrongdoing in the GYEEDA affair”.
We pray that the exemplary remarks made by President Mahama will be carried out in Ghana and emulated by President Johnson-Sirleaf as it pertains to Zoomlion affairs in Liberia and other pending matters of corrupt practices involving nepotism, cronyism and favoritism in Liberia and the continent.
The Government of Liberia and the World Bank must bring pressure to bear on the former City Mayor, Madam Broh and Mrs. Tamba of the Liberian revenue section, MOF and Senator Sheriff. Similarly, the World Bank should probe further into the story as we do not believe the Project Manager, Mr. Osamadu is the only high ranking World Bank official involved in this corruption practice. We emphatically suggest that the World Bank should withdraw the contracts from Zoomlion if it has not done so already, and award them to the real documented winner of the bid, the NC Sanitors.
On the African continent, we would like to encourage President Johnson-Sirleaf to join hands with her Ghanaian counter-part, President Mahama and equally call on the Attorney General of Liberia to sanction any individuals of Liberian nationality involved. The Liberian Attorney General should find out the extent of their involvement for criminal offence such as compensation received and for interrupting fairness in granting the contracts. The aggrieved parties must be tried in the court of law and if found guilty, bribes received must be refunded with stiff punishment.
Quite recently prior to releasing this article, we were appalled to learn that President Johnson-Sirleaf has appointed Madam Broh as Director of General Services Agency (GSA). This semi ministerial agency is the chief and centralized purchasing arm of the Liberian Government. Can you believe it, while President Mahama is resolute to penalize wrong doers in his NDC Government; the Liberian president is recycling the possible chief culprit in the corrupt Zoomlion operations in Liberia.
As we wonder, what will it takes for President Johnson-Sirleaf to do the “right thing”. Majority of the Liberian people at home and abroad are protesting against her government as observed in New York City during the recent UN meeting because of nepotism (three sons and host of extended family members given appointments in her government) and cronyism (Madam Broh and the likes as center stage actors).
No wonder some prominent world leaders have shied away from the supposedly “iron lady” of Africa; the first democratically elected female president in Africa and the only woman amongst twenty-two elected Liberian presidents since 1847. Why would a person of proper training and excellent education who belongs to the prominent club of strong Liberian women such as; Angie Brooks-Randolph, former President of the UN General Assembly (deceased), Agnes von Ballmoos, strong human right activist (deceased), Dr. Mary Antoinette Grimes Brown Sherman, former President of the University of Liberia (deceased), Judge Emma Shannon Walser, Liberia’s first female Circuit Court Judge and H.E. Olubanke King-Akerele, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Liberia, just to name a few tarnish her image because of selfish Liberians.
Why would President Johnson-Sirleaf tarnish her reputation by continually embracing Madam Broh and the likes in her government? It is not late to deliver good governance to the Liberian people based on social justice – by “Putting Liberia First”.
About the Authors: Amunyahn K. Amafla is a veteran African journalist, who is the Senior Investigator of KpanWin Center for Exposing Corruption Practices in Africa (KWC). Mr. Amafla has been a journalist for over 30 years. He resides in West and Southern Africa. He can be contacted through Mr. Nyanseor, Senior Fellow of the KWC Group.
Siahyonkron J. K. Nyanseor is a journalist, cultural and political activist. He is Chairman of the Liberian Democratic Future (LDF); publisher of theperspective.org online newsmagazine. He serves as Senior Advisor to the Voice of Liberia newsmagazine as well as Senior Advisor to MOLAC and CLACI. Also, Mr. Nyanseor is Senior Fellow of the KWC Group. In 2012, he Co-authored Djogbachiachuwa: The Liberian Literature Anthology. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.