By Jerromie S. Walters

The House of Representatives (HoR) of the 55th National Legislature of the Republic of Liberia has invited Minister of State for Presidential Affairs Sylvester Grigsby, Minister of State Without Portfolio Mamaka Bility, Defense Minister Geraldine George and the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia, to address inquiries relating to the procurement, bill of landing and parking of the earth-moving equipment recently brought into the Country.

The officials are to appear before plenary on Thursday, July 11, 2024, at 11:00 AM. In a letter addressed to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Lofa County District #4, Representative Gizzie K. Kollince accentuated potential constitutional violations and called for an investigation into the matter.

The yellow machines’ trip through Monrovia, on Saturday with a batch of the 285 pieces of heavy-duty trucks and earth-moving equipment was met with cheers and praise for President Boakai, with citizens expressing their gratitude for his commitment to connecting Liberia’s counties through improved infrastructure.  It has been established that the equipment and quantity brought into the country so far Include: Sany Tipper Truck (SYZ320C0-8Y),12 pieces. Sany Water Tanker (SYM525IGS), 10 pieces. Sany Front Loaders (SW955K), 6 pieces. Sany Motor Grader (SMG200C-8), 6 pieces, and 4 pieces of Sany Excavator (SY335C).

But citing constitutional provisions, Representative Kollincepointed out that all revenue and financial bills must originate in the House of Representatives and that no loan can be secured without legislative enactment. Therefore, he requested the House to summon the Minister of State, Minister of State without Portfolio (Mamaka Bility), Minister of Defense, and Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia to testify and provide evidence regarding the equipment, including the Bill of Landing, ownership documents, authority for custody, storage agreement, and any relevant legal documents.

Kollince: “As you are aware, Article 34(d)(i) mandates that all revenue and financial bills originate in the House, and Article 34(d)(iii) mandates that no loan shall be secured except by legislative enactment. I, therefore, request the Honorable House of Representatives to invite on Thursday, July 11, the Minister of State, the Minister of State without Portfolio (Hon. MamakaBility), the Minister of Defense and Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia to appear before this Honorable body, testify and adduce the following into evidence: 1) The Bill of Landing of the subject pieces of equipment; 2) The ownership and title documents for the subject pieces of equipment; 3) The authority to take custody and store the subject equipment; 4) The storage agreement for the subject equipment; and 5) Any relevant document that informs the House on the legal status of the subject equipment and their relationship to the government of Liberia.”

While acknowledging the importance of development projects like road construction, Representative Kollince stressed the need to uphold the rule of law and ensure that each branch of government operates within its constitutional boundaries. He emphasized the importance of preserving the constitutional order and preventing any branch from overstepping its authority.

He added, “Mr. Speaker, fellow colleagues, while the development of Liberia, especially road development, is welcomed we must always take due cognizance of the established laws and processes appertaining thereto. The Liberian government has three coordinate branches of government, each with a distinct role granted by the Constitution. My communication seeks to ensure that the constitutional order is preserved and that no branch is illegally usurping the powers, duties, and responsibilities! of another branch, especially this Honorable body.”

UP Ex-supporter weight in: 

Recently, a controversial ex-supporter of the Unity Party (UP), Martin Kollie branded the process of securing the equipment as a “Devil Deal”. He narrated: “Save this, you are going to pay a whopping US$80 million over 4 years for this devil deal. That’s why they are tight-lipped. This is a WASTE and abuse of power. South African businessman, Robert Gumede along with his accomplices Mamaka Bility and Sylvester Grigsby, is about to milk tens of millions of USD from our national treasury through dubious deal and kickbacks.”

Kollie clarified that he is not against the coming of the equipment, but rather how it is being procured. “Let’s make this crystal clear. We are not against development because we know that development will improve our people’s lives. So we want development but not at the expense of LAWS on accountability, transparency, and compliance.”

He accused the lead negotiators: “South African businessman, Robert Matana Gumede of Guma Group, who has been at the center of endless corruption scandals, will sweep tens of millions from our national coffers. Gumede is going to shove a few million in kickbacks to Mamaka Bility, Sylvester Grigsby, and other presidential confidants after inflating prices. Liberian taxpayers will pay 80 million USD to offset this liability. The yellow machine debacle is a devil deal.”

Genesis of the noise:

The controversy began when the Minister of State WithoutPortfolio Mamaka Bility announced the procurement of 285 pieces of earthmoving equipment for road development during a cabinet retreat. Subsequently, on July 6th, she was seen with a number of equipment released from the National Port Authority (NPA) and taken to the Edward Binyah Kesselly barracks for storage.

Minister Bility, along with Minister of State for Presidential Affairs Sylvester M. Grigsby and Public Works Minister Roland Lafayette Giddings, attended the virtual turnover of the machines weeks ago.  The event featured Mr. Xu Ming, Senior Vice President of SanyGroup, a Chinese multinational heavy equipment manufacturing company, and Robert Gumede, Chairman of the Guma Group based in South Africa. Xu Ming expressed his honor in sharing the handover moment with the Liberian Government, while Robert Gumede highlighted the partnership connecting Liberia with China and South Africa.

Minister Bility emphasized that the arrival of the machines marks a significant step toward improving the lives of Liberians. She stated, “If you know the history of Liberia and the conditions of our roads, this is more than just turning machines over. This is changing the lives of our people completely. We are totally grateful.” She further mentioned, “For the first time since 1980, the government of Liberia will own its road maintenance equipment, under the Special Presidential Project. In the coming weeks, the Executive Mansion will ask the Ministry of Public Works and the Ministry of National Defense to build these maintenance zones, adding that the engineering department of the National Defense will help with road maintenance along with the Ministry of Public Works.”

Howbeit, the arrival of the first batch of the equipment was embraced by Liberians. They believe it is expected to not only enhance road construction but also create job opportunities, stimulate local economies, and ultimately improve the quality of life for Liberians. 

Like several other Liberians, the woman, Mamaka Bility who has been at the center stage of the yellow machine controversy, pointed out the essentiality of the equipment to the nation and President Boakai’s ARREST Agenda, while being displayed over the weekend.

Bility: “I’m honestly happy for Liberia. This is a dream come through for any well-meaning Liberia because as I said in the presentation (In the video), (if) you know the conditions of our roads and you know the situation of Liberia. You will be happy that we have these equipment here because half of our country is in the bush. Most of our people don’t have access to roads. Why do you think agriculture is not improving? [It’s] because they don’t have access to roads and they don’t have access to the markets. So this is the hour of the ARREST agenda roads so we are going to open the country.”

Furthermore, she noted, “In the package what we are looking at is to have a maintenance contract for a year to two years with the manufacturers and also these equipment will be going into a maintenance zone. We are going to be constructing the maintenance zones and the manufacturers are going to be training over 100 Liberians so imagine the employment opportunities that it’s going to create. So we have the maintenance contracts we are going to set in place before we let these equipment to go into the maintenance zones and training is going to take place as well.”

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