Former Public Works Minister Samuel Kofi Woods has his back as his critics in government and predecessors, accusing him of over committing government to construction companies to while he led the country’s infrastructure arm of government between 2009 and 2013.
“I did not in any way over commit government [through the signing of contracts]. Every agreement signed during my stewardship as Minister was done in line with government’s established policies,” Woods told a Press conference last Wednesday in Monrovia. “The Public Procurement and Concession Commission was aware, the Ministry of Finance was involved and the Ministry of Justice attested to these agreements.”
“During my tenure as Minister of Public Works, all Government contracts above the US$250,000 threshold were signed by the appropriate authorities at the Ministries of Finance and Justice prior to being submitted to the MOF for payments. This is in keeping with the PPCC regulation number three, as well as provisions of the PFM and PPCC Acts. The records are there for all to see.”
Woods’ fight back and clarifications come in the wake of report that he “unilaterally” dished out contracts and over committed the government in the tone of over US$80 million, something that has reportedly created concerns at the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The IMF has declared that budget implementation through December 2013 for Liberia was constrained by revenue shortfalls and that the government of Liberia “had committed to road projects” for which payments are not forthcoming. This then led to suggestions in some quarters that former Public Works Minister Woods, who resigned his post in May 2013 was responsible.
“Some have averred that one of the reasons why the Government is not meeting budgetary targets is because the government had been overcommitted financially by some institutions, including the Ministry of Public works during my tenure, said Woods. “This account of events,” her continued, “is a misrepresentation of my stewardship of the Ministry that I cannot allow it to go unaddressed.
All these roads people are talking about, you need certificates of completion, meaning if a man had 100% road to complete in his contract, before they get paid, they must reach certain completion benchmarks before they get paid, contrary to what people are saying that someone took one year and gave US$80 million dollars worth of contract to people, what for God’s sake. Check the record, nobody sat down in the office and just started signing contracts worth US$80 million. There were even contracts brought from 2009.”
Woods Furthered: “Copies of the contracts from the last two budget years since the MTEF began have been circulated to the PPCC, the Liberian Senate and House of Representatives and are available at the Ministries of Finance, Justice and Public Works. Payments made on contracts that were approved by the PPCC, the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Justice are legitimate Government obligations and it is misleading to say that those payments or ongoing obligations as reflected in the three-year expenditure plan overcommitted the Government when in fact these are obligations reflected in an approved framework”, said Woods.
“Nobody sat down in the office and just started signing contracts worth 80 million dollars, go ask the contractors, there were payment schedules, as the government we have not even met most of our obligations on payment schedules. When we tell people we are paying them on this time, money is not available, that is understandable. We all work around just to get things on time, that may not excuse some contractors who may have undermined the BOQ or the scope of work and may not have performed… we cannot give them money for what they did not do”, he explained.
The former Labor and Public Works Minister said there was decentralization of power in the workings of the Ministry and no one individual took all the decisions.
“There was decentralization, division of Labor at the Ministry of Public Works. Look at the audit report around 2008, the Morlu administration at the GAC, look at the recommendation.”
The former infrastructure minister asserted that he remains open to both ‘financial or technical scrutiny’ to protect and defend his credibility and integrity during his tenure as head of the Ministry.
He said his resignation from government was “unprecedented”, and therefore, he has no fear.
The former public works minister maintained that he remains open to audit, but would not submit to what he called ‘political circus’.
He claimed that the Government was bent on instigating some of the issues that are reported in the public for “evil” people to tarnish the reputation of others.
He explained that percentage payments for contracts were made by the Ministry of Finance to companies based upon a clearance from the Ministers of Justice and Finance as well as the Ministry of Public Works.
“I have no fear at all. You know Liberia is a very interesting country; you know we worked in government and sometimes to be frank with you; it is the government itself that instigates some of the issues because some people are just evil,” he continued. “They will choose to tarnish people reputation. I been following some reports in the newspapers, comments on radio and I could not leave them unanswered. I live and work in this country and nobody contacted me from anywhere on any issue whether in government or at the Ministry of Public Works. When I heard these things, it is also important for me to step forward and set the record straight and to also let them know that I am prepared, willing and ready for any issue whether it is financial or technical or any kind of scrutiny.
The renowned human rights lawyer and advocate averred that he has an impeccable record both locally and internationally. “I will not sit and allow people to play with this. Don’t give boys men job to do; give men, men job to do. Nobody has contacted or informed me about any investigation.”
Hear him: “obody has investigated me, and nobody has even suggested investigating me as far as I am concerned. If there is a need for it, I am not opposed to it at all. I am open to scrutiny; I am open to any audit. I am prepared for it and willing to submit to it, but I will not submit to any political circus People collect few human beings around this town and say well, these are engineers and they are going to do technical audit.”