Friday, December 28, 2012

A tribute to a Fallen Social Hero “Chief Armah Marsa Kpissay”

 No one is immune from death and the pains that it brings to those who lost their love one. On December 27, 2012, the Towns of Gatima, Lowoma, Kondesu & Sasazu lost a great son, father, uncle, & grand father to the cold hands of death. On that evening, news of elder Armah Marsa Kpissay’s death spread around the world like undulating tornado in the dry desert in the Far East. As I pen this tribute in tears, I’m left with painful memories of occurrences and events leading to elder Kpissay’s death. I’m also left with bunch of unanswered questions that only God can provide answers to.

When one finds him/herself in such a painful and tearful dilemma, all one is often left with are memories of painful occurrences. Some (like me) narrates or voice out their feelings while others keep those memories as semiprecious stone worth millions of Dollars care. Papa Armah “as he was affectionally called” viewed life in a totally prism form than lots of other people do. He most time saw and treated things in a very special way that probably no one will do after he’s finally laid to rest.
Today, I pen this tribute in a special way in memory of an elder who opened his doors to students who were faced with the daunting task of struggling to meet the expense of their survival and education in a very far away town of Gatima in what used to be called Lower Lofa County (now Gbarpolu County).
Many days we roamed the hallway of elder Kpissay’s home in search of daily bread. In those difficult times, he usually reminded us that he did not define family as those he biologically fathered. He often told us “as long as you are willing to add value to yourself (by going to school), you are one of mine”.

When I received the phone call about elder Kpissay’s unexpected and untimely death on that quiet night of December 27, 2012, the night became darkened and unending, revealing all the struggles he personally helped encouraged us to successfully pass through. He thought us to begin each day with a new enlightened way so that we would find in solitude the answer to his many traditional proverbs.
I managed to but could not hide my emotion from my two young kids who were with me when I received the phone call. I sat in complete disbelieve that I will never forget or escape.
Elder Kpissay, you are physically gone today but those of us you leave behind will never be the same, we will walk around and through Gatima and Mormazu without your physical guidance. Now you are on your own, we are here alone.
In the great beyond, you will march with your eyes so bright; your thoughts will become untangle. Today, your wise words, your generosity, & your courage have led lots of us across the world with pride and strength to cope with any form of difficulties. You left behind a dent that will never be filled in your absence.
May the Lord Almighty lead you through eternity & light perpetual shine on you.
By: Sam Kamara Zinnah

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Did Kofi Woods influence FPA grading system?

 By: Sam K Zinnah

On Sunday December 16, 2012 at about 23:58 hours, just minutes after I concluded the part one of “The unmasking of Kofi Woods”, FPA released what is now appearing as one of the most criticized annual grade point ever in it publishing history. The release entitled “who made it, who flunked”, caught my attention. I repositioned my laptop and began carefully perusing the report card. As I went deep down the report, I began to see the level of biasness and subjective reporting. On Saturday December 15, 2012, just day before the report was released, reliable sources from the ministry of public works saw Rodney Sieh dinning with minister Woods. Further investigation into the alleged meeting revealed that Minster Woods and Mr. Sieh’s meeting decided who gets what in the so-called bias report card that has receive more than 80% negative comments since the publication on December 16, 2012. The December 15 meeting was mainly intended to focus on several ministers who minister Woods sees as possible contenders in the 2017 presidential elections that President Johnson-Sirleaf will not be taking part in. Labor minister Varbah Gayflor is not one of the focus persons for the 2017 project but she received one of the worst grades as a result of minister woods interest at the labor ministry.
Investigation into Minister Gayflor’s “D” average revealed that one of the deputy ministers (name with held for now until minister woods challenge this report) at the labor ministry is minister woods very special interest and have been at logger head with minister Gayflor since she took over as minister of Labor. Internal memo obtained from the labor ministry showed that minister Gayflor once ordered the suspension of the deputy minister concern but minister Woods intervention help to halt the situation. Minster Woods allegedly influenced FPA’s Rodney Sieh to give “D” average to minister Gayflor with the intention to make minister Gayflor unpopular with president Johnson-Sirleaf.

Minister Woods targets are; Finance Minister Amara Konneh, Defense Minister Browine Samukai, and Foreign Minister Augustine Ngafuan. He intend to use Rodney to do the dirty work by using the media to make the above cabinet ministers unpopular ahead of the 2017 presidential elections. Rodney Sieh gave Kofi Woods “A” on grounds that the ministry of public works is about to pave the major streets in Voinjama, Lofa County. How can grade be awarded even before work begins? Is this not a clear indication that something happen behind the scenes that the reading public is yet to know about?
In 2012, the road between Ganta and Voinjama is inaccessible. The old executive mansion on Broad street is leaking profusely, the Belle Yalla road which receive millions of tax payers’ money is abandoned, the Gardnersville-Paynesville red lights or Somalia drive is one of the worsts in the world, Jamaica road is not different from diamond mine, and Rodney is blindly busy giving Kofi Woods “A”

At the ministry of public works, Woods unofficial brother-in-law serves as assistant minister for planning at the same time serving as  SES Consultant for M&E thereby defrauding the ministry and Government of money.
Minister Woods have had complex media connection over the years thus giving him enough time to politically market himself over his cabinet colleagues. During the last cabinet meeting, minister Woods was overtly heard criticizing his fellow cabinet ministers about not doing enough to stamp out corruption from Government. Minister Woods continue to remain silent about his handling of the abandoned Belle Yalla road project that Government has spent millions of tax payer’s money on. How could Rodney Sieh not see all of those blunders?  






Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Unmasking of Kofi Woods’ Deals: the Belle Yalla Road Project, part I of II

By: Sam K Zinnah

One opinion piece and one direct respond to issues raised about the most publicized and now abandoned Belle Yallah Road project has drawn what observers referred to as “serious attention” to Liberia human rights activist tuned politician Kofi Woods, II. The tough talking minister is beginning to lose grip on media control as many attempts by him to stop the publication of my opinion piece in several local news papers and online magazines have caused the minister some inner stairs that might not be easily repaired. The unfortunate lesson which the Honorable Minister is yet to learn is that he is beginning to lose control of the media gradually. With all the maneuvering he did after my first publication, he failed to stop other papers from publishing the second one. I must admit that the Daily Observer, InProfile Daily and stood up to the task of promoting free speech in Liberia. Unlike Mr. Rodney Sieh, Publisher of Front Page Africa online, who has made promoting Kofi Woods’ impossible mission of becoming Liberia’s First President with an Ashanti name from Ghana one of his top priorities. The media institutions showed their commitment to the promotion of free speech unabated. Since Rodney Sieh started his publication, he has repeated shown how bias he is about some public officials and other issues affecting public and private Liberians at home and in the Diaspora. A simple example is the issue of the Dual Citizenship bill. Mr. Sieh deliberately refused to publicize the bill and debate until one or some of his favorite politicians were entangled in the political web concerning their alleged dual status. In fact, there are other unconfirmed accounts about Rodney and Kofi plan together at times and Rodney can go after potential contenders for the presidency, all to the liking of Kofi Woods. Anyway, I will leave this discussion for another time.

What remains widely undetected by the majority of the Liberia populace is how Minister Woods has successfully managed his complex media connections to mask reports about his inability to properly and technically draw an effective project plan for the Belle Yalla Road. In my recent opinion piece “When a Human Rights Activist becomes a politician: The case of Samuel Kofi Woods, II”, I attempted to exposed some of the Honorable Minister’s covert activities and further detailed the case involving the Belle Yalla Road.

In this two-part series, I will go little bit further compared to the previous two. The problems surrounding the Belle Yalla Road can largely be blamed on Minister Woods’ lack of both technical and common sense managerial skills. Why do I say so? Because it has now become clear to the public that the Belle Yalla Road started without plan which would include starting point, width, number of bridges, the end point and duration. To add insult to injury, the project was never bided but I will deal with the bidding issue separately. The larger question is, why would anybody start a project which Government put in US$3million without a plan? Without even a competitive bid! Does this point to the other side of Kofi Woods which he has been masking for years from the public? Does it show that the Honorable Minister is or has been in bed with corruption? Not now! I will deal with this issue in separate article about why I believe Kofi Woods is not who he has portrayed himself to be all along. To this end, I would like to send out this SOS call for information on Kofi Woods current and past activities both in civil society movement and in government. Send them to Your identity will strictly be protected.

My investigation has revealed that Public works initial estimate cost for the construction of the Belle Yalla road was put at US $3million for a dusty road which is less than 60 kilometer.   Because President Sirleaf was objectively eager to have the Belle Yalla Road project completed quickly and was willing to put more taxpayers money into it. Minister Woods saw an opportunity to take a ride on President Sirleaf (a Former Prisoner at Belle Yalla Prison Compound) eagerness. With many Liberian Road Building Contractors waiting at the doors of Ministry of Public Works to take the contract, Minister Woods instead gave this US$3 million project as a NO BID contract to a Nigerian Businessman by the name of Praise Lawal. Why a Nigerian Businessman, not a Liberian Engineering Firm? The truth many do not know because of the Minister’s “Kofi” name is that his Father actually came from Nigeria to Liberia via Ghana. His father was originally born as a Nigerian and left Nigeria as a result of the Biafra Civil war. May be this will help us understand why a Nigerian Businessman got a no bid contract at the expense of Liberian Contractors. At the time of Mr. Lawal’s initial involvement, the Ministry of Public works did not include the kilometers or miles from totoquelle to Belle Yallah in the contract.
After President Sirleaf spent the historic 2009 Christmas in Belle Yalla and left, Mr. Lawal put forth a new argument that the initial information given him by the ministry of public works was misleading, as such, he couldn’t complete the contract unless the money was increased from US$3 million dollars to US$14 million. Mr. Lawal’s argument won him a fair opportunity to shift the blame from his PEALAT construction company to Ministry of Public works thus leaving the Government through the ministry of public works to contract an independent firm (believed to be a Ghanaian engineering firm) called LAMDA to conduct full calculation of the road and submit the cost to the Government of Liberia through the Ministry of public works. Surprisingly, the cost of the Belle Yalla road jumped from the initial us $3million to us $14 million.
My investigation uncovered that LAMDA was asked or directed by Minister Woods not to publicize the report. According to my investigation, the Nigerian businessman, Mr. Praise Lawal, managed to get hold of copy of the report thereby prompting renew argument by his PEALAT construction company to review the contract. The million dollars and unanswered question remains “where in the world you can re-negotiate contract value after being signed, work started and money paid in the amount US$3 million? Not only that, the new contract value is nearly five times more than the signed contract”. Please, let somebody help me here. The significant development is that all these happening under the watchful eyes of the self-declared corrupt-free and anti-waste in government advocate! Is this the Minister who recently blasted his colleagues at the recent cabinet commissioning ceremony about not doing enough to fight corruption?, he maybe right!! They are not detecting or doing enough to expose his deals. For example, the $3 million dollars no bid contract awarded to Mr. Lawal’s PEALAT construction company is a clear violation of the public procurement procedure. Did the PPPC take any action? I leave that with the public.

The Minister who is known for talking tough against contractors for poor performance has until now remained silent about the Belle Yalla road issue even though materials for the road are seeing damaged and abandoned on the road. It is difficult to imagine that the project which started in 2009 is still not completed and Minister Woods has again requested Government to put in additional money for the same project in the  2012/2013 National Budget.

Whatever took place between the Minister and Mr. Lawal remains a top secret. But the symptoms are reflected in how some employees close the Honorable Minister deal with this contractor. For example, on Saturday December 8, 2012 at about 1:00 pm local Liberian time, a public works ministry employee identified as Paul Kanneh, who was disgracefully dismissed from the GAC under auditor general John Morlu for writing false statement with the intent to steal GAC issued laptop in his possession, went to harass Mr. Lawal with alleged message that Minister Woods sent him to request for money from Mr. Lawal to counter recent articles in the local and online news papers about the Belle Yalla road project. The contractor was frustrated due to the constant wave of harassment from public works employees.

Surprisingly, Minister Woods, out of fear for his possible replacement recently wrote President Johnson-Sirleaf requesting for an excuse to attend matter outside of the ministry’s work for a good portion of the dry season. A portion of minister Woods letter to president Johnson-Sirleaf states:

Ref #: SKW-M/MPW-RL/04116/12P

 Ref: Request to travel

 To attend the international advisory board meeting of the Catholic organization for development (CORDAID) scheduled from January 24-25, 2013


Besides, minister Woods is additionally asking president Johnson-Sirleaf to permit him to travel to the U.S.A from January 26 to February 22, 2013 to continue his medical checkups.

According to the December 3, 2012 press release published on the executive Mansion website announcing the postponement of President Sirleaf’s visit to Gbarpolu County, the ministry of Public works attributed the bad road condition to the heavy rains caused by climate change.

What is surprising about this request is that the Minister has blamed bad road and his inability to complete projects on time on “climate change” implying too much rain. If the Minister is genuine about this, why is he taking away good portion of the dry season which he should be working to attend to personal matter? For the records, CORDAID is one of the donors funding Minister Woods personal NGO, ‘FINHD’. FINHD has been invited to CORDAID scheduled conference to defend its request for continued support. Therefore, Minister Woods is now using both his profile in government to solicit support for his private organization. If this is not another form of corruption, then I do not know what else is it?


Saturday, December 01, 2012

Singing his own praises, a direct respond to Joe Lacky Freeman, a.k.a Kofi Woods, II

Barely five days after the publication of my opinion piece about Liberia’s former human rights activist turned politician and public works minister Samuel Kofi Woods, you “Joe Lacky Freeman”, a man believe to be operating under a pen name swung out in defense of the minister. What you failed to clearly address in your Russian-style covert propaganda are the issues raised in my opinion piece. Instead, you overtly opened and raised your ‘political vuvuzela’ and began signing your own praises under a newly combined western and traditional style name (Joe Lacky Freeman). Unfortunately, the praise singing ‘vuvuzela’ failed to realize that my opinion piece is solely based on documentarily facts and not fallacies. In your rejoinder entitled “the benefit of a human rights activist becoming a politician, the case of Liberia’s public works minister Kofi Woods” you outlined bunch of praises and left out the issue of the abandoned Belle Yalla road project with the intent to put your audience under the impression that my opinion piece was just another noise from a minority corner. As I mentioned in my article, it is easy to condemn, criticize and challenge a relatively inconsequential regime that you are not a part of and refer to others in such regime as “humiliating leaders”.

I am not usually carried away by shower of empty praises especially coming from pen names. How can you “Joe Lacky Freeman” not read my point that minister Woods is known to carry from one ministry to another his Comptroller and Procurement Director, thus undermining continuity principle of government and the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) of the civil service Agency?”. During my investigation while in Monrovia, I visited the Labor and public works ministries, the Monrovia YMCA and was able to confirm that the current Financial Comptroller at Public Works was the Finance Officer at YMCA when Kofi Woods was Executive. When he took over Ministry of Labor, he sent for the same man, Abraham Samukai (Defense Minister brother), to return and work with him at Labor. As expected, he took him again to Ministry of Public Works when he became Minister in 2009. This time, he took six employees from Labor with him to Public Works. Interestingly, all of them from the Finance Department and Procurement Department and appointed them to the same positions at Public Works. The fundamental question is, why the Former human rights man carries with him from one public office to another the same people in finance and procurement? What is he hiding that he cannot work with other Liberian financial experts? Is the Minister not aware of the rights of Liberians he has removed and replaced them with his handbag comptroller and Director of Procurement? Is he not aware of the Civil Service Standing Orders? These are some of the questions raised in my article which the praise singer Joe Lacky Freeman (aka Kofi Woods) failed to address. In my judgment, the evidence I have gathered about Belle-Yella Road project are so overwhelming that the Minister can only resort to singing praises of what he has done at MOL and MPW. But that is not the issue! The issue is, the Government of Liberia has spent over $7million United States dollars on a farm-to-market road which is just 40 minutes driving distance and the project has been abandoned. There is clearly an appearance of collusion and corruption under the Minister’s watch. This is the Minister who recently blasted his Cabinet Colleagues for not doing much to stamp out corruption in government. The reality is Public works ministry under minister Woods is no different from previous failed and disappointing administrations. It is business as usual!

According to Joe Lacky Freeman rejoinder in defense of Minister Woods, Ministry of Public Works contracted out the Belle Yalla road but the ministry is not responsible for damaged materials. What you again failed to tell the public is “who is the contractor in charge of the Belle Yalla road project”. Information gathered from credible sources revealed that a Nigerian contractor was awarded the Belle Yalla road project. According to information gathered during my investigation, the Nigerian business man allegedly paid back 30% of the US$7million Belle Yalla Road contract money as a kick back for awarding him (the Nigerian Business man) the contract. My source informed me that the Minister who is known for talking tough against contractors for poor performance has until now remained silent. It is difficult to imagine that the project which started in 2009 is still not completed and Minister Woods has again requested Government to put in additional money for the 2012/2013 National Budget.

My investigation shows that some of the contractors who have been awarded contracts based on Fiscal Budgetary Allocation for 2012/2013 include Lebanese businessman Farwaz ($7.9 million) and $3 million dollars to the Nigerian Business man who have abandoned the Belle Yalla road project while other Liberian owned construction firms roam around the public works ministry without receiving a penny from their own Government. The current state of affairs at MPW is disappointing and a disservice to the taxpayers. Anyone who doubt my information would do well to contact Liberian Engineering Firms who are seeking contracts with Public Works under Minister Woods, do not take my word for it. I have credible information which I cannot release now until I return to Liberia in two weeks to take another group of Journalists to inspect the Belle-Yalla Road project.
Mr. Freeman gave some specific technical information in his rejoinder which I strongly believe came directly from Minister Woods’s desk. His three pages long rejoinder exhaustively contains disinformation which have been discredited by many and will soon further expose his Minister. In your rejoinder, you asserted that “there have been sustained media reports about the failure and slow pace of the Belle-Yella road project. Contrary to those claims, the Belle-Yella Project is ongoing, but experiencing some delays in term of implementation.

When I recently asked Deputy Public Works Minister for Technical Services, Victor B. Smith about the status of the project, he acknowledged that there were delays, but quickly attributed these delays to several reasons including financial difficulties”. Perhaps your biggest disinformation which flew in the faces of all the journalists that went with me on the Belle Yalla road assessment have further exposed your poor media propaganda intended to mislead the public. I challenge your false rosy hymnal praises. I will be in Monrovia in few weeks. If in fact a Joe Lacky Freeman actually exists, I will invite you along with several journalist of your choice to go with me to verify your claim that the Belle Yalla road project is ongoing. Please make sure to come with proper academic and national identity to ensure that there is a real Joe Lack Freeman.

I cannot end this piece without a pledge to the people of Gbarpolu county and to officials of the Ministry of Public Works. To my people of Belle Yalla, I have your backs and I heard your cry loud and for long. I say the night has been long and your day is coming soon. For the Ministry of Public Works officials, you have me to content with for the rest of 2013. I will follow every single thing which the Ministry of Finance has put in the budget for road construction in Gbarpolu, particularly, starting with the Belle-Yalla Road. If it takes me to organize street protest before your offices to draw public attention to the full completion of the road, it will happen. To achieve this, I am returning to Liberia in December 2012 to prepare for the cause. We will help President Sirleaf to stamp out corruption in Government by playing our civic role as good citizens.

To ensure a system of transformation with the intent to touched various aspects of the Liberian society, from consciousness to culture, values and community with the goal to rebuild our nation’s image so as to stimulate growth, and to provide opportunities for local and national involvement in productive activities in not only Monrovia but rural Liberia as well. I firmly believe these things can be done by providing farm to market roads and secure environment. In this respect, road, one of which matters most to the people of Belle Yalla and its environs should not be taken for granted especially by the man who condemned and criticized others so loud when he was not in Government.