MONROVIA, Montserrado – President George Weah has submitted a concession agreement between the government and Prista Port Buchanan LLC to the legislature for ratification.
The US$277 million concession agreement will cover a term of 25 years, during which time the concessionaire will be obligated to develop, operate, manage, and optimize the operations of the Port of Buchanan.
According to the communication from the president’s office, Prista is expected to create over 1,000 jobs, with priority given to qualified Liberians. The letter said Prista will be tasked with improving access to education and the healthcare system as well as give preference to Liberian suppliers in the procurement of services and goods.
The president said the deal will increase the Port of Buchanan’s capacity from 3.5 million tons to 9 million tons per year by 2041.
“This includes the construction and operation of several manufacturing facilities, for example in motor oil production, as well as providing utilities such as electricity to the surrounding area,” the president’s letter said. “In effect, this may create a secondary industrial and business hub in Liberia and improve the business environment.”
Weah added that the improved capacity and efficiency of the Port of Buchanan is essential in supporting the government’s long-term aim of exporting iron ore from both Nimba and Guinea.
“Liberia will receive healthy revenues in the form of performance fees, whereby the concession shares 50 percent of berth fees, and US$0.25 per metric ton of cargo shipped with the government, alongside substantial corporate income tax of around $145 million,” the communication added.
Despite the optimistic view in the communication from the president’s office, in July, The Bush Chicken reported that the government’s decision to invite the Bulgarian company Prista Oil Holding EAD to develop the Port of Buchanan may have violated public procurement laws.
Prista produces and distributes motor and industrial oils, lubricants, and special fluids. It is also one of the leading Bulgarian companies operating in more than 45 countries in Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia, and North Africa.
At the Public Procurement and Concessions Commission, a source who spoke to The Bush Chicken anonymously for fear of retribution disclosed that Prista was the only company involved in the bid for the project, thus making it a sole source concession. Procurement laws set strict requirements for sole-source agreements and selection of Prista appears to not have met any of the five criteria.
When contacted, authorities at PPCC turned down a request to provide information on the agreement and justifications for having it categorized as a sole-source agreement. The agency is now run by Jargbe Roseline Nagbe Kowo, wife of Janga Kowo, Liberia’s comptroller general and former secretary-general of Weah’s Congress for Democratic Change.
In addition to the Prista concession agreement, the president also asked the legislature to approve an investment incentive to Capital Link Corporation. According to the president, the company will construct and develop a cement plant within the Port of Buchanan with the capacity to produce 500 tons per day, expandable to 1,000.
While the president estimated the agreement to be worth over US$35 million over 15 years and create 500 jobs during its construction stage and over 100 direct jobs during the operations of the plant, it was not clear what specific incentives were being offered to the company.
The communication from Weah’s office also said the company would provide a grant of US$10,000 to Grand Bassa for scholarships.
Featured photo by Zeze Ballah