SSF’s Gov’t Awarded Contracts Troubling -Local Construction Companies’ Fate Hangs On Threat; Is Liberianization Policy Actually At Its Best? When Will Absolute Empowerment Of Liberians Transform Into Custodians Of Their Own Economy?

Despite being referred to by so many worrisome terminologies and expressions; some called it still birth; death upon arrival; an anti-citizens’ platform to keep them from realizing massive development and improvement from their owned resources; pundits, in total dismay are still critically wondering about the significance of the Liberianization Policy and its impact on the citizens’ progressive empowerment and elevation.

Every day and everywhere, the air of the country is fill with the wailing and regret from Liberians of either being clandestinely denied of empowerment or frustratingly robbed out of opportunity to compete or render the space to openly function based on legislation puts aside exclusively for Liberian citizens.

As pundits’ curiosity begins to foam with pain-stricken questions about the unworkability of the policy, starting with why local construction companies’ fate hangs on thread? Is Liberianization Policy actually at its best? When will absolute empowerment of Liberians transform into actual custodians of their own economy? In this edition, this medium begins (firstly with construction) a series of the dominance of foreign owned construction companies acquiring government’s awarded construction contracts with SSF Entrepreneur Inc., a Lebanese-owned Engineering Company being focused.

Recently, the PARROT in spite of the hue and cry of several local construction companies about being sidelined in being awarded contracts by government, also learned of the Grand Cape Mount Road Project being awarded to SSF Construction Company and decided to ascertain if any bidding exercise attended the contract which the SSF is undertaking, and how many entities participated in the process.

After exerting effort to speak to the head of SSF, this medium was told that the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Mr. Shawaki Fawaz of SSF Entrepreneur Inc was out of the country. When contacted via WhatsApp on Wednesday,, August 11, 2021 at 2:32pmin a text message which states; Hi Mr. Fawaz, am the editor of the Parrot Newspaper and doing a story on the road project in Grand Cape Mount County and I’d want to know if there was any bidding process and how many contested against you because that road is a very important development for the nation. His first short response was Who this is please. I replied:  Please read the text message sent you then you’ll know who’s texting you. This text was sent at 2:35pm. Then came his second text: I do understand my son do you and I spoke before I know I would like to talk to you instead of your boss. This text came at 2:42pm I the responded; Awaiting your reply Sir…this was sent at 2:43pm. Then he wrote: I think you got to find out from public work authorities it would be better I am not in the country right now undergoing medical treatment. This text came at 2:44pm and the last, Thanks came at 2:45pm.

Again, following frantic efforts to talk with Ministry of Public Works by my reporter with no progress, I placed in several calls to Deputy Minister for Administration Joseph Torh without any answer at all. After several attempts, I later sent him a text message on Saturday, August 14, 2021 at 1:32pm which reads: Hi Sir, despite calling for long with no response, I’m d editor for Parrot Newspaper n would like to know if d Grand Cape Mount road project awarded to SSF was ever bidded for n how many companies took part? Contacted Mr. Fawaz who’s currently abroad for medication n referred (me) to d Ministry for an answer. Pls addressed question Sir

       In a related development, President George M. Weah         declared to the entire world that Liberians will no longer be spectators to their own economy. “As we open our doors to all foreign direct investments, we will not permit Liberian-owned businesses to be marginalized. We cannot remain spectators in our own economy,” said President Weah, at his inaugural address in January, but this proclamation after some time has become a mere charade as things are still proceeding as business as usual, with Liberian-owned businesses screaming out the loudest while disappointingly melting in thin air with heavy hearts; for indeed, they have become the actual spectators in their own economy.

According to the  FrontPageAfrica, using the Freedom of Information Act, it received confirmation from the Public Procurement Concessions Commission that Lebanese national Mohamad Bittar has been contracted for work on the 14 Military Hospital. Another Lebanese National, Ali Kobiessi of Building Materials Center (BMC) is reportedly contracted to revamp the VIP terminal at the RIA.

The paper reported that both Bittar and Ali of BMC are also said to be (allegedly) involved in construction of several of President Weah’s private properties including the reconstruction of the 9th Street property, the Jamaica Lodge Resort, and what is believed to be his dream house near the Baptist Seminary on the Robertsfield Highway. Bittar was also awarded the Doe Community road contract.

It can be recalled that during Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s administration, the government came under fire for single sourcing Sinkor Streets road contract including all avenues to West Africa Enterprise, a company owned by Lebanese national, Shawki Fawaz.

Fawaz also served as CEO of SSF Construction Company which was also awarded several road construction projects including the construction of Gbarpolu Road and asphalt pavement on various roads in and around Monrovia.

Analysis shows that SSF Entrepreneur Inc. 17 contracts constituting 32.69% of the total number of projects awarded during Madam Sirleaf’s era based on sole source procurement method amounting to US$48,576,700.28. The second contractor, CHICO received eight (8) contracts constituting 15.38% of the total number of projects awarded on a sole source basis amounting to US$17,054,714.79.

SSF Entrepreneur Incorporated was established over fourteen years ago. The Company established by Mr. Shawki Fawaz, a businessman who has spent over 30 years of his entire adult life in Liberia since his arrival in the ‘70s.

A Lebanese by birth, the SSF CEO rose to the position of operations manager and managing director respectively at two logging companies operated in Grand Gedeh, Lofa and Sinoe Counties.

Meanwhile, investigation continues.

-Writes GDJ

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