Monrovia - A Liberian construction company, CJ Construction Incorporated, says it is completely frustrated and disappointed in the action of the National Housing Authority (NHA) for reneging to pay a US$28,307.88 retention fee owed the company for constructing eight housing units in Brewerville, Montserrado County.
“How do they expect Liberian contractor to continue to do business when you have all these problems all the time that they want to pay (for work done), I mean they strangulate you so that you can’t be able to compete and you always hear that Liberian companies can’t complete project”- James Johnson, Managing Partner - CJ Construction Incorporated
FrontPageAfrica reported in September this year that the NHA and the construction firm was heading to the Debt Court after the company had written series of communications requesting that the housing authority abided by the contract documents.
In accordance with the contract provision, the housing authority was to pay the 10% percent retention fee on May 29, 2016, something the NHA has failed to do, according to the company.
“We have written many letters to the housing authority for our money, one of those letters requesting that the total amount of US$28,307.88 be paid to us which includes US$22,565.01 held for the contract retention and US$5,805.87 for change order #02 and #03 which the NHA added to the original contract.”
The contract states that the defect liability period allows for the NHA to determine if there are faults on the project after and when no issues are found, the retention shall be released to the contractor. However, up to now, a release from CJ Construction says NHA is refusing to pay them the money.
“On 29th February 2016 we sent a letter to the National Housing Authority (NHA) addressed to the Deputy Managing Director, Prince Wreh informing him that the construction of the eight housing units for the National Housing Authority at Brewerville are completed and requested for the Final Completion Certificate,” a letter in possession of FPA, written by the firm to NHA states.
“Since our initial notification followed by several correspondences to the NHA for the Final Completion Certificate, we have not heard from the NHA.”
Court Orders Arbitration
When CJ Construction opted for court action, Judge James Jones of the Debt Court ordered that the two parties go into arbitration and if it fails to mitigate the issue, then the court would become the last resolve.
But when FrontPage Africa contacted the housing authority, its lawyer, Cllr. Stanly Kpainkillen said “The court had thrown the case out”, contrary to information obtained from Judge Jones.
Judge Jones told FPA that the court granted NHA request because it wanted both parties to follow the terms of the contract agreement which stipulates arbitration.
CJ Construction lawyer, Dempster Brown described Kpainkellen action as “deceptive”, and said when he wrote NHA Managing Director Samuel Wulu on September 1, 2016, informing him about the arbitration, h promised to settle the matter.
“He told me he had no problem with the payment of the money, and never wanted arbitration, promising that he will pay the money to the client,” Cllr Brown told FPA. “After a week I did a follow up to know if they will make the payment and now I‘ll be writing a second letter to them.”
On October 26 Senior Managing Partner of CJ Construction, James Johnson sent a text message (shared with FrontPageAfrica) to Wulu, reminding him about his promise to pay the retention fees.
He also said on many occasions the NHA acknowledged that it is obligated to paying the fees to the company but at the same time remains adamant to make the payments.
“Hello Mr. Wulu, my attorney told me that he met with you and that an agreement was reached to release our retention and that both lawyers met to finalize the agreement. "
"My attorney says that no progress is being made on your side. It is going to three weeks now and I would hope that this matter can be amicably resolved in the shortest possible time,” the text read.
Seeking President Sirleaf’s Intervention
Johnson, who disclosed that the company was preparing to go back to the debt court for further litigation, is also calling on President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to intervene in order to help protect a Liberian-owned company.
CJ Construction is credited for constructing the US$5 million new ELWA hospital sponsored by Samaritan Purse. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who attended the delegation program of the hospital over the weekend, praised the company for its commitment to completing the project.
Applauding CJ construction at the program, President Sirleaf promised that her government will support Liberian firms like CJ Construction that are committed to the development process of the country.
“Of course we applauded CJ, in fact we know you CJ, but we hear you about the need to ensure that we expand our services to groups like yourself,” the Iberian leader said.
Strangulating Liberian Firms
CJ Construction Incorporated is a 100% Liberian construction firm with almost ten years of implementing projects in Liberia. CJ Construction has also executed projects for APM Terminals, LPRC, the US Embassy in Monrovia as well as several other projects in Liberia.
But with the ongoing situation, the company finds herself with the NHA, Johnson is bemoaning the challenges his company is going through due to the NHA’s action.
“We have spent the money to do the project, we need to get pay back the money because we have vendors, we have sub-contractors that we need to pay,’ Mr. Johnson said in a statement on Wednesday, October 26 at his office in Paynesville City.
Many Liberian firms have been slammed for failing to complete projects in the country which has made these firms struggle for survival, but Mr. Johnson claims that Liberian firms underperform because they are often strangulated by government agencies like the National Housing Authority.
“How do they expect Liberian contractor to continue to do business when you have all these problems all the time that they want to pay (for work done), I mean they strangulate you so that you can’t be able to compete and you always hear that Liberian companies can’t complete project,” he said, describing the NHA action as deplorable.
Continued Mr. Johnson: “Here you have a Liberian contractor that completed a project and the National Housing Authority still finds flaws in terms of just basically keeping on to the retention.