Liberia: Tussles over city parking fees

By Peterking Quaye – On Tuesday, February 7, 2012, the House Plenary suspended, for two weeks, the controversial city parking regulation initiated by the Monrovia City Corporation (MCC).

But the issue came about on Tuesday following a 2-hour grilling of Monrovia’s Acting City Mayor Mary Broh who was summoned at the House to provide justification for the city parking fees. House Speaker Alex J. Tyler later mandated a committee chaired by Rep. Sekou Konneh (Montserrado) to investigate activities of City Hall concerning the parking fees.

Earlier, Madam Broh heard the reading of a communication by Rep. Wesseh Blamoh (Grand Kru) seeking her summon to explain why the MCC charged high city parking fees for vehicles without security guaranty.

Ms. Broh told the lawmakers that the fees were reasonable enough for vehicle owners living in the city. “The fees are not high. I give an option; you can park your vehicle outside Monrovia and get on the NTA bus to reach your work site or you park and pay the LD50,”she said.

On the question of paying to park vehicles without security guarantee, the acting mayor said if an individual needs security while his/her vehicle is parked, the MCC would charge additional fees to the parking fees.

“In terms of security hiring, you need to pay additional fees,” she added. The lawmakers later suspended the hearing for about 15 minutes and called for a secret session after which Speaker Tyler mandated the sergeant- at-arms to escort Madam Broh back into the chambers, official venue of the hearing.

Rep. Fofi S. Baimba (Lofa) moved a motion that was passed to suspend the city parking fees for two weeks, while the matter is being investigated.

The two-week suspension is in place, according to the plenary, to allow for a thorough investigation into the entire city parking regulation. The investigation would also follow how companies were hired to collect city parking fees. The plenary reached the decision Tuesday following the appearance of acting Monrovia City Mayor, Madam Mary Broh before the body. At least 36 lawmakers voted for the suspension of the city parking regulation.

Madam Broh was last week summoned by the House of Representatives to justify, amongst other things, why the controversial city parking regulation was initiated. Madam Broh was also summoned to give reason for the imposition of fees on vehicle owners. This decision was triggered by a formal communication by Grand Kru County lawmaker Wisseh Blamo that the Monrovia City parking management was imposing high fees on vehicle owners without providing security for their vehicles.

Earlier, Madam Broh said the payment of L$50.00 per hour as City parking fee was very minimum compare to other Countries. She contended that the fees are reasonable and affordable on the periphery.

In terms of security, Madam Broh said providing security was an extra affair that requires additional payment. She said security is not provided for city parking anywhere.

However, On Wednesday, February 8, 2012, acting Information Minister Piah disclosed that President Johnson-Sirleaf had instructed Madam Broh to proceed with the controversial city parking regulation.

In a full disclosure on a local radio station , the acting Information Minister, Jerelinmick Piah, that the decision of the House Plenary to suspend for the period of two weeks, the payment of parking fees in Monrovia is reversed following a meeting with President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and House Speaker J. Alex Tyler. The Press and Public Affairs Bureau of the House of Representatives says the decision by the body’s plenary to suspend for the period of two weeks, the payment of parking fees in Monrovia remains unchanged. According to a press release issued by the House Press and Public Affairs Bureau, the decision can only be reversed based on the decision of the plenary, which is the highest decision making body of the House of Representatives. The House Bureau press release, signed by Mr. Isaac Redd, Director of Press and Public Affairs, was in reaction to assertions by.

Acting Information Minister, who quoted President Johnson-Sirleaf, further disclosed that the MCC and the city parking regulation was a function of the Executive Branch of Government. Among other things, he added that the President’s instruction to Madam Broh was communicated to Speaker Tyler out of courtesy.

But the House Press and Public Affairs Bureau described the assertions by the acting Information Minister Piah as “gross misrepresentation of the fact”. However, the House Press Bureau acknowledged that a Tuesday, February 7, 2012 meeting convened between President Johnson-Sirleaf and House Speaker Tyler on a wide range of national issues, including the decision to halt the payment of parking fees in Monrovia, but there was no agreement reached to revise the plenary action.

(The imposition of taxes and duties, as in the case of the parking fees, remain a Constitutional responsibility of the Legislature as enshrined in Article 35 (d).The Constitutional responsibility to levy taxes, duties, import or delegate that function to any agency of the Executive has and will never be compromised by the 53rd Legislature,” the press release indicated.

“Additionally, the Plenary action was to pursue exercising its oversight responsibility to ensure check and balance. This tax exercise will be reviewed and Plenary will take the appropriate action to address the concerns of its citizens as agreed by the House plenary,” the press release added.