Three companies - the United Telephone Exchange (UTE), Infotel Italia and a Chinese company, Huawei Technologies, were selected to bid for what remains of Liberia's incumbent telco, LTC. UTE was selected as the winning bidder and this is when the trouble started. Its key management figure is a US bankrupt and the company does not have the credit rating required to make its promised investment.

As The Analyst's News Editor Gibson W. Jerue reports, information obtained from the website of the United States Bankruptcy Court indicates that the President and Chief Executive Officer of UTE - the bid winner - was held for bankruptcy six years ago in the United States of America.

There have been claims and counter claims between two of the bidders for the revitalization of the Liberia Telecommunications Corporation - the UTE and Infotel Italia bordering on who is qualified and capable to take up the challenge of giving Liberians the opportunity of having a modernized and viable telecommunication.

The Keith Wilson-led Infotel Italia Telephone Company has been particularly furious that it was not selected over the UTE, claiming that is was more credible, viable and capable to do the job than UTE can. Infotel embarked on a massive media campaign to bring to light what it believes is evidence that UTE cannot deliver what it has promised.

The President and Chief Executive Officer of UTE, James S. Yarclay, told The Analyst recently that he is a technocrat, his company is viable and licensed by the United States to do telephone business, and therefore, he saw no reason why some group would question his company's ability to do the job it says it can.

But information obtained by The Analyst indicates that James S. Yarclay was held on September 2, 1999 for bankruptcy in the United States of America.

Mr. Yarclay (with last four of Social Security number - 8738) and a woman said to be his wife, Teresa L. Yarclay (last four of Social Security number 3810) have reportedly gone bankrupt nearly six years ago, while living in the USA. Their case number is 99 - 36237 and it is likely that the Yarclays may have voluntarily filed for bankruptcy in accordance with Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Statute of the USA. Chapter 7 essentially called for individuals to voluntarily file for bankruptcy, and the State Government eventually takes up the case. According to records of the United States Bankruptcy Courts, "the matter was for a 'No Assets' case, which includes cash, personal effects, property and any stocks, bonds or investments.

During the court proceedings, the Yarclays were represented by their attorney J.P. Peacock, Jr., and it is not known whether the case has been totally adjudicated and whether Mr. Yarclay and his wife have regain solvency.

Following a period of "scrutiny", the LTC Board rated the UTE highest of all the bidders, but that decision did not go down well with one of the bidders, Infotel Italia. In one of its press articles, Infotel called for the impeachment of the Chairman of the select committee responsible to oversee the bidding process, Francis Nyepon, on grounds that he lacks foresight and good sense of judgment for having presided over a decision that give UTE the opportunity to operate the LTC.

Infotel claimed that UTE is not credible and capable to operate. It quoted the Dun and Bradstreet Corporation, a credible American company that evaluates company's performance, as saying that the UTE has an average high credit of USD1,000, highest credit of USD2,500, and had only seven employees. It makes UTE a rather unlikely investor of the USD170 million investment it has promised.

The Infotel Italia further alleged that the Dun and Bradstreet has recorded that UTE has a zero net worth, and zero working capital, which means, Infotel alleged, UTE has higher risk that other companies in the same region, higher risk than any other companies in the same industry, higher risk that other companies in the same employee size range and higher risk than other companies with a comparable number of years in the business.

But following the publication of the purported Dun and Bradstreet record of UTE, the company's CEO James S. Yarclay walked into the offices of The Analyst to refute what he called "misinformation and disinformation" about his company. Yarclay presented to The Analyst minutes of the meeting held by the Board of LTC with some executives of the bidder companies.

In part of the meeting, Yarclay pointed out, some members of the Bidding Committee raised questions on Infotel's ability to service the contract, whether it has the money to do the job. In response, according to the meeting minutes, Infotel is said to have told the Board that it would solicit money from Banks or ask the Government of Liberia to put forth some initial amount of the money.

When contacted last night by phone on the issue of his bankruptcy, Mr. Yarclay told The Analyst: "Look, the entire Liberia is bankrupt. Why would you want to know about my bankruptcy in the United States of America? That is not necessary for me to comment," and cut off the phone.

The Analyst