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President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has asked the Public to give Minister Weeks time to perform after nearly one year of doing “nothing” in the position

Despite endless calls, backed by series of peaceful demonstrations, by Liberians on President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to replace her Public Works Minister, the Liberian leader has refused to heed, and another civil society organization has launched a stinging criticism, questioning the President’s own true commitment to rebuilding the country’s infrastructure.

 Public Works Minister Antoinette has been described as “an ineffective” infrastructure Minister after spending nearly one year in office without reportedly initiating one project of her own or exerting efforts  to complete those started by her predecessor.

Several citizens’ groups, parading placards have staged protest actions before the compounds of the Ministry of Public Works in central Monrovia, calling on her to do the Liberian people’s work or step down, but President Sirleaf recently told the nation that Weeks should be left alone as she was still putting her house in order.

The President’s statement has pulled cutting criticism from a huge segment of the public, with many claiming that the President was fully backing Week’s lackadaisical and directionless affairs at one of the country’s most demanding ministries.  

Meanwhile, in a statement issued in Monrovia over the weekend, Prince Kreplah, Executive Director of the Citizens United to Promote Peace & Democracy in Liberia (CUPPDL) insinuated that President Sirleaf’s action to keep Weeks at Public Work was hurting to Liberians, attributing the situation to cronyism.

 “Over the past months, citizens of Liberia have been concerned due to the lack of performance of the Minister of Public Works. All over the country, we have witnessed the lack of progress on any infrastructural intervention. To the extent that absolutely nothing seems to be working at all in the country’s infrastructure sector,” the CUPPDL statement noted.

 Kreplah and his CSO said they are also aware of the fact that the Minister of Public Works, like any other Minister, is charged with certain responsibilities which among other things include the planning, designing, construction and maintenance of public infrastructure, formulation and supervision of government’s construction contracts, formulation and ensuring compliance with acceptable engineering and architectural standards.

He said “Unfortunately and for all the wrong reasons, the current Minister in person of Antoinette Weeks has woefully failed to execute the functions and responsibilities of the Ministry without any concrete justification as she continues to receive whooping monthly salary of US$16,000 plus several emoluments.”

 Claiming that the Public Works Minister was receiving one of the highest pay checks in the current administration, Kreplah wondered whether Dr. Weeks tell the Liberian people what she has been able to accomplish for the past 10 months other than the castigation of past ministers of the Ministry.

 “Presently, as we speak, all activities point to the glaring reality that since assumption of state power by Madam Sirleaf and the ruling Unity Party, the Public Works Ministry is at its lowest ebb in terms of performance,” the statement continued. “Perhaps, one reason for this is the coined adage that those who knows nothing and cannot positively contribute to anything, are very good destroyer of everything.”

 The CSO leader said “Dr. Weeks has become a Frankenstein to this government and yet the President has refused to do what is necessary. All because of nepotistic and parochial interest while abandoning the cries of the Liberian people.”

 President Sirleaf last October told Dr. Weeks that she had yet to see the footprints of the country’s first-ever female infrastructure minister, but the President later said her statement was misunderstood, which she recently capped when she said the Minister was still accessing the operations of the sector.

 “We are therefore taken aback and seriously wonder about the President’s commitment to the development of the country,” Kreplah noted. “Upon her return to the country last year following surgery in the US, this same President announced that she was back and Liberians would see her commitment during the dry season. This dry season has come and gone with no work done. Again during her annual message to the Legislature in January of this year, she made commitment that work on Somalia Drive would commence in February. In a recent speech on the economy, President Sirleaf offered a solution to our economic woes by indicating that she will address efficiency and performance.”

 He added: “In a recent comment, she asked the nation to give Minister Antoinette Weeks a chance in sharp contrast to her stated commitments to the Liberian People. All this come in the wake of the legislative inquest on Minister Weeks’ performance. Minister Weeks has rested to blame-shifting and mudslinging, but has neglected and miserably failed in presenting a comprehensive plan to the very President and the people of Liberia about where she wants to take the Ministry of Public Works, how she will get there and what is needed. This has nothing to do with her predecessor after more than 10 months in office.”

See Full statement below …….

 PRESS STATEMENT DELIVERED BY THE CITIZENS UNITED TO PROMOTE PEACE & DEMOCRACY IN LIBERIA (CUPPDL)

Sunday, June 29, 2014, Monrovia, Liberia

 CRONYISM OVERWHELMS PRESIDENT SIRLEAF

 Monrovia, Monday, June 30, 2014….Barely few days after the letter of Christopher Z. Neyor exposing some of the internal contradictions in the Presidency, we hereby express our utter disappointment and disgust about the President’s recent comments regarding the Ministry of Public Works.

 Over the past months, citizens of Liberia have been concerned due to the lack of performance of the Minister of Public Works. All over the country, we have witnessed the lack of progress on any infrastructural intervention. To the extent that absolutely nothing seems to be working at all in the country’s infrastructure sector.

 Minister’s Incompetence and poor performance:

 We are also aware of the fact that the Minister of Public Works like any other Minister is charged with certain responsibilities which among other things include the planning, designing, construction and maintenance of public infrastructure, formulation and supervision of government’s construction contracts, formulation and ensuring compliance with acceptable engineering and architectural standards.

Established by an Act of Legislature in 1928, the Public Works Minister is also responsible for the registration and issuance of certificates to construction companies and contractors, the reviewing and issuing of construction and other important permits, and the administration of urban planning and zoning including land use activities.

Unfortunately and for all the wrong reasons, the current Minister in person of Antoinette Weeks has woefully failed to execute the above functions and responsibilities without any concrete justification as she continues to receive whooping monthly salary of US $ 16,000.00 plus several emoluments. This is one of the highest pay checks in the current administration! 

Can Dr. Weeks tell the Liberian people what she has been able to accomplish for the past 10 months other than the castigation of past ministers of the Ministry?  Presently, as we speak, all activities point to the glaring reality that since assumption of state power by Madam Sirleaf and the ruling Unity Party, the Public Works Ministry is at its lowest ebb in terms of performance. Perhaps, one reason for this is the coined adage that those who knows nothing and cannot positively contribute to anything, are very good destroyer of everything. Dr. Weeks has become a Frankenstein to this government and yet the President has refused to do what is necessary. All because of nepotistic and parochial interest while abandoning the cries of the Liberian people.

Questioning President Sirleaf Commitment to Development of Liberia:

We are therefore taken aback and seriously wonder about the President’s commitment to the development of the country. Upon her return to the country last year following surgery in the US, this same President announced that she was back and Liberians would see her commitment during the dry season. This dry season has come and gone with no work done. Again during her annual message to the Legislature in January of this year, she made commitment that work on Somalia Drive would commence in February. In a recent speech on the economy, President Sirleaf offered a solution to our economic woes by indicating that she will address efficiency and performance.

In a recent comment, she asked the nation to give Minister Antoinette Weeks a chance in sharp contrast to her stated commitments to the Liberian People. All this come in the wake of the legislative inquest on Minister Weeks’ performance. Minister Weeks has rested to blame-shifting and mudslinging, but has neglected and miserably failed in presenting a comprehensive plan to the very President and the people of Liberia about where she wants to take the Ministry of Public Works, how she will get there and what is needed. This has nothing to do with her predecessor after more than 10 months in office.

In order to undermine the legislative contempt glaringly awaiting the non-performing Minister, President Sirleaf has again attempted to rescue one of her many cry-babies as she has always done. We want to state that the likes of Antoinette Weeks, are kids whose lives have been characterized by being fed by parents and know nothing about dealing with difficulties in the real world. Our intelligence is that right now, serious efforts at monetization has been put in place through  presidential lobbyists so that the National Legislature particularly the House of Representatives will not proceed with a threat of  declaring Minister Antoinette Weeks as a ‘non-governmental material’ through an expressed ‘Vote of no Confidence’.

The issue of No Money for Work:

As conscious members of the Liberian society we have aptly followed the governance, politics and development processes in this country and quite aware of the game being played by various actors. From the committed to the non-committed!

That is exactly why we totally disagree and vehemently detest the lies that has peddled by the current Minister that she took over the Ministry of Public Works at the time the institution was penniless.

 This statement coming from the Minister of Public Works is far from the truth and should not be accepted by road-weary Liberians. It is this propaganda-ridden falsehood that Minister Weeks has institutionalized to escape public scrutiny relating to her gross incompetence and poor performance. Here in lies the fact. The former Minister of Public Works, Kofi Woods resigned in May of 2013 when the 2012/2013 budget year was already over. She had her own budget to operate for the year 2013/2014 but failed to work with the team she met at the Ministry in properly planning for works and the funds were withdrawn by the Ministry of Finance. Part of those funds could have been used to clean the drainages as a proactive measure in anticipation of the rainy season.  It is not secret for those well-conversant with public sector financial management that government agencies do not have bucket of money or solid liquid cash sitting at their various offices. Rather, governments work with appropriations and allotments, and if you do not follow the procedures and regulations spelled out in the PFM Law, you will not be able to get funding meant for running your agency and implementing projects. To cut long matter short, Dr. Weeks failed to put together a project implementation plan and so could not put to use resources placed at her disposal by the Finance Ministry. By the way what happened to the US $ 1.5 M of un-used fund withdrawn by the MoF because it could not be used in the absence of a clear plan of action? Similarly, what is going on with the Japanese counterpart value fund of US $ 5.6 M that is still holed up in LBDI while several projects remain uncompleted? In effect, poor planning, arrogance and so-called ‘superior Americo-Liberian’ mentality has conditioned this Minister for colossal failure and no amount of ‘motherly’ support from the President will reverse the tides against protégé.

 Contingent upon the above line of reasoning, we want to unequivocally state that the President is out of order in her very weak attempt to defend her protégé. A protégé who has resorted to gutter politics as a sanctuary in her woeful attempt to placate her dismal performance.

 Violation of Laws & Conflict of Interest:

 Let the President be reminded that her policy actions to shield non-performing and criminal minded officials is an act of travesty and a betrayal of the Liberian people which will not be forgiven at all! We are fully aware that there have been several violations of our country’s laws and President Sirleaf must deal with these issues. For instance, the procurement laws of Liberia have been violated by the Minister. She committed fraud by intervening in the bidding process for consultancy on the Ganta-Yekepa Road when she unilaterally changed scores in favour of a company she previously worked for. This is called conflict of interest; similar act for which former Auditor General Robert L. Kilby and GSA boss Perraine-Davis Parkinson were out rightly dismissed by this same President. This is an act of selective justice; a nepotistic and cronies-ridden process that has fundamentally undermined the so-called fight against corruption in Liberia since Madam Sirleaf took over the mantle of leadership in our country.

 It is a fact that President Sirleaf recently signed the code of conduct into law. This law frowns on conflict of interest. As already mentioned, Robert Kilby and Perraine Parkinson were dismissed for conflict of interest. 

 The e-mail exchanges between Minister Weeks and the Japanese Consultant shows her indifference and lack of experience about the national agenda and what matters most to ordinary Liberians. She has also violated the civil service laws of Liberia and yet President Sirleaf sees nothing wrong with all of these violations clearly admitted at the recent Legislative hearings.

 Madam Weeks has arrogantly rejected rulings by the Civil Service Agency and she continues to openly insult ordinary workers. She has made history for the first time since this administration by stating that the hopes for celebrations of Independence Day in the South East must be dashed all because of her inability to properly plan, network, and get the job done! Drainages are overflowing all because the regular drainage cleaning exercise was unplanned. This has nothing to do with her predecessors because money intended for these interventions were unspent due to her inability to plan and get along with her colleagues. The international partners are getting fed up because of her inability to articulate a plan and meet with them.

Conclusion:

Could it be wrong we were to say that we have seen a trend with the Weeks being Sirleaf’s new group of untouchables. We note the procurement violation with the other Weeks at the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) without any serious remedial action taken by the President. In the midst of the high level of unemployment in our country, we have seen one Weeks holding three positions in a jobless country when there are other competent college graduates parading our street corners without work with their only crime being that they are not associated with ruling family.

In this public manner, we are calling on the President to desist and withdraw her continuous support for a failed and arrogant Minister Weeks; resist the temptation to reduce our motherland to a serfdom; where only the Sirleafs, Weeks and McClains can thrive and even violate the rules of our governance processes and go with outright impunity.

 We appeal to the Legislature to act to save our country and to be precise about our declining infrastructures by expressing a ‘vote of no confidence’ in Madam Weeks and calling on the President to dismiss her for conflict of interest, violations of the laws of Liberia to send a message that no one is above the Law even if shielded by the President. Turn Madam Weeks over to the LACC, GAC and PPCC for various violations as admitted to by her during the various legislative inquest conducted by both Houses of the National Legislature, the first branch of our government!

 

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