Madam President, I Beg To Differ With You On Public Works Minister’s Saga

By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)

As part of my normal routine in the morning hours, I always try to monitor the local news in a way and manner that I would be able to listen to few of them to get their “Main Points” on major issues making their primary stories. And so was it yesterday morning while listening to the Truth FM morning news, I gathered that President Sirleaf commented on issues relative to the incessant calls for the dismissal or resignation of Public Works Minister, Dr. Antoinette Weeks. Because of this, I decided to listen to the actuality of the President’s comments on the issue. Actuality, in journalism, is the actual voice of the person or speaker.

As i patiently and religiously listened to the President on the issue in what is known as “Liberian Simple English,” I gathered that she has down-played the public outcry, by asking for the public indulgence to give the minister ample time to begin to function to expectation.

The minister reportedly told the President that she should be given time to become more effective, as she was on a “Fact-Finding Mission” of ongoing projects and other functions of the ministry. The President said the minister wants to use the raining season to carry out this fact-finding to begin effective work during the dry season, which may begin at the end of November this year. Hence, the President has appealed to the public to give the minister a chance.

First of all, let me say that whenever a new person takes over an office, obviously, that person would carry on a fact-finding to know some of the issues, problems, challenges and then design strategies or programs to deal with those matters that may regard progress and at the same time, move ahead with those programs in place that were initiated by the person’s predecessor. Generally, it is accepted that such an evaluation is necessary for the incoming to know where such person met the institution. There is no argument about this.

This is a normal practice for few months. But where in this matter that the minister wants to use over a year to conduct findings is what I want to differ with the President, by accepting her request. Secondly, I want to differ with the President’s assertion that those who are protesting might be doing so because of administrative action such as dismissal, transfer of people when she (Dr. Weeks) carried out when she assumed the post of minister. To this, I say a big NO, as this is not the reason for the protests.

Madam President, the protest is the result of the act of ineptitude as being exhibited by the minister since she took over the realm of leadership at the ministry. The minister has been in blame-shifting, bringing into focus her predecessor, Mr. Samuel Kofi Woods, since she has been appearing at the National Legislature.  Because of this, there have even been calls for the Legislature (both the Senate and  the House of Representatives) to invite the former minister to shed light on some of the issues, some of which tend to impugn on the reputation of her predecessor, Minister Woods who resigned the post last year.

Madam President, too many ongoing development projects that your administration has initiated are in motion and are tied around the functions and operations of the ministry, and now to have someone who does not understand this and want to cause unnecessary delay, is only counter-productive. I do not believe that a manager needs more than a year to conduct fact finding, as if there are no others or record to peruse to get an insight of what has been obtaining or what needs to be done at the ministry.

Madam President, this is not about education, but her inability to deliver the goods at this time of national reconstruction. Actually her credentials up to the doctorate degree are not in question, but the issue here is performance. That is, making use of the education for the good of the society. As it is sometimes said, “education is not just the acquisition of knowledge acquired, but the utilization of that knowledge for the better and good of society and humanity.”

Once more, let me make it clear that I am not against the issue of fact finding because this is a normal practice for someone who is taking over an institution to determine the state of affairs of the institution. But by this time, the minister, along with her team, should have completed that and move on. And so to request for more time until the dry season comes, is my concern, which I see as the highest degree of administrative ineptitude.

Equally, I am not against her making changes that fall within her purview and that those ones concerning the Civil Service Guidelines on such matter are done in consonance with those guidelines.

Madam President if you can recall during your recent visit to Doha, Qatar, during which I was a member of that delegation, you said jokingly to me, “We are getting 0ld.” Yes, this is true. Therefore, since we are getting old, we need people on your team who would speedily execute development programs. We are not getting younger for any delay.

Let us assume for the sake of argument that the minister is on a fact-finding mission. Does this even stop the ministry from doing some interventions on some of the roads in the city and near the city such as the pot holes at Ashmun and Johnson Streets and the Somalia Drive which are usually carried out by the ministry, even if it is involved in major projects? Don’t ask me about the pot holes at Center Street and UN Drive, right under the nose of the minister, as this spot is within the proximity of the ministry.

Madam President, while it remains an indisputable fact that the issue of dismissal or acceptance of resignation of any of your appointed officials rests with you; and I still maintain that this minister is an “EXCESS BAGGAGE,” as I indicated in one of my articles on the saga surrounding the minister. This is no time for experiment; this is a time for implementation. Therefore, those who are called to serve in the public sector, especially in the cabinet, should be prepared to join in moving forward, rather than, turning anti clock-wise.

Madam President, you are doing your best. Don’t allow this to undermine the gains thus far. Remember, public opinion is useful in good public relations, which every leader endeavors to have with members of the public. Besides, Madam President, with due respect to your office, to accept the issue of fact finding, would lend credence to public perception that the minister is a sacred cow or one of the untouchables in the government, something, I don’t really believe.

Until the President who is making good strives realizes that the issue of the minister’s request for ample time is only a diversionary tactics in the wake of the mounting public outcry, I REST MY CASE.