How long will the President of Liberia be internally displaced? Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was displaced for almost 12 years. Will President George Manneh Weah remain displaced as well or will he follow Ellen’s undemocratic legacy by discharging presidential duties from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs? Liberia’s 19th President William V. S. Tubman spent US$9 million in 3 years to build our eight-story Executive Mansion while former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf spent US$31.7 million to renovate our mansion in 12 years, and it is yet to be renovated.
In this third edition of our series “The Red Rooster from Ducor”, we are scrupulously telescoping:
1. The incomplete renovation of Liberia’s eight-story Executive Mansion
2. The urgency for President Sirleaf and her cronies to account for over US$31.7 million appropriated for the renovation of our Executive Mansion.
The Rooster’s Crow:
1. The incomplete renovation of Liberia’s eight-story Executive Mansion
The official home of the Ghanaian President is the Golden Jubilee House while the official home of the Nigerian President is the State House. President Donald Trump cannot leave the White House to operate from the State Department neither can Prime Minister Theresa May of Great Britain leave 10 Downing Street to operate from the Department of Education.
Sadly, former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf purposefully chose to run our government from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs even though 7 contracts costing US$31,705,072 were awarded to different engineering and construction companies to renovate the Executive Mansion according to a 2016 GAC Audit Report. Since 2006 up to now, the Executive Mansion is yet to be renovated. Who accounts for these millions?
The Executive Mansion is the official home of the Liberian Presidency. It was built by 2000 workers and 150 foreign technicians and officially dedicated in 1964 under the administration of President William Vacanarat Shadrach Tubman. The eight-story Executive Mansion, which costs US$9 million, has an atomic-bomb shelter, an underground swimming pool, a private chapel, a trophy room, a cinema, an emergency power plant, water supply and sewage system, among others.
This constitutional palace of the Liberian presidency went into flames on July 26, 2006, while four West African leaders were guests of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf during Liberia’s 159th Independence Day celebration. It was exactly seven months ten days following her inauguration on January 16, 2006, when this fire invasion took place.
According to South African Forensic Scientists, the fire eruption at the Executive Mansion was caused as a result of the electrical fault. Due to this incident, President Sirleaf said she was unable to perform State functions at her official office for 12 years. Was this not a blatant violation of our law especially when millions of dollars were made available since 2006 to refurbish this same Mansion?
The reluctance and refusal of President Sirleaf to run a business from the Executive Mansion was not only on purpose, but her action grossly undermined the democratic norms of our nation and the sacredness of the presidency. She felt very complacent about administering State affairs from an unofficial location.
The Foreign Ministry is not meant to discharge Presidential duties. H.E. Nana Akufo-Addo cannot perform his statutory mandate as President of Ghana out of the Golden Jubilee House. Even though we claim to model our system of governance after America, but most often we exhibit undemocratic actions that do not even conform to existing realities.
What does it take to renovate our Executive Mansion? The estimated cost to renovate the Executive Mansion in 2008 was USD$7 million according to Milton and Richards Architecture Firm. The total amount of USD$3 million was allocated in the 2008-2009 national budget to fund phase one of this project. Unfortunately, our Mansion still lies in ruin.
We encourage our new President to immediately focus on the completion of the Executive Mansion because discharging presidential functions from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs overtly contravenes statutory guidelines which are in compliance with democratic due diligence. We hope President Weah will return to his official home before this year’s Independence Day.
Furthermore, it would be rational for our people to know some basic facts surrounding appropriations made to revamp our Executive since it was gutted by fire in 2006. Under the Public Sector Investment Plan and Technical Services Budget of the Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs, a total of US$22,135,561 was appropriated in just 2 years for the renovation of the Executive Mansion.
This is a succinct fiscal breakdown per annum:
1. 2016/2017 – US$12,135,561
2. 2017/2018 – US$10,000,000
Reference 1: Budget Line 102 and Budget Code 0008 under MoFA Government of Liberia Funded Project (2016/2017).
Reference 2: Budget Line 102 and Budget Code 0008 under Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Liberia funded Project (2017/2018).
Besides this whopping US22.1 million, a total of US$8 million was appropriated in the approved National Budget to renovate this same Executive Mansion between 2006 and 2010 according to 2016 GAC audit report. Why is this Mansion not renovated up to date even though the cost of renovation was placed at US$7 million?
2. The urgency for President Sirleaf and her cronies to account for over US$31.7 million appropriated for the renovation of our Executive Mansion:
Today, there are huge public concerns about the completion of this Mansion even though the government of President Sirleaf has already ‘paid’ US$15,769,800.21 to contractors, some of whom are ghosts. The Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs must give a comprehensive account of these millions. President George M. Weah must ensure that former Head of State EJS and all those linked to the renovation of our Mansion fully account for these public resources.
For instance, US$5,161,767.22 was paid to contractors from 2012-2014 without any supporting documentation while US$1.5 million was clandestinely in fiscal year 2007/2008 without any financial documentation according to GAC 2016 audit report. This pro-poor President must pursue all those who siphoned these millions.
Furthermore, our President cannot continue to be internally displaced in his own country. Again, we caution President Weah to focus on completing the Executive Mansion. Using the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is not only risky, unsafe and undemocratic, but it poses a NATIONAL SECURITY THREAT to the presidency, our nation and its people.
Our ultimate interest is to ensure that our government does what is RIGHT and RIGHTEOUS in the best interest of our PEOPLE. We have a national duty never to economize with THE FACTS, but to demonstrate a sense of PATRIOTISM. We have made a solemn pledge to remain loyal to Liberia, and no one else.
From the largest slum of West Point and the top of Ducor, I see a NEW LIBERIA rising above the African Continent. HOPE is blooming – Change is in sight – Liberia will rise.
About The Author: Martin K. N. Kollie is a student studying Economics at the University of Liberia, a youth and student activist, a global columnist and a stalwart of the Student Unification Party. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org