The Informer (Monrovia)

Liberia: Ellen Catches Weeks 'Asleep' - Looks for Her 'Foot Prints'

Since she took over the Ministry of Public Works nearly four months ago, Minister Antoinette Weeks has reportedly performed dismally, and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf openly told her Tuesday (Oct 28) that her footprints have not been seen in government.

"Minister [Antoinette] Weeks, I have not seen your footprint," President Sirleaf told the country's first female infrastructure minister in the midst of local and international diplomats, during programs marking the Liberian leader's 75th birthday.

President Sirleaf was hailing newly appointed General Services Director and former Acting Monrovia City Mayor Mary T. Broh's astute services to the country.

President Sirleaf has since charged the Ministry of Public Works to work with Mary Broh in setting the pace for the construction of a modern market on the grounds of the former Omega Tower in Paynesville, where the Redlight Market will be moved.

The reported dormant Ministry, only recently the heartbeat of President Sirleaf's development agenda, is said to have played no role so far, which pushed the President to have made the comment, according to sources close to the presidency.

The President's abrupt comments about Weeks' weak performance in the critical position she holds with a lucrative US$15,000 monthly salary--the highest for that position so far, according to insiders--excluding other mouth-watering benefits, is reportedly out of disappointment and unyielding warning.

"It is a warning to the Minister of Public Works that she needs to wake up from her sleep and work hard like her predecessor Samuel Kofi Woods," one caller said on Fabric Radio Wednesday morning.

"The President has caught her asleep and warned her," said one Koffa Momoh, on another local radio station.

Weeks took over the Ministry in early August. She has reportedly made only two outings, where she is said to have condemned works initiated by the president's former most admired Minister.

She is said to have fallen off with several regional engineers, bellowed at employees and refused to listen to pieces of advice intended to keep the ministry running as in the past.

The once vibrant communication division of the Ministry that fed the Liberian people with information about the country's infrastructure development program has also gone in coma.

"The President knows the woman cannot perform, but she is keeping her there and saying 'I have not seen your foot print.' Let her keep her there, she will soon see her foot prints," Ephraim Dickson stated in a discussion at a hatia center in Monrovia.

Another citizen, Josephine Ndorbor, however, noted that Weeks is still studying the work at the Ministry. She's just taken over. She needs some time; she will make her footprint visible," she told a local radio.

Weeks is reported to be overconfident, and has warned media practitioners not to call her line to make queries about what actions the Ministry was taking to address the appalling road conditions around the city.

"Who gave you [my] number? Never call it again... .Mr. Editor of The Informer, whoever you are, this is not the kind of number you should call; you are not supposed to call this number and don't call it again," responded to this writer late September when called to comment on the deplorable state of the Samalia Drive and Bardnersville Estate roads.

President Sirleaf appointed the country's first-ever female Public Works Minister, replacing Attorney Samuel Kofi Woods who occupied the position for four years.

Regarded as one of Liberia's most industrious government officials, Woods tendered in his resignation in May, after he took over the government's infrastructure arm and pulled back its lost confidence from the public.

His abrupt resignation created a huge gap to fill in the government's critical arm of development, but after nearly three months of search, President Sirleaf took Weeks from the National Oil Company of Liberia to fill the vacant post.

Many at the Public Works Ministry and in the public had hoped President Sirleaf would appoint the former controversial Monrovia City Mayor Mary Broh or the Acting Minister Victor Smith, who had served the Ministry for many years with strong understanding of the Ministry's work.

Woods, a social justice and human rights advocate, took over the Ministry in May 2009, after President Sirleaf appointed him from the Ministry of Labour, amidst scratching criticism that he was not an engineer and had no knowledge in infrastructure development.

The Attorney-At-Law had successfully transformed the Labor Ministry and worked to repeal inhumane and draconian labor laws, before the President called him to rescue a Ministry which imaged had been doomed under the leadership of an internationally-acclaimed engineer with experience from the United States--Losini Donzo.

Many described Woods as a "misplaced" government official, but in four years he became a prized asset to Liberia's post war development--proving to his critics that he didn't need a degree in engineer to effectively administer the infrastructure arm of the Sirleaf government.

In four years, Public Works, under Woods, reached nearly all parts of the country, constructing, reconstructing new and existing roads including primary, secondary, laterite and farm-to-market roads.

He resigned after the death of his mentor Archbishop Michael Kpakala Francis, and his absence is still being felt, comments in the public suggest. His successor is reportedly still asleep as the President looks for her footprints.

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