29 January 2014

Liberia: Fistfight At Public Works - Minister, Deputy Trade 'Ma & Pa' Insults

Photo: Liberia Government
President Sirleaf and members of her cabinet (file photo):

Monrovia — All hell reportedly broke loose at the Ministry of Public Works Tuesday when a near fistfight erupted between embattled Minister Angelique Weeks and Deputy Minister for Technical Services, Victor Smith in the ministry's compound.

It is unclear what triggered the argument which eyewitnesses spurred a shouting match between the pair which drew onlookers on the scene as both senior officials traded nasty insults which included cursing each other's parents.

Since taking over the ministry last September, Weeks has reportedly refused to use her official office and has instead shared office with Smith, the Deputy for Technical Services.

The fight between the pair comes in the wake of mounting tension pitting the minister at odds with her principal deputies, prompting allegations that Weeks has been micromanaging the ministry with very little input from senior staff toward agenda items/issues

Some of Weeks' peers say she is oppressive and domination of meetings; intolerant, does not allow for competing views and opinions and lacks a clear plan-of-action for the Ministry. Some employees point to Weeks' poor working relationship as a key reason for the problems which hit boiling point.

"Their argument was intense with each cursing each other's MA and pa and in the end, Deputy Minister Smith told the Minister to (bleep) her job and drove out of the ministry's compound.

Weeks has also been taken to task over her callous use language; profusely abusive, insulting and accusative toward others and engaging in physical interaction with some personnel while being condescending to and disdainful of the senior staff.

In recent weeks, sources say Weeks has falsely accused some senior staff and employees of leaking information to the press and lately to Clemenceau Urey about his relative Henri Urey's contract not being renewed.

Part of the problem some say is that Weeks lacks confidence and faith in the ability of the senior staff and employees and fails to delegate responsibility with authority; refuses to take advices from anyone including the deputy and assistant ministers as well as other technical staff.

Weeks reportedly offended her deputies recently when unilaterally took it upon herself to make a number of changes at the ministry, reassigning the Director of Human Resources and Training at the Ministry has been reassigned as the Director for Warehouse.

Transfer letters were also issued to the Financial Comptroller (Abraham Samukai), transfers were also issued to Deputy Comptroller, Joseph Y. Forkpa, Procurement Director, B. Wion Kanteah, Assistant Director for Logistics, Joe V. Dixon and the Director of Human Resources & Training Vincent B. Smith.

Like the Financial Comptroller and his deputy, the Procurement Director and his Assistant have been transferred to the Division of Human Resources for re-assignment. The Director of HRT, Vincent Smith has been transferred to the Ministry's Warehouse as Manager.

No valid reason given for these changes except for the frivolous excuse that it is part of internal reforms. Letters were issued after official working hours with immediate action taken in changing the locks to various offices concerned.

A meeting with President Sirleaf last week has apparently failed to repair the damaging ties amongst Weeks and her peers. During the meeting, the president reportedly appealed to the deputies to work along with Weeks to end the impasse at the ministry while raising questions over the state of affairs of the ministry and ongoing projects around the country.

The president was reportedly notified among other things of a number of lapses at the ministry, notably the lack of coordination at all levels. One source told FPA, there have not been any meetings held since November 2013 - about 3 months in-between. Senior staffers have accused Weeks of running an oppressive regiment and being intolerant of others and does not allow for competing views and opinions.

FrontPageAfrica reporter this week that the ministry failed to spend more than US$ 1 million in the midterm of the current 2013/2014 fiscal budget forcing the Ministry of Finance to return to money to the government coffers owing to a budget shortfall.

In a January 8, 2014 communicated addressed to Hon. Zack G.W. Sharpe, II, Acting Minister of Public Works, the Comptroller of the Ministry, Abraham B. Samukai indicated that the ministry was unable to spend the budgetary allocation for the midterm budgetary period with close to 50% remaining unspent.

The communications read: "With compliments, I am pleased to furnish you the midterm budget performance for fiscal year 2013/2014 for the Ministry of Public Works. The fiscal year 2013/2014 approved budget is US$5,392,850.00 (Five Million Three Hundred Ninety Two Thousand Eight Hundred United States Dollars) of this amount, a total of US$3,209,918.00 (Three Million Two Hundred Nine Thousand Eighteen United States Dollars) has been allotted but only US$1,624,629.94 spent, or 50.61%, US$83,394.05 with the LPO in the process or 2.60% an unspent balance of US$1,499,560.01 or 46.72% as balance in allotment", the Comptroller stated in the midterm budget performance report.

Accordingly, the Ministry of Finance notified the Ministry that the timing for the US$1,499,560.01 had expired and therefore such funding can no longer be provided to the Ministry.

The comptroller's communication indicates that the Public Works Ministry has not been able to plan for the expenditure of funding allotted the Ministry by National Government amidst the plethora of development needs across the country.

The lingering feud at the Ministry of Public Works is just one of many strain relationships in the Sirleaf-led government. Critics have in recent weeks taken the Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia and the Minister of Finance to task for failing to work together in the wake of rapid inflation and economic woes.

Tension at the Ministry of National Defense between Minister Brownie Samukai and his former principal deputy Othello Warrick led to Warrick being shipped to the Executive Protective Services as Director.

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