20 August 2014

Liberia: Who's in - Who's Out - Sirleaf's Cabinet Travel Ban Deadline Ends

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

Sirleaf's one week deadline mandating officials of government ministries, Agencies, Public Corporations, Commissions, and Parastatals to return home in wake of the deadly Ebola outbreak expired Monday with several officials still out of the country while some are said to still be making efforts to find their way back. The clock has begun to tick to see what the president will do.

Monrovia - President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf's one week deadline mandating officials of government ministries, Agencies, Public Corporations, Commissions, and parastatals to return home in wake of the deadly Ebola outbreak expired Monday with several officials still out of the country while some are said to still be making efforts to find their way

back. The clock has begun to tick to see what the president will do.

A source within the President's office told FrontPageAfrica Monday that the president has been infuriated by some officials who have been lobbying for extension of their stay out of the country. "The President is serious about this and those thinking it is business as usual will feel her wrath," the source speaking on condition of anonymity said Monday.

FronPageAfrica has learned that some officials including the chair of the National Oil Company of Liberia, Dr. Randolph McClain have had requests to travel rejected by the President.

Last week the National Oil Company of Liberia submitted a letter to FrontPageAfrica offering clarity on an August 13, 2014 report captioned: 'Who Falls in Trouble President Sirleaf's Mandate? - TRAVEL BAN DRAGNET.'

NOCAL took exception to the mention of Cllr. Seward Cooper, chair of NOCAL board in particular.

According to NOCAL, the chairman of the board of NOCAL left the country in early August as part of the Vice President's delegation to attend the just ended US-Africa summit held in Washington, DC. Further, Cllr. Cooper is a key participant in the Road Shows of the 2014 Bid Round scheduled for August 19 in London, the United Kingdom and August 21 in Houston, Texas, the United States of America.

FrontPageAfrica has learned that although NOCAL made the announcement of the bid, TGS NOPEC which provides global geoscientific data products and services to the oil and gas industry to assist with licensing rounds and the preparation of regional data programs, is facilitating the bid rounds in London and does not require the presence of the CEO or board chair.

Nevertheless, NOCAL went on to say that Cooper's trip was approved by the President. However an executive Mansion source told FrontPageAfrica Monday that Cllr. Cooper's trip had not been sanctioned by the President. "The President picking and choosing on this," the source added.

Foreign Minister Augustine Ngafuan, Gender Minister Julia Duncan Cassell and a number of other officials who were also part of the delegation to the White summit, returned home last week. The summit took place from August 4-6 2014.

Last week, Sirleaf instructed all government officials currently out of the country, whether on government or private visit, to return home within a week or be considered as abandoning their jobs. The President is urging all government officials of the Executive Branch to take due note of this directive. The President did not say what would happen

An Executive Mansion source told FrontPageAfrica Monday that since the President issued the mandate, her office has been bombarded with a flurry of calls from officials seeking exemptions. "All of a sudden everybody were writing the President asking for sick leave. How would that many people be sick at the same time," the source said.

The source also noted that the President will be following up on her mandate and is expected to keep tabs of all ministries and agencies for those still out and who have returned home.

Sirleaf's decision came in the aftermath of some encouraging words from Sudanese born billionaire Mo Ibrahim, who hailed the President for staying home in the wake of the Ebola crisis.

Ibrahim's foundation focuses on the critical importance of leadership and governance in Africa, was speaking at the sidelines of President Barack Obama's White House Summit recently when he declared that African leaders, making specific reference to President Sirleaf should find another way of connecting with other foreign governments rather than boarding the next available flight whenever they are sent an invitation to attend a summit or meeting. "Because they have a job to do at home and this habit of African leaders running from Beijing to New York then French call them, they go to France; then the Japanese call them then they go to... " he said. "You can sit down at home and do your job actually. So I told her; you know what I suggest to you, a good knowledge for you to get video conferencing (laughter) because everybody wants a piece of you."

Ibrahim said President's Sirleaf's decision to cancel her trip to the all-important summit where at least fourteen African heads of states are attending the three-day summit that is primarily focusing on trade, investment and security of the continent is the best thing to do in the wake of the Ebola crisis facing Liberia. "You sit in your country; sit in Monrovia and just use that and don't travel to those people," he said. "So I was very glad that she stayed at home to deal with the disaster, there instead of coming and having dinner here will not solve the problem for Liberia." President Sirleaf has come under huge criticisms at home for the amount of travels she makes in a year.

As of Monday, August 18, 2014, only a handful of officials had returned in wake of the president's mandate. FrontPageAfrica has learned that Sebastian Muah, the recently-appointed Director of the Liberia Telecommunications Authority had returned home. Both Agriculture Minister Florence Chenoweth and Angelique Weeks, Chair of the Liberia Telecommunications Authority were expected back Monday according to aides but it is unclear whether they arrived last night.

Part of the problem according to some associates of those still out is that there aren't enough flights flying into Liberia at the moment. Kenya Airways made its last pickup out of Monrovia Monday. Only SN Brussels and Royal Air Maroc are left. Delta's last flight is August 30.

FrontPageAfrica has not been able to confirm whether Mr. Michael Wotorson, head of the National Investment Commission and Archie Williams, who is said to have been undergoing a medical procedure in the U.S., were back in the country.

The head of the country's Supreme Audit Institution, the General Auditing Commission of Liberia, Yusador Gaye, is also believed to still be out of the country while according to sources as is Deputy Justice Minister Benedict Sannoh is out of the country.

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