14 September 2017

Liberia: Foreign Ministry Presidency

With less than a month to the holding of the much anticipated October 10, 2017 presidential and legislative elections, electorates and presidential candidates have quickly tend to forget the embarrassment that lies ahead after the elections.

Despite the exuberant nature of the elections, the winner of the elections, particularly the presidency will cause claustrophobia at the Foreign Ministry as done by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf since 2006 with the renovation of the Executive Mansion at a snail pace.

It can be recalled that a fire outbreak emanating from an electrical shock burned and damaged the central section of the fourth floor of the Mansion during a program commemorating the country's 158th Independence Day celebration on July 26, 2006.

Since then, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has been using the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as her temporary home; thereby causing tight security scrutiny for visitors and others going to process their documents.

The Executive Mansion is the seat of the Liberian Presidency and was constructed in 1963 during the administration of the late President William V.S. Tubman.

Since 2006, there have been numerous budgetary allotments toward the renovation process, but there have delays and other setbacks which may result into the new President using the Foreign Ministry as done by President Sirleaf for the past twelve years.

It has been alleged that the ongoing renovation brings to three the number of renovations on the Executive Mansion undertaken by three separate regimes of Liberia.

The first was begun in 1988-1989 during the regime of the late President Samuel K. Doe, while the second was initiated in 1998 by convicted former Liberian leader, Charles G. Taylor.

But with the current status, the seat of the nation's Presidency may not be ready for the inauguration in January 2018 for the new President to enter.

Liberians and other foreign nationals who saw the State House during its flamboyant days have had concerns why the seat of the Presidency has been reportedly neglected by President Sirleaf and renovation works at a snail pace as inauguration for the next President draws nearer.

Early this year, the concerns from the public were further ignited when the General Auditing Commission (GAC) conducted an audit on the renovation of the Mansion and revealed several financial improprieties that are perceived to be responsible for the delay in the renovation process.

In its report, the GAC observed that for the periods under audit, a total amount of US$8 million was appropriated for fiscal years 2006/2007 through 2009/2010 for the Executive Mansion renovation per the approved national budgets without evidence of allotments.

According to the Commission, such audit was the first undertaken by the Auditor-General of Liberia on the project. It also disclosed that the audit was requested by President Sirleaf and under the statutory mandate of the Auditor-General as provided for under section 2.1.3 of the GAC Act of 2014. The audit covered from July 1, 2006 to December 31, 2015.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf herself has in the past expressed strong dissatisfaction over the snail pace and the quality of on-going renovation works at the Executive Mansion.

The Liberian leader is alleged to have instructed rebels and belligerent forces during the heydays of the civil war to destroy the Executive Mansion to be rebuild in number months.

Meanwhile, the Executive Mansion became the stronghold of President Samuel K. Doe and troops loyal to him.

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