LIBERIA: For ‘Administrative Ineptitude’ Lawmaker Opts For Public Works Minister Resignation

The Minister of Public Works, Dr. Antoinette Weeks, who many have criticized for her poor performance since her appointment by the Liberian leader, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf; attributing her under performance at the ministry has been asked to resign her post since she cannot manage the affairs of that very important governmental institution.

The call was made by Montserrado County Senator, Geraldine Doe-Sheriff when the Public Works appeared this week at the Capitol to adequately address herself to criticism about her poor performance at the Ministry.

But addressing the lawmakers, Minister Weeks described her failure at the Ministry as a nightmare she inherited as minister from her predecessor, Kofi Woods.

Speaking further, Minister Weeks said she inherited a ministry with US$83 million debt for contractors; something she said has negatively impacted the relationship of her Ministry with contractors. The Minister said out of the $34 Million United States dollars submitted to the Finance Ministry for payment, only $14 million has been paid.

The Public Works Minister’s comments were in response to concerns raised by Senators Peter Coleman (Congress for Democratic Change, Sinoe County) and Joseph Nagbe (Grand Kru, Alliance for Peace and Democracy) who expressed fear that this year’s July 26 independence might not be celebrated in Sinoe County due to the bad road conditions in the southeast.

Senators Coleman and Nagbe expressed fear that projects earmarked for the Independence day celebration are yet to be started because the road condition is not allowing trucks and vehicles to transport materials to those places and recommended a summit between officials of the two counties and the President to decide whether or not to cancel the hosting of the independence celebration in the County.

No money for roads

Minister Weeks admitted to concerns raised by the senators during her appearance at the senate that the government has a serious issue to deal with as it relates to hosting the Independence Day celebration in the southeast because according to her only money for decoration and other projects has been approved and nothing has been done for roads.

Said Weeks: “The issues senator Coleman raised is a nightmare that we have inherited and we need to find a way to deal with it. One of the nightmares Senator Coleman alluded to is how we address the issue of the contractors.”

Added Weeks: ”These are some of the things that we have to change and if we are to change them, the change will not come easy because the part of the change is we will have to bring changes to capacity. We cannot leave the contractors with consultancy on their own to work because if you sign a contract with someone, human nature is such, and don’t give them the kind of supervision needed they will give you what you didn’t want”.

Said Minister Weeks: “This is the nightmare we need to address. If we are going to have resident engineers in the field, they have to have the level of competence. Senators, the reality is that the capacity for field engineers is sub-standard and some of the changes we will be making will be people change and that is the support we will want from your Senators.”

The Public Works Minister said some of the contractors, including: “Solid Rock” operating in the southeast need to double their efforts along the road because according to her the contract awarded the company was not managed properly by her predecessor.

Failed project under Weeks watch

For his part, Maryland County Senator, H. Dan Morias, dispelled claimed by the Minister that she inherited all of the problems that she is currently experiencing at the Ministry stating that some of the very problems being experienced by the Minister are projects that were signed under her watch.

Senator Morias named: “Stanley Consultant” as one of the companies that the Minister has signed contract with and has defaulted by failure of the company to prepare a bid which is part of the supervisory contract awarded them by the Public works ministry.

Said Morias: “No bid document yet the ministry has attempted to recruit another consultant and that consultant will be charged with the responsibility to prepare bid documents. The reliance that the Ministry has now been the Monrovia Buchanan highway. What this speaks to is that the delay in getting this project up falls in the lap of the Minister of Public works, her inability to do work as speedily as possible is what that is giving public works the problem.”

Senators' request resignation

Like Senator Morias, Senator Geraldine Doe-Sheriff, asked the Minister to resign if the problems in the ministry are too much to handle and stop making excuses of inheriting problems. The Montserrado Senator also cautioned the Minister to exhibit cordiality in her work as Minister something she said is lacking in the operation of the Minister since she took over the ministry.

The appearance of the Minister is a result of a report submitted to plenary by the Committee on Public Works headed by Senator Oscar Cooper of Margibi County. The committee told plenary that it has observed that many projects around the country are at a standstill with contractors refusing to continue work because of a failure of the Ministry to pay their debt owed.

After several hours of questioning, Minister Weeks retired and is expected to return Thursday for more explanations through a motion filed by Senator Henry Yallah of Bong County.

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