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RIA Scandal Secret Recordings
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|Who Made It? Who Flunked? FPA’s 2012 Liberian Government Grades Are in||| Print ||
|Written by FPA Staff Writer|
|Sunday, 16 December 2012 23:58|
During a conversation at the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations in September this year, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf acknowledged that at the end of the first six years at the helm of post-war Liberia her administration experienced growth of average annual 6.5 percent. To Sirleaf’s credit, Liberia had much of its debt to donors and international partners forgiven, a testament to what many easily agree has been her strongest achievements on the international scene. Making Liberia matter positively again after more than a decade of war, Sirleaf’s status as the first woman to lead an African nation helped draw Liberia into a positive light. But even Sirleaf would be the first to acknowledge that the light has fizzled and many are looking to see results – and quickly.
As the president noted in September: “The euphoria is gone, because success has its pitfalls; because we've done so much, everyone wants more. And so they raise expectations. Every time you turn lights in one community, five of the communities complain, you know, why don't you give me lights? Every time you build a road in one area of the country, you know, 10 other areas say, why not my road? So we have to tackle that.”
Domestically, the Sirleaf administration has struggled to make those financial numbers and trumpeting achievements translate into successes for the ordinary Liberians, many who are still feeling the pinch of a post-war economy still in search of a resurgence and a nation looking to restore its economic sanity. The year 2012, the first of Sirleaf’s second term proved to be yet another challenging one.
While the government has done a lot to improve on existing infrastructures, the lack of electricity and pipe-borne drinking water remains a daunting for the administration staring down a potential legacy of upheavals.
BIGGEST HIT OF 2012: The appointment of Sirleaf to a high-level millennium panel by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon proved to once again put Liberia on a high note. The Panel also includes President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia and British Prime Minister David Cameron along with leaders from civil society, private sector and government. The Panel is part of the Secretary-General’s post-2015 initiative mandated by the 2010 MDG Summit. UN Member States have called for open, inclusive consultations involving civil society, the private sector, academia and research institutions from all regions, in addition to the UN system, to advance the development framework beyond 2015.
BIGGEST MISS OF 2012: Besides continued perceptions that she lacks the will to tackle corruption in her midst, Sirleaf has also come under fire for what many say is her inability to unite a nation emerging from wary. Nobel Laureate Leymah Gbowee’s stepping down as head of the National Reconciliation Commission and subsequent criticism of Sirleaf once again drew the president into disrepute and was inarguably the biggest setbacks of the year for the president as the Gbowee criticism took on a life of its own. But even more troubling for the administration The youth of Liberia are our future, and they sent us a message. They are impatient. They are eager to make up for years of conflict and deprivation. They are anxious to know that their homeland offers the grounds for hope. Let me say to them: We heard that message and it is our solemn obligation to ensure that their hope will not be in vain.
FOREIGN POLICY: A
DOMESTIC POLICY: B-
2013 OUTLOOK: Avoiding the lame-duck tag ahead of the much-anticipated Mid-Term elections could prove to be a daunting challenge for the president. How she handles the delicacies of the pressure amid internal wrangling within the ruling party while keeping her remaining her relevance in the last five years could help define her legacy and possible relevance in her succession play.
THE VICE PRESIDENCY
Vice President Joseph Boakai has been a quiet presence in the Sirleaf administration. At 68, many remain unsure about his political future. While Sirleaf is on record as suggesting that both she and Boakai could sail into the sunset together when she leaves the stage, many remain unsure and there have been some suggestions in recent weeks that Boakai could be paired with a younger candidate for a potential 2017 play.
2013 OUTLOOK: Could this be the year of the rising ageing Boakai?
MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
BIGGEST HIT OF 2012: The Ministry’s unveiling of revised regulations on Passports is likely to help curb a wave of criminal activities involving use of Liberian passports. The new guidelines will effect changes in Ordinary, Service, Official, and Diplomatic Passports. Ordinary Passports will be issued only to natural born or naturalized Liberians in compliance with the Constitution of Liberia as well as the Alien and Nationality Law. Foreign Minister Augustine Ngafuan told a news conference recently that diplomatic and official Passports are privileged Passports and will be issued to certain categories of individuals as spelled out in the regulations, adding that requests for Diplomatic, Official and Service Passports for individuals that are in Government will emanate from the Heads of the Institution.
BIGGEST MISS OF 2012: Many remain baffled over how journalist Max Brügger aka “Mr. Cortzen” beat the system to become an Honorary Consul for Liberia. Brugger’s documentary “The Ambassador” 'gamed the system' and drew ire from the Liberian government after fraudulently purchasing a Liberian diplomatic position and passport for $150,000 through a network that advertises and without authorization sells diplomatic positions of struggling countries." Under new guidelines, honorary Consuls will not be entitled o Liberian Diplomatic Passports and Honorary Consuls of Liberia will now serve for tenure of 3 years, subject to renewal.
The revised Regulations also stipulate that individuals desirous of serving as Honorary Consuls of the Republic of Liberia may apply directly to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or upon recommendation by a prominent Liberian citizen, or through a Liberian Ambassador accredited to the country where the individual intends to serve as Honorary Consul or through a recommendation of an accredited and reputable Liberian association in the country where the individual intends to serve as Honorary Consul. The Ambassador documentary has also led to more stringent vetting procedure to include background and security checks by the National Security Agency and/or the Ministry of Justice and a thorough evaluation by a nine-member Standing Committee on Honorary Consuls (SCHC) composed of, among others, deputy ministers of Foreign Affairs, a member of the Policy Advisory Council of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Chief of Protocol of the Republic of Liberia and the Director General of the Foreign Service Institute.
2013 OUTLOOK: The plight of diplomats serving abroad remains a daunting challenge for the Ministry which has changed ministers four times in the last six years. Many of those serving overseas continue to struggle to receive monthly salaries and even cope with life in foreign lands. It is a puzzle the ministry will have to continue to tweak until it finds a solution.
MINISTRY OF JUSTICE
2012 BIGGEST HITS: Among the achievements of the MOJ this year is the groundbreaking of a new modern prison facility in Cheesmanburg, Bomi County. The facility will be built to internationally acceptable standards and will ease overcrowding in Liberia’s prison system. Recruitment of college graduates among the ranks of the police so as to build capacity. This has not been done since the late 1970’s. The conviction of former LTA Chairman Albert Bropleh, an American citizen who is now awaiting sentencing; major busting of human tracking chain that used Liberia as a transshipment point.
The ministry also went to great lengths operationalize the joint security hub in Gbarnga housing the activities of LNP, BIN, Community Relations, Courthouse and Special Victims Unit. With the high number of pretrial detainees at the Monrovia Central Prison, the government through the Justice Ministry has express concern about the large number of youth who are sent to jail for minor crimes illustrating the miniistry’s concern about the future of young children who could be rehabilitated and giving a second chance inLiberia. Some of the kids are still victims of what the civil war created and society should embrace and help them because they are all our children.
2012 BIGGEST MISS: Justice remains a long shot for many Liberians especially in cases involving land, domestic and debts. But it is the issue of sexual and gender-based violence which has presented the most difficult challenge to the ministry. While the UN's peacekeeping mission in Liberia has been working to reduce the high rate of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), a legacy of more than a decade of war, many Liberians especially those in the rural parts of the country continue to seek redress of their grievances through customary justice. The strong indictment of the police by the Sister Laurene Commission for poor handling of the November 7 CDC riots which resulted in the dismissal of Police Director Mark Amblard. The MOJ’s poor public relations arm; Aides say that they may not win a popularity contest but improved capacity of legal talent throughout the MOJ would show the proof in the pudding in the short run.
2013 OUTLOOK: The MOJ is looking to bring online a series of GAC prosecutions in 2013 Uncertain looms at the word in the air is that the Minister of Justice may be leaving for the Supreme Court; but a solid team will keep legacy of integrity and honesty in MOJ alive, according to some insiders.
MINISTRY OF NATIONAL DEFENSE
2012 BIGGEST HIT: The newly-trained Armed Forces of Liberia went into action for the first time when troops were called to help man the fragile Liberia-Ivory Coat border in the wake of recent tension in the Ivory Coast. While the troops fell short of engaging enemy fire, it offered an opportunity for soldiers and the ministry to gauge the readiness of the army when UN peacekeepers eventually departs Liberia. The ministry continues to make some achievements in the restructuring process, accommodation, decongestion of facilities although uniforms remain major challenges confronting the new AFL.
2013 OUTLOOK: Will the military be ready when United Nations Peacekeepers leave Liberia? That is the question many suggest remains critical to completing Liberia’s transition from war to peace. More troubling remains the millions of dollars the United States government has pumped into Liberia’s post-war environment. Critics remain baffle that Uncle Sam is yet to leave its imprint on the country it regards as its stepchild. The AFL still lacks a strong U.S. military base to help maintain the peace in the eventual departure of UNMIL.
MINISTRY OF FINANCE
2012 BIGGEST HIT: The ministry which has changed ministers three times in the past six years is undergoing a radical reform under Amara Konneh who drew the ire of critics who felt that he lacked a degree in Accounting and/or Finance and therefore would not be able to technically run the ministry of Finance. Contrary to the notion that the ministry should be run by accountants and bankers, some observers say that Konneh has brought “a new focus on Liberia’s long term development by focusing the government and the nation of the key constraints to sustainable growth and inclusive development in Liberia that include the rehabilitation of the Mt. Coffee Hydro Power Dam. The Ministry of Finance, under Konneh’s leadership has developed a new strategic direction that focuses the ministry on advancing“ robust economic growth policy ideas thereby maintaining macroeconomic stability, drives synergies across government, and ensures fiscal prudence through scrupulous adherence to the PFM Law.”
Konneh is focusing on goals and results areas: “pro-growth fiscal system that promotes economic growth through the use of financial levers and sound macroeconomic policies; effective MTEF budget execution and reporting; as a three year budget allows us to plan ahead and the project based budget allows us to directly link policies with spending; a business friendly tax climate that stimulates economic growth and effective domestic resource mobilization through aggressive broadening of tax base; because an economy expands most with high levels of business investment and confidence; effective and efficient financial and cash management system and procedures; comprehensive, timely and transparent financial as well as economic and performance reporting to the public - good system of reporting will increase Government openness and effectiveness; and a progressive customer service oriented, innovative and effective workforce.
2012 BIGGEST MISS: Minister Konneh’s reform-minded budget and approach drew him a lot of enemies and dissent within the rank of the Cabinet with many of his peers taking him to task for holding them hostage and slashing their budgets. Nicked-named the “Slasher”, Konneh also came under attack for the drawn out budget process and not doing enough to engage lawmakers’ hefty raises while those languishing at the bottom of the economic ladder and civil servants did not receive a pay raise.
2013 OUTLOOK: Will the ministry’s project-based approach to the budget deliver in the coming year? The most politicize government ministry will face a lot of scrutiny as many anticipate the outcome. Even more encouraging has been efforts at the ministry to address human resource issues: more than 400 employees are beginning to see their Personnel Action Notices (PAN) get processed as a result of personal intervention of the Minister who according to sources had to walk (literally) to the Civil Service Agency office to ensure that these employees get their employment status regularize. For the employees, after 4 years of lingering in the ministry without a regular employment status, this is a relief worth mentioning.
MINISTRY OF INTERNAL AFFAIRS
2012 BIGGEST HIT: The ministry was embroiled for much of the year in debate over issues surrounding the Poro and Sande societies and the controversial Female Genital Cutting. Minister Blamoh Nelson, in an interview with FrontPageAfrica stressed that there is a need to make these practices compatible with present day realities. “Yes, modernize them. So we are on the trajectory to modernize our cultural practices to make them compatible with 21st century perception. Yesteryears, we did not know; people used to get syphilis, gonorrhea, and they thought that it was witchcraft until somebody came and invented penicillin,” he says.
2012 BIGGEST MISS: County development funds controversy remains an integral part of the many problems compounding the MIA.
2013 OUTLOOK: Could this be the year the ministry take a leading role in the fight against a long-held culture? Many traditional leaders appear to favor harmonizing traditional practices with human rights, but are opposed to a ban on FGM as strongly as they resent perceived cultural imperialism by the developed world.
MINISTRY COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY
2012 BIGGEST HIT: The separation of the business registry section from the Ministry of Commerce was perhaps thing to happen to the business community in Liberia since the end of the civil war. The registry was established as a result of cooperation of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Finance and the National Social Security and Welfare Corporation to make easier to catalog businesses.
2012 BIGGEST MISS: There were very few bright spots for the ministry in the past years. Critics and consumers alike took the ministry to task for among other things, its failure to control prices of key commodities like gasoline, diesel fuel and everyday needs of ordinary Liberians especially those in rural Liberia.
2013 OUTLOOK: Price control… price control…price control…The ministry is yet to show that it has a handle on prices as consumers continue to feel the pinch.
MINISTRY OF PUBLIC WORKS
2012 BIGGEST HIT: In a year which saw the ministry of public works swarmed in criticisms about poor road conditions in Monrovia and its environs, the ministry has quietly been involved in intervening in a number of Feeder roads. Partnering with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), under the Liberian-Swedish Feeder Road Project (LSFRP), the ministry is currently in three key food basket counties in the country including Bong, Lofa and Nimba. But the most pressing problem facing the ministry during the course of the year was the numerous cases of theft and abuse of new infrastructure and the abuse of the wetlands.
2012 BIGGEST MISS: Miscommunication between the Ministry of Public Works and the Ministry of Information drew negative headlines for all the wrong reasons. Minister Woods came under fire for distancing himself from a statement read by Information Minister Lewis Brown demanding the residents of Peace Island to vacate the land to give way for the construction of the new ministerial complex. Public Works insisted that it did not issue the order contradicting the Information minister’s assertion that the order came from Public Works
2013 OUTLOOK: Some good news could be on the horizon for the ministry in the coming year for the ministry with Voinjama set to get its first pave roads in nearly a century. While the ministry has earmarked a number of key roads in the city for intervention and completion, the key for many would be the durability and life-span of the roads being refurbished.
MINISTRY OF PLANNING
YEAR’S BIG HIT: T The Ministry of Planning has been able to successfully manage the design phase of a new national visioning for Liberia and the crafting a new five year development plan, the Agenda for Transformation, which were successfully launched in Gbarnga last week. Most people say though they await a robust implementation, this is milestone achievement given the participatory nature of the designed process. Through the efforts of acting Minister Konneh who was able to recruit the best minds and manage complex relationship within the cabinet, Liberia now has a national vision around which development efforts converge.
The Ministry is also credited for strengthening aid coordination mechanisms that has seen increased aid on budget; developing a ten year National Human Capacity Development Strategy to reverse Liberia’s brain drain for which the national budget has $7 million in investment; harmonizing the activities of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with the national development agenda; and promoting the use of Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D) that led to the landing of a $25 million Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) fiber optic high speed Internet cable in Liberia.
2012 BIGGEST MISS: Many are still confuse about the merger with Finance and Planning including lawmakers in the national legislature who have made an issue for the president to appoint a separate minister.
2013 OUTLOOK: Will the average folks lingering at the bottom of the economic ladder experience the vision?
MINISTRY OF POST & TELECOMMUICATIONS
2012 BIGGEST HIT: The ministry took the first step toward transformation for the digital age with a commitment to switch off all analogue signal and migrate to digital by 2015. The ministry has also been working with the Civil Service Agency (CSA) for the establishment of Chief Information Officer (CIO) Regime in Government. As part of its deliverables the Ministry promised to ensure that government information systems are integrated and delivered on a single platform utilizing the expertise of CIO designated by individual Ministries and Agencies to the CIO Council of Liberia. This will ensure the rapid migration from paper based to paperless activities in government and thereby making government accessible and more accountable to its citizens.
2012 BIGGEST MISS: But the delays in the launch of the fiber optic cable continues to pose headache for the post-war nation’s telecommunication industry.
2013 OUTLOOK: Will the ministry have a more prominent role in the launch of the Ace cable?
MINISTRY OF TRANSPORT
2012 BIGGEST HIT: Eugene Lenn Nagbe took over the ministry in February looking to create an environment for the growth and development of the transportation system with the primary objective to provide safe, affordable, efficient, and reliable transport services nationwide. Ten months later, transportation remains a burden for most Liberians. While the ministry has made some headway in introducing vehicle Inspection exercises, the first ever in post war Liberia, a lot of haphazard cars still ply the streets, posing dangers to fellow commuters, leading some calls for more cooperation between the MOT and the Police to keep bad vehicles off the streets.
In a bid to address the dangers pose by Pehn-Pehn riders, Minister Nagbe held consultations with the three Motorcycle Unions of Liberia and won their pledge to comply with the Vehicle and Traffic Laws of Liberia to ensure road safety. The jury is still out on the fulfillment of that pledge. The ministry is also taking credit for the inauguration of the Robert Flight Information Region (RFIR) data station in Harper, Maryland County. The data station will provide air trafficking information to all flights in the territorial airspace of Liberia.
2012 BIGGEST MISS: Liberians are still awaiting a plan to improve the terminal at the RIA as well as the runway. Compared to most countries in the sub-region, the poor state of the airport is rapidly becoming a painful sight for many returning citizens and foreign guests.
2013 OUTLOOK: Will hope spring a better airport, more accessible transportation environment to alleviate the long lines of commuters to and from work?
MINISTRY OF HEALTH
2012 BIGGEST HIT: One of the high points of the year for the ministry was the launch of Malaria Indicator Survey (LMIS) as the ministry sought to stress the importance of women’s education to help increase their understanding of family planning to control the birth rate of among them.
2012 BIGGEST MISS: The year could go down as a sad recording for post-war Liberia which saw increases in child mortality and the mentally ill. In a nation lacking trained psychiatrists and brain drain in the medical profession. A 2008 study by members of the American Medical Association found that 44 percent of adults displayed symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder. Ironically, no money has been allocated in the national budget for mental health policy this year.
To the ministry’s credit, it invited the Carter Center to help rebuild the country’s mental health services destroyed during the war. Launched in 2010, with initial support from donors including Focusing Philantropy and the John P. Hussman Foundation, the center’s program also will help integrate mental health services in a sustainable way into the primary health care system. Together with the Liberia Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, these organizations all recognized that addressing this need, both from social and economic perspectives, was paramount in helping Liberia rebuild after the war. The costs of not caring for people with mental illnesses—who if left without treatment often cannot work or care for their families—are tremendous. In Liberia, as in many parts of the world, even the most serious mental illnesses can be effectively and affordably treated, and most patients can resume functioning as contributing members of society.
2013 OUTLOOK: Health care delivery remains a daunting challenge for the post-war nation, especially in rural Liberia where many are finding it difficult in the absence of ambulances and the simple necessities including clinics, hospitals and drugs.
MINISTRY OF LANDS, MINES & ENERGY
2012 BIGGEST HIT: Since his arrival, Patrick Sendolo has won few friends in his efforts to streamline the requirements for exploration licenses. But the most pressing achievement of the past year have been laying the groundwork for the kick-off of the Mt. Coffee Plant which is expected to rejuvenate Liberia’s electricity sector. The ministry has brought the project from zero to one that is actually being implemented. “All the designs are being done and we expect to award contract for turbines in the coming year,” says Sendolo.
In addition the ministry has managed to acquire with the help of the Japanese government, up to 18 megawatts of heavy fuel oil generators which is expected to be installed in the next 12 months with an additional 10 megawatts of heavy fuel oil generation pledge from the world bank. This has spur the move to execute the electrification in areas like Paynesville to as far as Schefflein, Gardnersville and Virginia in the next eight to twelve. “The most important thing here is that we have secured all the funding for Mt. Coffee.
On the mining front, Mittal Steel is expected to double its shipment of ore in the coming year which is expected to bolster employment with between an additional 1-15 million tons actually being exported.
2012 BIGGEST MISS: Sand mining was a big issue during the course of the year but major interventions have helped curb the situation leading to the closure of beaches. “We have brought some sanity to regulating sand mining, closed all of the sand mining beaches, beach closures completed, done a lot in terms of monitoring exploration licenses,” says Sendolo. The ministry cancelled 25 licenses forcing companies to fall in line”It is not perfect but we have put a system in place that will make people take the government serious.”
2013 OUTLOOK: With a big push on the Western Cluster, the ministry is anticipating two additional commercial gold mines in the coming year. But the key will be how the ministry handle the bidding for Wologisi, viewed by many as the last big Liberian concession on the table. Some are suggesting it goes to the Chinese in exchange for the pavement of all the roads and feeder roads. Time will tell whether that is in the cards for 2013.
MINISTRY OF GENDER & DEVELOPMENT
2012 BIGGEST HIT: The Ministry underwent a refreshing change during the course of the year. Besides the successful hosting of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence, a global campaign dedicated to ending gender based violence, the ministry garnered praise over its reaction to a FrontPageAfrica investigative report detailing the plight of young girls in the secret society bush leading to action against traditional female leaders who operate the powerful sect. The move led to a temporary shutdown the bush schools and a stop to female genital cutting, also known as female circumcision.
“Government is saying this needs to stop,” declared Liberia’s newly-appointed Gender Minister, Julia Duncan Cassell, during a sit-down interview in her office. “The process is on in making sure that it’s stopped.” In Liberia, two out of three teenage girls – sometimes younger – are pulled out of school and taken into the bush for several weeks or months for traditional training called “Sande bush”. The girls learn proper hygiene, hair braiding, basket weaving, and how to take care of their future husbands. As part of their initiation, part or all of a girl’s clitoris is cut off. The 2007 Liberia Demographic and Health Survey, the most recent statistics, showed the prevalence of circumcision among Liberian women ages 15 to 49 is about 58 percent. The procedure is usually practiced by 10 of Liberia’s 16 tribes, and is reportedly intend to reduce sexual pleasure and, consequently, the likelihood that a woman will be promiscuous.
2012 BIGGEST MISS: The revelation by the ministry that rape has become a new "war" against babies and adolescence girls in the country sparked concerns from many quarters with reports that some 60% of all rape cases received involved babies and adolescence girls.
2013 OUTLOOK: Sexual and Gender-based violence remains a major problem in post-war Liberia and many are hoping that the ministry will take on a more advocacy role in helping to curb the problem.
MINISTRY OF LABOR
2012 BIGGEST HIT: The launch of the Labor Force Survey (LFS) conducted by the government through the Ministry of Labor (MOL) in collaboration with the Liberia Institute of Statistics & Geo-Information Services (LISGIS) is poised to give the government a ‘clearer policy’ on the country’s labor sector. The report is seemingly a policy document, aimed at drawing the government’s attention to finding solutions to the problem of Liberians, who fall in the category of “vulnerable employment” across the country. Prior to the launching, many employers lamented that the absence of reliable data was a stifling factor against the socio-economic planning and policies of government.
2012 BIGGEST MISS: The scandal involving Minister Vabah Gayflor in which she allegedly used the ministry’s influence to solicit funds from several companies in the tone of thousands of dollars under the guise of a Labor Day event cast dark clouds on the ministry which found itself entangled in a web of controversy with companies which it should be monitoring as the chief entity addressing labor issues in Liberia.
2013 OUTLOOK: Will this be the year that the Decent work bill finally sails with flying colors in the national legislature?
MINISTRY OF INFORMATION, CULTURAL AFFAIRS & TOURISM
2012 BIGGEST HIT: The appointment of Lewis Brown, a vocal critic of the Sirleaf administration and a key member of the opposition did not come as a surprise to many partly due to Brown’s
2012 BIGGEST MISS: Several communication lapses dogged Brown during the course of the year but the most damaging came during the Ministry’s declaration that residents of Peace Island should vacate the premises. While the ministry quoted a statement from the Ministry of Public Works, the message appeared lost in translation as both government agencies shifted blame raising concerns that the ministry did not have a handle on the issues surrounding the controversy.
2013 OUTLOOK: Will this be the year the ministry elevates its game beyond being the mouthpiece of government?
MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE
2012 BIGGEST HIT: The ministry during the course of the year unveiled an extension service that will look at ways in which farmers will be heavily involved in the decision making process which staffers say will eliminate the top to bottom approach. The ministry has also increased partnership and collaboration with Implementing partners to produce seed rice for the seed bank. From this bank, farmers are given high yielding seed rice free of charge for planting. The ministry has also been involved in the distribution of free farming inputs to farmers across Liberia. These include, hoes, cutlass, planting materials and provided technical back-stopping (technical assistance) to farmers.
The ministry also succeeded in getting 24 Chinese experts to Liberia for two years under the South-South Cooperation to help with the production of rice, vegetables including cassava, water management, livestock, fish hatchery etc. South-South Cooperation means richer nations in the South pacicifc helping poorer nations in the same region. Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo agreed to invest one million dollars in the production of eggs so that Liberia will no longer or minimize looking to India or Indonesia to import eggs. Construction work for the production at The Obasanjo farms in Gbah Foboi in Grand Cape Mount County is completed. Installation of equipment for that purpose will soon be installed.
2012 BIGGEST MISS: Obviously the issue of Private Use Permits(PUP) dampened the Ministry’s performance during the course of the year, particularly the role played by Minister Florence Chenoweth. A report by the Watchdog group Global Witness found that the Forestry Development Authority(FDA) secretly doled out illegal logging permits to large corporations that could result in more than 40 per cent of its pristine forest being chopped down, with little benefit to local communities. The General Auditing Commission (GAC) later recommended reprimand for both Chenoweth and FDA suspended boss Moses Wongbeh.
The GAC recommended the dismissal of Wogbeh and reprimand of Chenoweth, who serves as the Chairman of the Board of Directors. The report indicated that the FDA could not provide any evidence to show that the holders of the PUPs had the technical and financial capacity to manage the forest sustainably. These omissions constitute a breach of Section 5.6 of the 2006 National Forestry Reform Law that governs the process. therefore the GAC recommend, among others, that the FDA’s Managing Director, Moses Wogbeh, and Board's Chairman, Florence Chenoweth, be censured by the President for issuing PUPs without ensuring due formulation of regulations governing the issuance of PUPs, a cardinal requirement of the 2006 National Forestry Reform Law on PUP.
2013 OUTLOOK: Will Chenoweth, a long-time aide to Sirleaf finally get the ax?
MINISTRY OF EDUCATION
2012 BIGGEST HIT: The quest for quality education was a rugged one during the course of the year amid a number of side attractions(student strikes, teachers treks for pay) which dominated the airwaves and dampened the education sector. The scenes of striking protesting students offered little bright spots for the ministry which also ran into trouble at the legislature for failing to defend its US$51.2 Million budget.
2012 BIGGEST MISS: Too many strikes and lamentations of dissatisfied teachers in one year.
2013 OUTLOOK: Will the coming year lead to better benefits for teachers and a much-improved learning environment for students, especially those in public schools? Will rural teachers finally end their annual trek from their towns and villages to collect their paychecks? The ministry has its work cut out.
MINISTRY OF YOUTH & SPORTS
2012 BIGGEST HIT: An emphatic victory against the Black Stars of Ghana and an enticing draw against the Super Eagles of Nigeria capped an impressive year for Liberia on the sporting scene although lack of support and funding for football is still a major challenge. Addressing the problems of unemployed youths remain daunting for Liberia.
2012 BIGGEST MISS: The hard, cold truth remains that of the 64 percent of Liberians living below the poverty line, 68 percent are young people. As a result of the civil war, a major portion of the population grew up without access to education which presents a major challenge for the ministry of youth and sports.
2013 OUTLOOK: Liberia will be watching from the sidelines as AFCON Final gets underway in Johannesburg, South Africa. With the glitter of the Black Stars and Super Eagles performance already history, how will Liberia keep the game alive and what lies ahead for unemployed, disenchanted youths.
COMING WEDNESDAY: Assessment of the Heads of Public Corporation