MONROVIA – President George Manneh Weah has appointed the Bishop of the Reformed Cathedral of Hope Church Mr. George Wesseh Blamo as acting Minister of State for Presidential Affairs with a herculean task to rebuild the image of the Office of the President.
The church is located Zubah Town in Paynesville, outside Monrovia.
Mr. Blamo is a former Representative of Grand Kru County.
He previously served as the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Executive during the 53rd National Legislature and a member of the committee on Ways, Means and Finance, Resettlement, Repatriation, Relief and Readjustment.
He was serving as the Deputy Minister of State for Administration at the Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs when he was elevated by President Weah over the week end.
Mr. Blamo assumes the full fiduciary authority to manage the affairs of the Office of the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs in keeping with the Act creating that Office.
His preferment follows the resignation of former Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Mr. Nathaniel Farlo McGill”.
McGill, who served as the chief of the office staff of the President, is among three top officials of the Weah-led government that were sanctioned by the U.S. government in August for their alleged involvement with public corruption. The Managing Director of the National Port Authority, Bill Twehway and the Solicitor General, Cllr. Syma Syrennius Cephus were also suspended.
McGill in an interview with Al Jazeera recently said the sanction has damaged his reputation. He maintained his innocence and said he believes someone gave the United States government the wrong information when they were sincerely looking for information.
“I don’t think the American people hate me, but I think somebody may have told them something when they were genuinely trying to find facts. Somebody may have told them the wrong information,” he said.
He said, “The truth is there are people out there who are using my name; maybe it was the wrong McGill. Go on Facebook, they put there Nathaniel F. McGill, Minister of State, we’ve reported this to the police, the press has reported on this and people have been arrested. There are people out there doing these things and they think it’s me.”
McGill, according to the Treasury Department bribed business owners, received bribes from potential investors, and accepted kickbacks for steering contracts to companies in which he has an interest. McGill has manipulated public procurement processes in order to award multi-million dollar contracts to companies in which he has ownership, including by abusing emergency procurement processes to rig contract bids. McGill is credibly accused of involvement in a wide range of other corrupt schemes including soliciting bribes from government office seekers and misappropriating government assets for his personal gain. He has used government funds allocated to other Liberian government institutions to run his own projects, made off-the-books payments in cash to senior government leaders, and organized warlords to threaten political rivals. McGill has received an unjustified stipend from various Liberian government institutions and used his position to prevent his misappropriation from being discovered. McGill regularly distributes thousands of dollars in undocumented cash to other government officials for government and non-government activities.
McGill was designated for being a foreign person who is a current government official (now former) who is responsible for or complicit in, or who has directly or indirectly engaged in, corruption, including the misappropriation of state assets, the expropriation of private assets for personal gain, corruption related to government contracts or the extraction of natural resources, or bribery.
The latest appointment of Bishop Blamo comes in the wake of reports that President Weah was contemplating on selecting the Commissioner General of the Liberia Maritime Authority (LiMA) Mr. Lenn Eugene Nagbe as Minister of State for Presidential Affairs.
Executive Mansion sources hinted that Mr. Nagbe has been performing in the position since Mr. McGill resigned from the government.
He has also been serving in multiple capacities, including directing the government information dissemination on key national, international issues, policies and programs.
The uphill tasks
The Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs (Office of the President) was created by an Act of the National Legislature in 1971.
This Ministry is charged with, among other things, the responsibility of coordinating activities and operations of the Office of the President of the Republic of Liberia; and providing support to the President in carrying out the Executive Functions of the State through close consultation with the Cabinet, key agencies and other institutions, i.e. private sector and civil society.
The Ministry of State supports the work of the President of the Republic of Liberia through a dedicated and committed team of workers. The major departments of the Ministry of State include: the Office of the President, Administration, Public Affairs and Information Technology.
Bishop Blamo faces an uphill task of rebuilding the image of the office of the Liberian presidency which has been ridiculed due to the US sanctions imposed on his predecessor.
Political critics and opponents of President Weah have been pointing accusing fingers to him for being connected to actions taken by Mr. McGill to engage into corrupt acts.
In some cases, his critics claimed that the acts outlined in the US State Department report could not have been unilaterally committed by him, without the President’s approval or acquiescence.
However, the Executive Mansion has denied any link to alleged acts committed by Mr. McGill.
The manner and form in which McGill spilled out millions of dollars raised eyebrows in many quarters of the Liberian society, something which prompted even supporters and partisans of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) to call for his dismissal for alleged corruption.
McGill was more like a “public relations Minister of State”, by frequently appearing in the media responding to almost every political calculation or ploy initiated by the opposition against the President or any other government officials. But yet, he failed to build a good relationship between the Liberian leader and the media until his departure.
However, Bishop Blamo faces a challenge to proffer advices to the President in supporting and ensuring that media institutions are paid for advertising and other services they rendered to the government in a timely manner, void of any threats or intimidations and press freedom and freedom of speech are upheld.
The pitching of articles on government’s policies, programs and initiatives undertaken by the President by Bishop Blamo in a holistic manner to regain the trust and confidence of not only supporters or partisans of the ruling party, but international and local partners, over remains paramount ahead of the 2023 general and presidential elections.
Misuse of presidential images
Mr. McGill did not success in ensuring that sensitive images of the President that could bring his office to public ridicule did not surface in the public or on the social media.
As a result of that, barrage of indecent and untidy photographs of the Liberian leader, including ones taken during his leisure time, ended in the public.
Critics and political opponents continue to criticize the President for focusing more on pleasing and amusing himself by dancing and making music instead of focusing and finding sustainable and lasting solutions to problems confronting the nation and its people.