Liberia: Ministry of State Vs. Ministry of Foreign Affairs – Their Powers and Limitations
Monrovia — As a follow-up on recent reports by this newspaper, on a reported brawl between the Ministers of State and Foreign Affairs, where it was reported that a heated argument between Foreign Minister Dee-Maxwell Saah Kemayah, Sr. and the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Mr. Nathaniel McGill, engaged in trading insults right before the President, FrontPageAfrica looks into the powers of the two senior officials.
According to reports, the clash between the two high-ranking members of President George Weah’s Cabinet, all started with Min. McGill demanding that Min. Kemayah report directly to his office and not to the President, something that the Foreign Minister reportedly told him was outside the confines of the law and at the same time questioning how a Minister who works at the will and pleasure of the President would report to another Minister.
Efforts by this paper to establish whether the Act creating the Office of the Minister of State was revised and when was it done yielded no results as the Offices of the Secretary of the Senate and the Chief Clerk of the House of Representatives could not state whether, there has been amendment done on the act.
Also, efforts to get inputs from the Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal Affairs, Madam Deweh Gray, yielded no results as she did not respond to inquiries sent her via WhatsApp and or text messages. Mr. Henry Fahnbulleh, Deputy Foreign Minister for Foreign Affairs, said he could not speak to it because it didn’t fall within his jurisdiction.
Some lawmakers told me they had no idea of such and could not speak to the details.
What the Law says?
The act establishing the Office of the Minister of State shows that the Office is not just that of a messenger or notetaker as being perceived by many, it is rather an office or position that cuts across almost every government agency making up the Executive Branch of government.
Section 2.1 of the Executive Law titled: “Minister of State for Presidential Affairs,” establishes the Ministry of State and the Office of the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs. The law gives several responsibilities to the Minister.
In the law, the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate shall appoint an official within the Office of the President, with the title of Minister of State for Presidential Affairs. He/she shall be a member of the Cabinet and shall serve as the Principal Assistant to the President. He shall serve at the pleasure of the President and shall perform the many duties.
Some of the duties of the Minister of State includes, follow through and coordinate all decisions of the Chief Executive, Organize, as the President shall direct, Cabinet Meetings and be responsible for the proper maintenance of all records of such meetings, Exercise such operational authority, intrinsic to his office, as the President may from time to time direct; and Perform such other duties as may be assigned by the President.
The Act also states with clarity the purpose that the role and function of the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs under the Executive Law is more than just being one of the ablest, and dedicated principal assistants to the President of Liberia to a true and a committed confidante who understands and knows the President very well.
“The Minister of State for Presidential Affairs is the anchor around which the Cabinet is built, the frontline commander and the gate-way to the presidency.
He carries out the following functions and responsibilities: serves as a principal assistant to the President with the exclusive and unfettered authority to coordinate, direct, control and supervise all decisions and polices of the Executive Branch of the Liberian government.
The key words are coordinate, direct, control and supervise all decisions and policies; exercises operational authority to include but not limited to all functions and operations of the agencies and institutions within the executive branch either demonstrably or inherently at the behest of the President;
Performs such other duties including but not limited to coordinating, planning, organizing and arranging all appointments of the President, visitations for residents and foreign guests including but not limited to cabinet ministers, traditional chiefs and zoes, private citizens; ranging domestic and foreign travels, and addresses all communications both foreign and domestic, among others.
Section 2.2. of the Act calls for the establishment of the Office of the Assistants to Minister of State for Presidential Affairs. With the advice and consent of the Senate, the President shall appoint such assistants to the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs as the President shall deem necessary for the effective performance of the duties assigned to the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs.
Also in 2.3 of the Act which deals with the organization of Office of Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, calls for the organization of the Office of the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs in such manner as shall be determined by the President.
20.1. Ministry authorized; appointment of Minister
There shall be in the Executive Branch of the Government a Ministry of Foreign Affairs to be headed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who shall be appointed by the President by and with the advice and consent of the Senate.
20.2. Organization of the Ministry
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs shall be organized to include the following: Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Office of the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Office of the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs for Administration, Office of the Counselor, Office of the Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs, Office of the Special Assistant to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Office of the Foreign Service Inspector General, Office of the Chief of Protocol, Bureau of Asian and African Affairs, Bureau of European Affairs, Bureau of American Affairs, Bureau of International Organizations Affairs, Bureau of Economic Affairs, National Archives and Records Management Service, Division of Administrative Services, Division of Finance, Division of Passports and Visas, Division of Publication.”
The Act also lays out the powers of the Minister of Foreign Minister which includes; authorities to determine the internal organization of each of the agencies listed above, subject to the provisions of this chapter.
Also, section 20.3. Duties of Minister of Foreign Affairs, it shall be the duty of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, under the direction of the President to, formulate and implement the foreign policy of the Government of Liberia; Promote beneficial intercourse between Liberia and other countries; Protect Liberians’ rights and interests throughout the world; Direct the conduct of the Foreign Service; and Issue regulations governing the activities of foreign diplomatic and consular missions accredited to the Republic of Liberia.
The duties of the minister also includes; issuing passports and visas; act as custodian of archives of the Republic of Liberia; promote, in cooperation with other Government ministries and agencies, improved records management practices and supervise the preservation, storage, and disposal of Government records; oversee the publication of all papers and documents required by law to be published and required for the use of any of the agencies of Government; publish an official newspaper; act as custodian of the seal of the Republic; certify public documents in the custody of the Minister and authenticate the signatures of public officials; inform elected officials of Government of their election; issue certificates of incorporation to business corporations formed in Liberia and register foreign corporations doing business there and Register patents, copyrights, and trademarks.