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Liberia: Sen. Saah Joseph ‘Lied’ on Pres. Weah; Did Not Receive Mandate to Dismiss Presidential Appointee

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Monrovia – It is now clear that Montserrado County Senator Saah H. Joseph lied when he wrote and ordered the dismissal of the Managing Director of the Liberia Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Authority (LMHRA), Pharmacist David Sumo.

Sen. Joseph, who is an executive member of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) and a legislator, had reportedly lied on President George Manneh Weah when ordered the dismissal. According to him, the President had given him the go-ahead to issue the dismissal of Pharmacist Sumo off his post and replace him with the entity’s Human Resource manager.

Saah Joseph’s Dismissal Letter

Copy of the dismissal letter in our possession reads: “It is an honor to present to you my compliments and write to inform you of the President’s mandate. It would be recalled that by the President’s mandate, all HR’s were asked to supervise all activities at all Government Ministries and Agencies.”

President’s Office Response 

But the Office of the President through the Press Secretary, Mr. Isaac Solo Kelgbeh, has distanced the President from Senator Joseph’s claims that he got his power to dismiss from him (Weah).

Phoning in on a morning talk show, which was being aired by Prime FM 105.5 Tuesday, August 7, the Presidential Press Secretary disclosed that the President has not issued any mandate to Senator Joseph to remove the Managing Director of the LMHRA as has been claimed by the Senator. 

“I repeat, the President did not tell anybody to dismiss anyone at the LMHRA; it is the responsibility of the President to make appointment and dismiss any official of government. He did not instruct anyone to perform such duty,” Kelgbeh stated, emphatically.

Later on Wednesday, August 7, in an Executive Mansion’s press release, the President termed as “unacceptable the attempted usurpation of his constitutional authority by officials of government.

“In a widely circulated letter dated July 19, 2019, Montserrado County Senator Saah Joseph wrote and sought to effect an appointment and a dismissal at the Liberia Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Authority (LMHRA), thus improperly arrogating unto himself the power to “grant” someone the authority to serve as Managing Director of the Liberia Medicines & Health Product Regulatory Authority (LMHRA).

“President Weah has described his action as an unlawful act that runs contrary to Article 56A of the Constitution of Liberia, which grants exclusive authority to the President of the Republic to appoint all such officials. 

“The President has also expressed disapproval of this attempted usurpation of his function and reiterates his call to all officials of the government to carry out their duties in accordance with law and to work diligently to improve the lives of the Liberian people.

“The President warns of corrective measures should such flagrant attempt to exercise his constitutional responsibility occur again.

“Meanwhile, President Weah has directed that all actions of appointment and dismissal carried out at LMHRA as a result of Senator Joseph’s communications are null. He has also directed the Minister of Finance to effect a freeze on all accounts of the entity pending a review of its financial records.”

Reactions to Saah Joseph’s Action 

Since news broke of the Senator’s illegal action few days ago, he has been harshly criticized in the public for trying to usurp the function of the Executive when he is in another branch of government. 

David Sumo’s Ordeal

Before Sumo’s ordeal with the Senator, he had come under attack from major pharmaceutical products’ importers, most of whom are Lebanese   and Indians. Sumo has been heavily clamping down on people pushing “fake medicinal drugs” on the Liberian market.

The MD has also come under attack from “borrowed” civil society groups, which have accused him of corruption, including allegedly creating multiple payrolls at LMHRA. 

One of the main allegations against Mr. Sumo is that he had requested a bank to credit the account of the entity with at least US$78,000 and that he wanted to surreptitiously use this money on his personal business and not the entity’s.  

Responding to this allegation Tuesday, August 6, Sumo said he had requested the overdraft from the bank so as to pay salaries and other for LMHRA’s employees as they have not been paid their salaries for three months.

The President has reportedly been misled that the MD Sumo got the loan and misapplied it personally.

MD Sumo further stated that the decision to request the bank, had been agreed upon in a senior staff meeting.

Supporting David Sumo’s Point

Providing clarity on the issue of separate payroll, the LMHRA Accountant, Del T. Nagbe, said that the budget line for the LMHRA at the Ministry of Finance is in twofold: the salary budget line and general allowance budget line. He noted that usually at the LMHRA the payroll is being divided into two categories — USD and Liberian Dollar.

On the overdraft, Nagbe said it was agreed that should the overdraft come, it would be used to pay staff.

He stressed that the Medicinal Regulatory Authority is faced with serious financial constraint, like most public entities. 

Saah Joseph Recommended 25 for Employment

He alleged that Senator Joseph had recommended 25 individuals for employment and that increased the financial burden of LMHRA.

When he recommended the 25 persons, Sen. Joseph, in his letter of recommendation, stated that those individuals are “capable, suitable and fit to occupy any position at the LMHRA.”

“I present my esteemed compliments and write to highly recommend the following capable persons whose names are attached hereto for employment to any suitable positions that best fit their qualifications at the Liberia Medicine and Health Product Regulatory Authority (LMHRA),” Senator Joseph noted in his communication to Mr. Sumo on July 3, 2018.

In the letter, those recommended most of whom are alleged to be partisans of the ruling party, include Huge P. Bladee, Antoinette Mulbah, Nicklaus D. Nimely, Lassanan M. Dorley, II, Wynetta Kollie, Sekou M. Bility, Sheik T. Konneh, Mayamu Kamara, Asatta B. Tekai, Patience M. K. Bonsrah, Frances W. Bestman and Arthur N. Gbotoe.

Others are James Z. Sorsor, Prince S. Bunah, Moses S. Zogbayeit, Koyo Freeman, Jesse Gbotoe, Adolphus Saywatt, Trokon College, Varney Sheriff, Walter Smith, Angel R. Banda, Teta Synyenlentu, J. Kollie Golakpai and Musu Kamara.

According to David Sumo, the additional staffs added to the entity’s payroll prompted the accountant to apply for an overdraft.

“I don’t understand how that is corruption. The money is not money that a single individual can take and pocket,” he said. 

Call to Constitute Agency’s Board

Medical stakeholders have called on the President to constitute the LMHRA’s Board of Directors before appointing a new MD so as to avoid outside influence and interference.

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