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Editorial: Drawing Madam President’s Attention to the Education Ministry

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The Joint-Committee on Ways, Means, Finance and Budget of the 53rd Liberian Legislature is currently cross-examining Cabinet Ministers and heads of autonomous agencies and Public Corporations on the 2012/2013 National Budget on Capitol Hill, The budget hearing is being conducted by the Liberian Legislature as one of its functions for heads of ministries and agencies of government, as well as Public Corporations to provide justifications for their respective allotments as prepared by the Budget Committee headed by the Minister of Finance.

As part of the exercise, these senior officials of government are also required to provide  the performance reports of their respective institutions for the last budget year to further give reasons to the Legislature to accept or deny their requests for 2012/2013, and if necessary, make further appropriations or not.

However, while many anticipated a ‘smooth ride’ in the budget hearing process, it has so far been ‘rocky and crazy’ on Capitol Hill with most of the appearances characterized by either unpreparedness or poor justifications on the part of the ministers and a few others. While some could not provide clear explanation of their own budgets, others could not convince the Legislators about allotments in their budgets.

Worst of it all was the Minister of Education, Mrs. Etmonia Tarpeh who seemed neither to have understood her budget nor provide explanation on her own budget-no wonder why she attempted shying away by seconding one of her deputies who was rejected.

Many had expected that Minister Tarpeh would even “bull doze” the budget hearing, but her performance may have actually sent the wrong signals. Perhaps many had thought that being knowledgeable about the inner-working of the Ministry of education having once served  as Deputy Minister for Instruction and Tex Books prior to and during the 1980 Coup, much would have been done by her to “kajor” members of the Committee on Ways, Means, Finance and Budget of the House of representatives.

Her poor performance may not have been a result of her inability to understand the inner-working of the Education Ministry, but lack detailed knowledge on the ministry’s budget, probably because of some internal problems. And from all indications, one may assume that relations between the minister and other officials might not be cordial. Considering the distance (19th Street South in the building which housed the Unity Party Campaign Headquarters) at which works from the main Education Ministry complex on Broad Street where all of the deputy and assistant ministers are present, it is least difficult to understand that there may be problems.

Perhaps because Minister Tarpeh, since her appointment, has always not felt comfortable working with other officials at that ministry she did not recommend to the President of Liberia, madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, she may have as well chosen to be on 19th South with her consultants who previous worked with her at the Ministry of |Youth and Sports to run the ministry.

On the other hand, those at the ministry’s main complex down town Monrovia, including technocrats who perceive the minister as antagonizing them may also be on the defensive and at times, offensive by not relating to Minister Tarpeh (especially so on the ministry’s budget).

If the foregoing is anything to accept,, it then becomes not difficult to understand why ‘things are falling apart’ at the Ministry of education, such so that the minister is not even on top of the issue regarding the budget of the Ministry of Education. Many would be very grateful if President Sirleaf were to launch an investigation into what may likely be the souring relations between the Minister of Education and her deputies and Assistant Ministers.

Such investigation is necessary to foster teamwork or total involvement for higher heights at the Ministry of education, especially at the time efforts by the ministry tackle the issue of ‘sky-rocketing’ tuition and other fees charged by private schools in Monrovia and its environs.

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