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Editorial: Madam President: Please Listen and Act

What may introduce another public debate or controversy between the Legislative and Executive Branches of Government if the necessary constitutional measures are not adhere to, has surfaced on the front pages of Liberian newspapers and radio airwaves. News of Finance Minister Amara Konneh’s double role as a “child of two cities” (both as Minister of Finance and Planning and Economic Affairs in the government) became publicly known when the matter became the focus of the Senate’s plenary last Thursday through a communication to that general Assembly of Senators by the Committee on Planning and Economic Affairs of the Liberian Senate.

Evidence of the Senators’ claim is a UNICEF 2012 report on children and women, titled: the Situation of Children and Women in Liberia 2012; wherein Amara Konneh signed the forward statement as Minister of Finance and Economic Planning. Further expressing dismay, the Liberian Senate described Minister Konneh’s action as  not only deceptive, but also ‘impersonation’, noting that the position of ‘Minister of Finance and Economic Planning’ did not exist within the Executive Branch of Government.

Minister Konneh admitted to the concern raised against him by the Senators, claiming that “he was asked by President Ellen Sirleaf to act as Minister of planning and Economic Affairs until the amalgamation of the two ministries”. The foregoing admission by the minister further lend credence to speculations in the Senate and certain quarters of the Executive Branch that he was earning two pay checks as ministers of both Finance, and Planning and Economic Affairs even though a communication in the possession of the New Dawn-Liberia did not, but a few of his junior ministers as receiving two salaries for the month of March for the two ministries.

“I am not being pay as minister of Planning and Economic Affairs; instead only Finance Ministry; I did not go to school for pro-bono business; I work for pay; what I am making now is small taking into account my level of education, but I accept it,” Konneh boasted recently in reaction. Whatever intention or plan Madam President had for the two ministries, it was only constitutionally proper to act in consonance with governance principles. This is why the Senators’ request to Madam President to either appoint a Planning Minister or draft a law that could merge the two ministries must be considered. It is an agreeable fact that the action by the Minister of Finance is challenging to the legislature and laws that they have created in the absence of a law repealing the laws creating the Ministry of Planning and Economic Affairs.

When the laws to merge the Ministries of Finance and Planning and economic Affairs are yet to be drafted since the commencement of President Sirleaf’s second term in January, it could have been in the spirit of good governance for her to appoint someone else as Minister of Planning and Economic Affairs until her intention is fulfilled by an Act of the Liberian Legislature. Whatever reason the President may have had for her decision to “ask Mr. Amara Konneh to act as Minister of Planning and Economic Affairs” without considering other competent Liberians, it has become urgently necessary for her to address the situation before it becomes a bad image-building for our country.

The responsibility given Finance Minister Amara Konneh over the Ministry of Planning and Economic Affairs in contravention of the laws of Liberia must be ‘quietly withdrawn’ to avoid another un-necessary public debate or controversies with the appointment of a Minister of Planning and Economic Affairs, while the commencement of the legal process to repeal the current Act creating the ministry and the new one can begin.

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