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Open Letter To President Sirleaf

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….. The major source of this abuse is within the Executive Branch of Government. Specifically, almost all executive-branch agencies of government – ministries and agencies – are Line agencies; that is, that their functional responsibilities/performances are to “execute” or “implement” approved policy decisions.

October 10, 2013

Excellency Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (Mrs.), President, Republic of Liberia
The Executive Mansion, Capitol Hill, Monrovia

Madam President:

It is my distinguished honor and privilege to present sincere greetings and compliments, and to express pride and encouragement, extend gratitude and appreciation to Your Excellency for the bold, open, confident and reasonable Speech, a sort of “World Report”, so to speak, made at the level of the United Nations.

I extend, also, wishes of good health and prosperity this year, throughout the coming years, while I invite, most respectfully, Your Excellency’s attention to the views expressed, with suggestions herein, for action.

In your Excellency’s Address to the 68th Session of the United Nation General Assembly as President of Liberia (The Analyst, September 26, 2013), You told the World Body that “. . .we (Liberia/Liberians) have done much in restoring basic (socio-economic) services and infrastructure; . . . have done much in improving governance and strengthening our institutions of integrity; . . . have done much in achieving an average, annual growth rate of 7%”; and the announcement  that we (Liberians) “ . . . still have much more to do in consolidating the culture of integrity and accountability in a society . . . still beset by values occasioned by years of conflict” and that “we must (and will) now . . . take the hard decisions (necessary) in addressing long-standing, structural systems, . . . challenge entrenched social habits, change old mindsets and attitudes”.

Indeed, Madam President, Your Excellency’s announced objective, although a “tall order”, is achievable, because the reform/transformation process is not only a necessity, but also long, over-due and doable. Moreover, the announcement, made at the level of the United Nations, is bold, courageous and encouraging, comparable to Your Pledge of political, economic and administrative power decentralization during your first Inaugural Address to the nation on January 6, 2006 and subsequent establishment of the National Governance Commission.

However, Madam President, public announcements of planned programs of such reforms that are not followed by timely, concrete action attract far less attention and commitment and, therefore, become readily obsolete than those that do. Your announced commitment to decentralization as an agent of transformation ran out of steam for similar reasons, for example. It is, apparently, clear that the old “mindsets, social habits, vested interests” and, most importantly, the “structural systems’” ideologues still control the “reform” process. For example, the administration of counties – the national constituent, political sub-divisions and their sub-structures that, together, constitute the Republic, are caught in vicious shackles of policy confusions and contradictions due to policy & administrative decisions made and dispensed by bureaucrats sitting in their Monrovia offices, without benefit of current, research information, creating more, new sub-structures such as clan and paramount chiefdoms, townships, administrative and statutory districts, in addition to existing sub-structures created by ancient, Liberian Law governing Hinterland Liberia.

The results have been and are profoundly disappointing. Accordingly, Your Excellency was constrained to draw national attention to this disabling condition in your Annual Message delivered on January 28, 2013, as President of the nation, that “. . . the challenges of the Decentralization Policy . . . the present local (the political, administrative subdivisions) governance structures are bloated, and difficult to manage. For example, there are more than 149 cities – 33 in Sinoe . . . 93 Administrative Districts; 251 Paramount Chiefs; more than 689 Clan Chiefs; 1,410 General Town Chiefs; and 250 Township Commissioners”, (indicating the creation of that number of townships). “Moreover”, the President continued, “the government has to deliver services to more than 16,000 TOWNS AND VILLAGES. As if these statistics were not daunting enough, the boundaries of all these localities overlap, leading to confusion over jurisdiction and administrative authority . . .”

Structure Influences Behavior

According to Organization Theory, the structure of an Organization – the rules & regulations, constitution & bye-laws that define the division of labor, in terms of functional/responsibilities and reporting/accountability relationships – influences the behavior of the individuals in organization; and given the prevailing, endemic nature and incidence of Liberian corruption (arising from the absence of “culture of integrity and accountability”), I add, corruption drives behavior.

Similarly, the Structure of the Liberian Government, defined and enshrined in the Constitution and utilized during these 166 years, with all governmental power – political, economic and administrative –  invested in the presidency, bears responsibility, among others, for lack or absence of “good, democratic governance” in Liberia. Put differently, Liberia’s socio-economic and political problem is structural, not, simply, the ego of an ambitious president.

Unless, I argue, the structure of our government is changed or replaced, the current drive for “good, democratic governance, efficient and effective delivery of needed services, including the prevailing socio-economic and political constipation of our capital city of Monrovia” are all doomed to failure. That this is so is shown that the existing structure centralizes political power and supports, naturally, an imperial presidency. Therefore, it would be very difficult to decentralize political, economic and administrative power without a change of structure, such that Liberia becomes or will become a modern, functional state.

Abuse of Staff & Line Functional Responsibilities

A. Staff Functions

Staff agencies or departments conduct research, analysis, debate findings, prescribe and recommend/present policy decision options on any given policy issue, with consequences of each option to the decision-maker, for informed decision-making.

B. Line Functions

The major source of this abuse is within the Executive Branch of Government. Specifically, almost all executive-branch agencies of government – ministries and agencies – are Line agencies; that is, that their functional responsibilities/performances are to “execute” or “implement” approved policy decisions. These ministries and agencies, including the Ministry of Internal Affairs, are not, should not and must not be permitted to act as Staff agencies or Policy Advisors. To permit this condition to obtain is to encourage biased, irrational competition for “turf” and/or corruption, level of training and experience notwithstanding.

Faithfully,

Bai M. Gbala, Sr.
Cc: Her Excellency Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (Mrs.)

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