By Martin K. N. Kollie
The Executive Mansion
The Executive Mansion is the official home of the Liberian Presidency. It was built in 1964 under the administration of President William Vacanarat Shadrach Tubman by 2,000 workers and 150 foreign technicians. The eight-storey Executive Mansion building, which costs US$20 million, has an atomic-bomb shelter, an underground swimming pool, a private chapel, a trophy room, a cinema, an emergency power plant, water supply and sewage system, among others.
This constitutional palace of the Liberian presidency went into flames on July 26, 2006 while four West African leaders were guests of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf during Liberia’s 159th Independence Day celebration. It was exactly seven months ten days following her inauguration on January 16, 2006 when this unfortunate fire invasion took place.
According to South African Forensic Scientists, the fire eruption at the Executive Mansion was caused as a result of electrical fault. Due to this incident, President Sirleaf has been unable to perform State functions at her official office for almost 9 years now. Is this not a blatant violation of our law especially when resources have been made available since 2008 to refurbish this same Mansion?
Interestingly, our President feels very complacent about administering State functions at an unofficial location. The Foreign Ministry is not meant to discharge Presidential duties. Barrack Obama cannot perform his statutory mandate as President of America out of the White House for more than 9 years. Even though, we claim to model our system of governance after America, but most often we exhibit undemocratic actions that do not even conform to existing realities.
What does it take to renovate our Executive Mansion? This government made a public announcement on August 4, 2008 to begin renovation under the supervision of a local construction group, Milton and Richards Architecture Film, which in turn sub-leased certain aspects of the renovation work to other local construction companies including the Liberian-owned W. R. Maintenance & Janitorial Services located in Sinkor.
The estimated cost to renovate the Executive Mansion in 2008 was USD$7 million. The total amount of USD$3 million was allocated in the 2008-2009 national budget to fund phase one of this project. We are very concern about the safety and security of our President, but again she cannot continue to overtly contravene statutory guidelines which are in compliance with democratic due diligence.
Furthermore, it is the right of our people to know some basic facts surrounding appropriations made to revamp our Executive since it was gutted by fire in 2006. Under the Public Sector Investment Plan and Technical Services budget of the Ministry of State for President Affairs, the total of US$14,933,334 has been allocated for the renovation of the Executive Mansion. This is a succinct fiscal breakdown per annum:
Even though, these huge amounts have been disbursed to revamp the official home of President Sirleaf, but the Mansion is a palace of ghosts up-to-date. This means someone must account for these public resources? In 2008, the cost of renovating the Mansion was US$7 million. Today, there are huge public concerns about the completion of this Mansion even though more than US$14,933,334 has been spent.
Is this not corruption? How does this regime intend to end corruption? Is this not public dishonesty and mistrust of authority? How will corruption not be a vampire? We demand an immediate investigate into this matter. State actors must exercise transparency and accountability at all times. The Ministry of State for President Affairs must give a comprehensive account of this US$14,933,334.
For too long we have sat and witnessed the unbending refusal of this Chief Executive to relocate from an unauthorized residence to her legitimate habitat. This inconsistent and unjustifiable display by Madam Sirleaf is offensive to good governance and international best practices. The President must put an end to this unorthodox occurrence now, before it hunts her legacy further.
The Executive Mansion can never become a safe environment until this government makes it what it ought to be. If this regime was serious about ensuring President Sirleaf relocates to her legitimate duty-station, our Executive Mansion would have been fully renovated by now. Unfortunately, it is not a priority to some unpatriotic public servants who are in control of State resources. Nine (9) years is too sufficient to give our Executive Mansion a conclusive face-lift. There should be no ground for unnecessary excuse(s) especially when adequate funds were made available to complete this national project.
Any Leader who leads by example will always receive standing ovations from his/her people. In accordance with Article one of the 1986 Constitution, the good people of Liberia are mandating Madam President to return to her official home from now to the end of this year. If our President abides by this popular mandate, it would contribute to restoring democratic sanctity to the Presidency. We cannot live in a country with a homeless President. The recurrent denial of our President to occupy her real domicile is alarming and this issue must provoke public interest.
We will not accept any further dislodgment of President Sirleaf after January 01, 2016. This is an ultimatum that must seek the immediate attention of our President. If Madam Sirleaf fails to abide by our directive, we shall utilize all legal means to ensure she returns to the Executive Mansion.
Above all interests, Liberia is Supreme.
About the Author: Martin K. N. Kollie is a Liberian youth activist, and student leader. He is currently a student at the University of Liberia reading Economics and a member of the Student Unification Party (SUP). Martin K. N. Kollie can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org