The adage that there are “ninety nine days for thief, and one day for the master” may soon manifest itself on the Liberian scene as the periodic inclusion of renovation for the Executive Mansion in national budget without actualizing the project will soon warrant a judicial intervention.
In the words of Liberia’s fire-brand Solicitor General and Chief Prosecutor, Cllr. Sayma S. Cephus, his office’s next axe will fall on former officials of government who since 2007 handled monies for the renovation of the Executive Mansion, the home of the presidency which never got completed in the 12 years rule of the Unity Party-led government of former president Ellen Sirleaf.
The Executive Mansion, built within a five year period, (1959-1964) from funds provided by Israeli Government during the days of former President, William Vacanarat Sharach Tubman went through an eleven year period of renovation but was not finished as the Sirleaf’s days came to an end on January 22, 2018.
The Executive Mansion was gutted by fire when Liberia was celebrating her Independence anniversary on July 26, 2006, as newly inaugurated President Sirleaf and her three colleagues, former Presidents, John Kuffour of Ghana, Olesegun Obasanjo of Nigeria and Laurent Gbabo of La Cote d’ Ivoire were having presidential dinner after attending an Independence festival at the Centennial Pavilion on Ashmum Street.
After the fire incident, the former President set-up a Presidential Committee to probe the fire incident with her Political Affairs Advisor, Dr. H. Boima Fahnbulleh, Jr. as head and after an intense investigation, it was established that the fire resulted from an electrical fault due to wrong wiring system at the Executive Mansion, something that led to the resignation of the Sirleaf government’s first State and Presidential Affairs Minister, Morris Dukuly who took administrative responsibility and the immediate dismissal of National Security Advisor, Madison Tokpa.
According to the Solicitor General, the fact that the 2006-2007 budget was already in full swing, the renovation works did not begin until the coming into force of the succeeding budgets: 2007-2008, 2008-2009, 2009-2010, 2010-2011, 2011-2012, 2012-2013, 2013-2014, 2014-2015, 2015-2016-2017 in which some huge funds were placed in the budget for the renovation of the Liberian Presidential home.
A Chinese company is said to have initially been contacted by the Sirleaf’s administration to do the renovation, but after carrying out some dismal works and allegedly looting some interior designs from the well-built Executive Mansion, the Chinese were dropped and an Italian construction company, CESAR, having completed a Central Bank of Liberia contract, was to do the renovation on the Executive Mansion, but that again failed, reports say.
In his determination to bring relief and ensure that plunderers face the full weight of the law, Cllr. Cephus has vowed to legally go after those that found pleasure in siphoning state funds and expect to go on with impunity.
He told a news interview that Government was ready to prepare indictment to set in motion the prosecution for people linked to stealing funds intended for the renovation project.
“This administration will legally chase plunderers, wherever they go, where they go, no matter their status, creed, will be made to answer for their deeds. The Liberian people need answers why after eleven years, why the Executive Mansion’s renovation has not finished, there will be no mountain too high to climb, no river or ocean too deep to cross,” the tough talking Solicitor General said.
Over 14 million United States Dollars were allotted for the job by Nobel Laureate and former President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf over several budget periods, according to reliable sources.