The Executive branch of government gathered over the weekend to deliberate on how to end its administration on a high note by implementing tangible projects as legacies for President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. The 2016 Cabinet Retreat, a two-day event, took place in Julijuah, Bomi County, the paternal home of the President, who was in attendance, along with Vice President Joseph Boakai, the cabinet and their principal deputies.
The gathering was what appeared to be one of the last cabinet retreats by the Unity Party (UP) led government toward the end of its twelve-year rule.
The cabinet has set a 20-month (five hundred and ninety two days) timeline of ambitious but attainable targets to ensure that the Sirleaf administration fulfills the major promises made to the Liberian people. Those targets focus on energy, roads connecting capitals of the counties, health, education and many more.
President Sirleaf was blunt in her brief statement to officially open the retreat. She demanded “very honest” presentations from her cabinet officials, stressing that the purpose of the retreat was to look carefully at what government would accomplish in the next 20 months.
“We would like for the meeting to be focused, to be able to identify results in the timeframe,” she said on Thursday. “We would like for people to be very honest in their presentations so we know where the obstacles are.”
President Sirleaf added that government intends to find the means to overcome whatever the challenges are.
As the transition gets closer, President Sirleaf said she wants her cabinet members to see themselves as team players who will enable the government to achieve its objectives so that everyone takes the credit at the end of the day. “The aim is toward accomplishing something for which everyone will be able to take credit and say we were able to get this done in the timeframe.”
The President strongly spoke against “thieves in the government and the show of power by officials” “This is not the time for thief or show of power. We must be honest and committed in what we do,” she warned.
Reporters were not allowed in the working sessions of the retreat, but were later briefed by the Minister of Information, Cultural affairs and Tourism (MICAT), Lenn Eugene Nagbe.
Minister Nagbe said the retreat was meant to review what government has been able to achieve, where there have been difficulties, as well as set attainable goals for the remaining years of its tenure.
He disclosed that presentations were made by several officials, including Minister of Lands, Mines and Energy, Patrick Sendolo; Minister of Public Works, William Gyude Moore; Minister of Health, Bernice Dahn; and the Managing Director of the Liberia Electricity Corporation, among others.
Regarding the energy sector, Minister Nagbe said considerable progress has been made in the sector with the Mount Coffee Hydro plant at the center of progress. He also spoke about the coming online of the Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO) Plant that would see over 8,000 households being connected to electricity in the Gardnersville, Paynesville and Congo Town areas.
“When you generate power you have to connect to homes and businesses and this is what the government is doing with the HFO Plant,” he explained.
He further noted that Minister Moore provided the meeting with a consistent briefing on progress at his ministry, specifically about roads that would be connecting the capitals of counties. He indicated that the asphalt road from Gbarnga to the Guinea border has been completed and would be dedicated by President Sirleaf very soon.
Director of the Cabinet, Jordan Sulunteh, at the end of the retreat, urged his colleagues to be more committed to all of the targets that had been set and noted that they should be more concerned with leaving a legacy for the president and the government come 2018, when they should have turned power over to a newly elected administration.