Since the executive mansion was gutted by fire during President Sirleaf’s first term of office 11 years ago, it is yet to be prepared as offices and habitable living quarters for the new president-elect, George Weah, sources have told the Daily Observer.
The Executive Mansion was gutted by fire during Liberia’s 159th Independence Anniversary celebration on July 26, 2006. President Sirleaf was at the time feting foreign guests and dignitaries in the gardens of the Executive Mansion.
When contacted, Jerolinmek Matthew Piah, Presidential Press Secretary said the renovation of the Executive Mansion is in progress, but however failed to state the expected completion date or time frame of the project.
President-elect and vice President-elect, George Manneh Weah and Jewel Howard-Taylor, will be inaugurated on Monday, January 22, 2018 as the 24th elected president of Liberia and there is mounting public concern that President Weah will not occupy the official seat of the Presidency not anytime soon.
Observers say that the Executive Mansion has been deserted and abandoned mainly due to President Sirleaf’s alleged fears about ghosts and evil spirits haunting the building. It can be recalled that ex-fighter, now Reverend Joshua Milton Blahyi, told the Truth and Reconciliation Commission during its public hearings that blood ritual and other sacrifices were performed at the Executive Mansion during the tenure of late President Samuel K. Doe to render him as well as the Executive Mansion impregnable. Hundreds of people especially men are also said to have been killed on the grounds of the Executive Mansion in the wake of the 1985 failed Quiwonkpa invasion.
But it remains unclear whether President Sirleaf’s failure to complete the renovation of the Executive Mansion before the end of her tenure is deliberate, can be attributed to her alleged fear of lurking ghosts and evil spirits or whether it can be attributed to wanton corruption or gross mismanagement of resources allocated to its renovation.
What is however clear is that Government officials are maintaining sealed lips and reacting angrily in typical knee-jerk fashion to queries about progress on the ongoing renovation exercise at the Executive Mansion.
When questioned, Presidential Press Secretary Jerolimek Piah failed to state how much has been used in the renovation of the official residence and offices of the Liberian leader. But sources say over U.S$10 million has since been spent on the renovation project, most of which has been squandered by top officials.
Further according to sources, brass fittings and every other useful piece of equipment was scrapped and sold for a pittance — a price far below the value of the scrapped materials.
“I cannot speak to the completion of the project, because the renovation is ongoing,” Piah told the Daily Observer in an angry tone.
He told the Observer that the Ministry of Finance and Development (MFDP) was the appropriate institution to provide financial information regarding the renovation process.
Mr. Sylvester Grigsby, Minister of State for Presidential Affairs said the project was turned over to the Ministry of Public Works four months ago.
“Based on the General Auditing Commission (GAC) recommendation from the last audit conducted, the project was given to them to continue. As we speak, the work is ongoing,” Minister Grigsby said.
Claude Langley, Deputy Minister for Technical services at the Ministry of Public Works (MPW) said the renovation work was far from completion.
“I had discussions with the President-Elect Weah yesterday providing update on the current ongoing renovation of the Executive Mansion. This project was turned over to me in September of last year,” Minister Langley said.
A highly placed source within the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) told the Daily Observer yesterday it was unfortunate that the Executive Mansion is yet to be completed since July, 2006.
“We will speak to the renovation of the Executive Mansion after the inauguration of the President-Elect. We are also concerned about the long delay in the renovation process, but want to remain focused on what is on hand,” a source who preferred anonymity told the Observer.
There has been growing public concern and debate over the delay in the renovation process with continued silence from Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs.
Following the fire outbreak on the third floor of the Executive Mansion on Liberia’s 159th Independence Day, July 26, 2006, the government of Liberia announced its closure pending, renovation work. President Sirleaf relocated to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where she has since been performing official State functions.
Construction of the eight-storey building which began in 1961, was completed in 1964 during the tenure of Liberia’s 18th President, William V. S. Tubman, Sr.
The Executive Mansion is the official seat of the President of the Republic of Liberia, but since the fire incident, it has remained virtually abandoned.