Position Struggle at EPA Vohiri Suspended

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The struggle for position at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is brewing as President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s quest to create a new position at the Agency backfires.

According to documents obtained by the Daily Observer, President Sirleaf has opted to create a Deputy Executive Director for Operations at the EPA, contrary to the Act establishing the entity.

It all started when Civil Service Agency (CSA) Director General George Werner wrote to EPA Executive Director Amyaa Vohiri requesting a new position to be occupied by former Margibi County superintendent Levi Piah.

“I write to appeal for the creation of the Deputy Executive Director for Operations (DEDO) within the EPA,” CSA Werner said in a letter dated October 14, 2014 addressed to EPA.

According to Werner, the DEDO will be accompanied by a Special Technical Assistant to the DEDO who will assist the DEDO with facilitating EPA’s operations.

He added that fiscal allocations for both positions will be placed in EPA’s 2014/2015 Budget but will require EPA management’s follow up with the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning.

Knowing full well that the creation of the two positions would contravene the EPA Act, the CSA communicated the Terms of Reference (ToRs) to EPA in an apparent attempt to justify the Civil Service’s request.

According to information obtained by this paper, the EPA boss apprised stakeholders about the CSA request, forcing Finance and Development Planning Minister Amara Konneh to immediately intervene.

In his letter of November 7, 2014 addressed to the CSA, Konneh proposed that such a request is directed to the EPA Board of Directors for approval prior to any action by the Ministry of Finance to include the positions in the FY2014/2015 National Budget.

“I therefore request that you direct your appeal to the Board for consideration,” Konneh advised.

Similar to Konneh’s reaction, Madam Vohiri reminded CSA that the request “contravenes the Act establishing EPA, an autonomous agency situated under the office of the President of the Republic of Liberia. Further, your directive does not in fact reflect a current need of the Agency. The leadership structure of the Agency as enshrined in the Act allows for the Executive Director, one Deputy Executive Director and line managers to inform the management team that is currently operating the EPA as successfully as it can, given the budgetary and technical constraints,” Madam Vohiri declared.

President Johnson Sirleaf in apparent anger, wrote the EPA boss informing her of her immediate suspension.

“In keeping with the authority granted me under the Constitution as head of the Executive Branch of which EPA is a part, and in response to your gross misconduct and disregard to the instructions given you in a meeting on Thursday, November 20, 2014, you are hereby suspended for an indefinite period of time.

“The Minister of Finance and Development Planning, in his capacity as chair of the National Environmental Policy Council, has been advised on the reason for this decision and requested to take appropriate action,” President Sirleaf said to the EPA boss.

However, the Act creating the EPA does not call for the establishing of the two positions. According to Section 16 A, B & C, “There shall be an Executive Director who is a person with wide environmental knowledge.

“The Executive Director shall serve for the period of 7 years and shall be eligible for reappointment, except that there shall be appointed an interim ED.

“The ED shall have security of tenure but shall cease to hold office if he/she, resigns, found guilty of gross misconduct on the advice of the Board and approval of the Policy Council or unable to discharge the functions of his/her office for health reasons.”

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