Uneasiness in the Corridors

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Reliable information reaching the Daily Observer indicates uneasiness among those staff of various ministries and agencies of government, who are famously known as non-essential staff. 

These non-essential staff, ordered to stay home as a result of the Ebola virus outbreak, fear that they may soon be relieved of their posts.

According to the informants, some of whom are highly-placed sources to this paper that some non-essential staff are now being requested to re-apply for their jobs by some ministries and agencies.

The Ministry of Finance, which was recently merged with the Ministry of Planning and Economic Affairs to form the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, is at the forefront of this exercise. An insider informed this newspaper that the Ministry is now requesting non-essential staff to re-apply.

“More people are about to lose their jobs and this will create a serious problem in this country because times are already hard and many people are already unemployed. The government is using the health crisis to carry on this wicked plan,” one of the sources that begged anonymity said.

On Wednesday, July 30, President Sirleaf, in a Special Statement to the Nation on additional measures in the fight against the Ebola virus disease, ordered that all non-essential staff begin a 30-day compulsory leave. She said the strategy was to contain the spread, care for the afflicted with the goal of "No New Cases.”

The Liberian government has on two separate occasions extended the decongestion measure at all public institutions by requesting all non-essential government employees to continue to remain at home with full pay and benefits, until otherwise instructed.

The latest extension came from President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s office last Tuesday. It states that during the period, non-essential government employees are strongly encouraged to engage in community-based awareness and clean-up exercises aimed at preventing and halting the further spread of the deadly Ebola virus disease in Liberia.

Though some non-essential staff commended the measure at the outset, many are now having different feelings about the entire measure, which they say is now taking a different trend. “We thought when the government was sending us home it was for the purpose of fighting Ebola, but they had some ulterior motives that are now being unearthed.”

“Some people in the government want to take our jobs from us. They want to take us from those positions and put in their relatives. My brother, I’m telling you the fact: right now at the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, non-essential staff are now being asked to re-apply; and this is not how it was supposed to be.”

“This is not what we were told to go home for. We are considered non-essential staff, but without us the jobs cannot be done. Maybe we are not taking the biggest of the envelopes and the six and eight digits pay cheques and  that is why we are so considered; but we do the bulk of the work,” an employee of the Ministry, who asked not to be named, said.  

If this information filtering in is anything to go by, some fear that the government of Liberia is trying to take advantage of the ongoing health crisis in the country to continue its downsizing and rightsizing exercise.  This is a   process that received a barrage of criticisms in 2006.

The Unity Party led government, upon its ascendency to power in 2006, initiated the downsizing exercise, which was said then to mean creating a small but efficient government. The government complained then that the structures in place saw massive duplication of functions (many people doing the same jobs) which was costing government a lot of money.

This process saw many civil servants losing their jobs in an already difficult economic situation where unemployment was at its peak. However the intent of the government is yet to be achieved as inefficiency and rampant corruption continues unabated in government entities.

When asked Thursday, October 2, about the information, a highly placed source in government, who could neither confirm nor deny the information, said that he was not aware of it, but cautioned that  the information should not be overlooked.

“Where there is smoke, there must be fire. I’m not saying it is true, but this kind of information needs thorough investigation,” the source added.

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