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Nepotism Issues Dogging Weah Appointments: Husband Heads NSA, Wife Comptroller; VP Sister Appointed

Monrovia – Mr. James Henric Pearson, the Deputy Director for Operations National Security Agency who has been tipped by President George Weah to head the nation’s most powerful security office, may be forced to give his wife the axe if confirmed by the Senate.

Report by Lennart Dodoo,

FrontPageAfrica has learned that Maime Hayford Pearson, the agency’s current comptroller, is the wife of the recently appointed head of the agency.

She previously served as Deputy Comptroller but was elevated to comptroller following the death of her predecessor.

There are also concerns about the appointment of Norwu Howard Wesson as Deputy Minister of Health for Administration. Howard-Wesson is a sister to Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor.

Pearson’s appointment has renewed debate of nepotism as President George Manneh Weah administration takes shape.

Pres. Weah is inheriting a system marred by corruption, nepotism and conflict of interest amongst several other social vices and economic challenge.

The government of former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf endured mounting criticisms due to the presence of three of her sons – Robert, chairman of the National Oil Company; Charles, deputy Central Bank Governor, and Fomba, headed of the National Security Agency.

Sirleaf’s consistently drew ire from members of the oppositions as critics accused her of nepotism.

President George Weah in his inaugural address emphasized that “the foundation of the new Liberia must be reinforced by the steel of integrity.”

“We need men and women, boys and girls, whose integrity provides the foundation of the trust that is required for Liberian society to benefit her people,” he said.

But with these two appointments being made at the NSA and the Ministry of Health and the implications therein, it appears President Weah may replicate some political missteps of his predecessor.

Observers are also pointing to nepotism after President Weah appointment Norwu Howard Wesson at health ministry.

She worked as the Director of Patient Care Services at Perdue Jackson Medical Center in Miami, Florida.

Her brother, Kolubahzizi T. Howard, an IT expert, is also tipped to head the Liberia Telecommunications Authority.

Multiple efforts to get Vice President Taylor or her office to comment on the appointment of her sister to government did not materialize until press time Sunday evening.

Meanwhile, at the NSA, there are also concerns of nepotism and conflict of interest pending Pearson’s confirmation by the Senate. With his wife serving as comptroller and he in charge, some observers say conflict of interest or corruption is likely to be on a high at the secretive agency where its budgetary allocations are not fully disclosed and not also subject to audit.

An act of the national legislature prescribing Code of Conduct for all public officials and employees forbids appointment, employment, promoting, advancing, or advocating for appointment, employment, promotion, or advancement, in a civilian or military position in the agency or branch of Government in which he or she is serving or have jurisdiction or control, any individual who is a relative.

Section 1.3.21 of the Code states: “An individual who is a relative of a public official may not be appointed, employed, promoted, or advanced in or to a military or civilian position in an agency or branch of Government if such appointment, employment, promotion, or advancement has been influenced or advocated by the Public Official.

Any such appointment upon investigation shall be declared null and void. Upon being declared guilty in accordance with due process, the appointing authority shall be subject to dismissal, suspension or impeachment in accordance with due process.

Relative means, with respect to a public official, any individual who is related to the public official as father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, husband and wife.”

The Director of the NSA is responsible for preparing intelligence and security briefs for the President and is required to report to the President through the Minister of Justice on all matters affecting the work of the agency, as circumstances may require or as directed by the President and carry out all operations assigned him.

The Director is also responsible to select, investigate, hire and train according to rigid professional standards personnel required for the secure and efficient functioning of the Agency; and protect intelligence sources and methods of operation from unauthorized disclosure.

The NSA is an independent Liberian Government Agency responsible for providing national security intelligence to the President and the Republic of Liberia responsible for collecting, analyzing and disseminate overt and political, economic, cultural and sociological intelligence for the Republic of Liberia.

Some critics are pointing to the massive mismanagement and or misappropriation of resources at the National Oil Company (NOCAL) under the chairmanship of Mr. Robert Sirleaf.

NOCAL was quite unscrupulous – as the entity became a dumping ground for political appointees with an annual wage of about US$7 million – which contributed to the collapse of the entity.

To date, no one has been held responsible for millions squandered at NOCAL, as Madam Sirleaf claimed responsibility for the breakdown. The former President continues to face criticism for doing too little to ensure justice is served for the financial improprieties at NOCAL only because it happened under the watch of her son.

Warnings and suggestions to curb nepotism were falling on deaf ears; Sirleaf opted to keep her son at the NSA until the end of her tenure.

And now another situation of nepotism or conflict of interest is in the making at the NSA and MoH less than two weeks into George Weah’s administration. 

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