Min. Sonii Leaves MOE in Chaos? -As He Jets Out to India with Family, Friends

MONROVIA – The rumored of brewing crisis at the Ministry of Education reached an alarming proportion over the weekend when the Minister, D. Ansu Sonii came into open confrontation with two of his principal deputy ministers, plunging the entire ministry into chaos and instead of fixing the problem, jetted out of the country with his family and some friends to India contrary to the information that he left the country for the United States of America to meeting of some development partners.

Impeccable sources at the Ministry of Education confided into The Analyst, that for a long time now the issue of mistrust has existed between the Minister and some of his deputies and other senior staff which bordered on “administrative usurpation” where he was accused of granting absolute power to himself and some of his inner circle and in the process removing the statutory functions and duties of his deputies and other principal officers and assigning the functions to himself and his close aides no matter their positions.

According to our sources, most of the problems arose from the way Sonii allegedly overlapped functions to corner himself sweeping power to oversee and single handedly take decisions on procurement and award of contracts as well as hiring employees at the Ministry.

It has been alleged that Sonii through threats and other form of intimidation has been able to have access to the funds from the World Bank meant for the project, “Improving Results in Secondary Education (IRISE) and through fronts have been running a one man show to award contracts under the scheme, a situation that has made the project not to have the envisaged impact it should have had.

The first official of the Senior Management Team (SMT) to have encountered a bittern working relationship with is the Deputy Minister for Planning, Research and Development, Mr. Alton Vanie Kesselly, whose functions were completely taking over by Sonii and there has been a running battle between them for much of the five and half years since they were all appointed in 2018.

When he could not further accept the excesses of Sonii, Deputy Minister Kesselly wrote a “disengagement” letter to partners informing them that he was stepping aside from all activities at the Ministry until President George Manneh Weah makes an intervention and stop Sonii from “creating unnecessary hurdles” that are impeding his functions as Deputy Minister of Planning, Research and Development.

“It is with sadness that I inform you all that, while I seek the interventions of the Presidency,  I am disengaging from all activities of the Ministry of Education until the Minister of Education, Minister D. Ansu Sonii Sr., can allow me to perform all my statutory duties and functions including  ‘Serve as the clearinghouse for education development activities” ( Education  Reform Act 2011 3.4.2  j), “Be the Principal liaison between the Ministry and the Ministry of Planning and Economic Affairs, development partners, donor community, domestic, and external institutions involved in education” ( Education  Reform Act 2011 3.4.2  g),  “Be the Arm of the Ministry principally responsible for the preparation of the Ministry’s annual report and budget” ( Education  Reform Act 2011 3.4.2  h), etc.

Functions of the Deputy Minister

Section 3.4.2 of the law, among other things empowers the Deputy Minister to spearhead the “Design, development, management and coordination of policies procedures and activities for reviewing and updating national education plans and ensures that developed plans are used in consonance with the traditional development priorities and objectives.” 

The deputy Minister is also clothed with facilitating the development of the plan, design, and construction schedules of all public, private and faith based education facilities, whether directly financed by the Government or the development partners; facilitating the development and implementation of a management information system that will include but not limited to, educational statistics, national demographics records, as well as spearheading the development, review, revision, pilot testing and updating of the national curriculum at all levels, in coordination with the Department of Instructions.

While Kesselly’s decision was seen to be a major blow to the function of the Ministry as his office is referred to as “The Engine Room” of the Ministry, Sonii himself further worsen the situation when he wrote the Deputy for Administration Lathim Dathong, restricting him from functioning as the Acting Minister while Sonii was away, a departure from the normal procedure in line with the civil service act, which Sonii attributed to Dathong not according him the due regard he deserves as Minister.

Dathong also it was said has taken similar steps like Kesselly to disengage from all activities at the Ministry as per his function as Deputy Minister for Administration until the Minister can allow him to properly function in his position, a decision that was not pleasant to Sonii.

“Given now that you intend to disengage from all SMT meetings and refrain from meeting with me for whatever reasons, I must now limit the actions you are authorized to take without my expressed approval. These include holding of SMT meetings, hiring of staff and making any material expenditures without informing me in writing, which I must first approve.

“I regret that we are ending a good working relationship on a sad note after five and half years, given the level of trust I have had with you and the unhindered authority that you have exercised in the administration of the affairs of the Ministry of Education over these 5 years. I will respect your opinion once you maintain the official respect that is required between my office and yours as Deputy.

“Unfortunately, we shall have a common responsibility to this country and reduce our interactions to writing to enable us proceed cordially without offense in this process”, Sonii stated in his memo to Dathong, a communication that has so far been roundly condemned by some stakeholders in the education sector.

“This is a sad development for the sector that has been struggling over the years for the Ministry to be dragged in this situation to the extent that instead of Sonii being the head to find avenue to resolve the crisis, he is writing virtually threatening letter as if to say the ministry is his personal farm”, a principal of a public high school in Monrovia said.

It is not yet certain if President George Manneh Weah has been officially informed and if he did, what decision he may take but in all ramifications, as some pundits said last night, the situation at the Ministry of Education is concerning and should claim the immediate attention of the President before it gets too later.

All efforts to get Minister Sonii side of the story proved futile up to press time.

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