Public Works Minister Kofi Woods Likened to Gabriel Tucker- Amazing Successes; Herculean Challenges
“He is constantly spoken of. He is very uncontroversial and very determined. He is productive and efficient; and above all, his name is becoming synonymous to Public Works just as in the days of Gabriel Tucker. In some ways, the late Gabriel Tucker and Kofi Woods have some character traits. They have easy dispositions and are calculative. Both of them believe in productiveness and efficiency. Importantly, they are, in their own settings and persuasions, people that administrations can count on. Gabriel is no more; but Kofi sits in his seat.” These are the words of a pro-democracy activist who prefers anonymity.
In different quarters, Kofi is presented more than he anticipates. Some call him President in waiting. Others think his entry in the race might attract controversies. Whatever people think, one thing is sure; President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has implicit confidence in him. Kofi is not an engineer. But from what is written on the pages of Newspapers and comments from commentators, he efficiently heads Government most technical ministry which is said to be saddled with enormous political intra-positions and maneuverings. Analysts say Kofi has done well to survive this long.
Joined by a team of administrative and technical experts such as Yekerson, Herbert, Kear, Slurr and others, Public Works seems to be more prepared to execute the highest infrastructural budget in recent history. In Fiscal 2011-2012, the Ministry executed projects worth more than US$26, 506,000. These include the Chico Tappita Hospital Road Project, building construction services, rural roads and highway maintenance; Rehab Road Asphalt Pavement; the SSF projects; Westwood projects; Cico’s Cardwell to Louisiana Road Asphalt Pavement; Bella Yallah Road; Redlight Bypass; Duport Road; Pipeline/Nezoe Asphalt Pavement; GSA Road Asphalt Pavement among many others.
Least, but crucial of all its projects, Public Works have amazingly accomplished what analysts referred to as “Regaining of lost Territory Project.” It is the Vahun Road Project. This project proved the sensitivity of the President of Liberia. In Voinjama where this Columnist had a meeting with cross section of Lofa Citizens before national elections, concerns were expressed by citizens that Liberia had declared Vahun a rejected territory of Liberia.
Over the years, this Town had been separated from Liberia by road connection. Administrations of Liberia had distanced themselves from this town. The Wood’s Public Works has made trade, commerce, and inter social links with the rest of Liberia possible. Says Assistant Minister for Administration Andrew Kear: “Kofi is an innovative administrator who ensures performance and execution of projects. It is a great opportunity to be on his team. He is a team man. With continued unity in approaches which he has initiated, he was able to accomplish so much and will accomplish more.”
Asked at one time how he manages, Kofi said he has put in place a system that he allows to work without hindrances and interferences. Departments, Divisional, and Sectional heads submit their prime programmes which are discussed and approved at senior staff meetings. This kind of administration transfers obligation and responsibility to presenters from which performance is rated. It is democratic in nature; but administratively imperative and becomes a determining factor whether one is competent to perform or not. It promotes healthy performance competition.
Sources say Kofi has distant himself from contract awarding; leaving same with an established evaluation committee which does the long and short listings based on bid submissions, PPCC strict regulations and due diligence. Whatever is the case, Public Works have not been found wanting administratively.
But critics of Kofi believe he is amassing wealth. They are also claiming that he has not performed to optimal. They relate to roads that have been done with millions spent and are eroded. In their opinions, these are the result of inefficiency. Who’s to blame?
An engineer who prefers anonymity says there are certain roads constructed or rehabilitated on emergency basis arising from the great urgency of post war needs. In essence, they are quick impact projects to give the city face lift. In such a case, Public Works Engineers cannot be held responsible nor the minister, concludes the engineer. But whatever his defenses are, critics have their own opinions which borders on inefficiency.
The Ministry of Public Works has inherited postwar human resource problems, says a source.
There is acute shortage of engineers. The Kofi’s Administration is said to have put in place an accelerated local and foreign training programme with the aid of donors that is transforming performances and producing qualified engineers. In an informal conversation with the new Assistant Minister of Administration, Honorable Andrew Kear, he claimed Kofi should be credited for the emphasis placed on training and manpower development. He has put Public Works on the right path.
Sources from Public Works say the Ministry is poised to ensure that transformation in Liberia’s infrastructure within this fiscal year and the next three years has become Kofi’s greatest challenge and ambitious goal. Feeder roads are in bad shape. Highways leading to Lofa, Ganta, parts of Bong County, Gbarpolu, and Maryland have become priority projects. If these are not attended to, experts say both Kofi and President Sirleaf political and developmental legacies would be endangered.
Despite his lofty position, Kofi seems not to cease from being a pro-democracy element. His recent castigation of public servants as extortionists who take bribes came as a surprise to Liberians. Is he living in a glass house and throwing stones? Convictionists say if that was so, he would have been the last to utter such words.
Does his simple dressing constitute a camouflage? Some say the Public Works Minister lives in a mansion. Those closed to him says he lives in a simple house on Front Street-a place he has long dwelled before his prestigious assumption of high profile positions in Government. Thoughts, Politics, and People is investigating the truth of the matter.
What are the thoughts of Minister Woods after the departure of President Sirleaf? Would he contest for the Presidency? No one seems to know yet. President Sirleaf seems interested in generational change and so is Kofi. Both stand within the same perimeters. But there is Toga Mcintosh Gawea. There is also Augustus Ngafuan and Amara Konneh. Would Varney Sherman and Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai give way to them? Who is heir apparent to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf? Would Liberians give support to Unity Party for three successive terms? The answer lies in 2017. It is not immediately predictable.
Our special source says “Kofi eyes may be on the Presidency. Why shouldn’t he be? He has amazingly been successful at Public Works though there are herculean challenges.” Kofi remains tight lipped. Unfortunately, he has a serious weakness admitting those without official status into his office, says another source. Thoughts, Politics, and People seem to be perpetually locked out. Some say pride and power are gaining more control. But Kear says, Kofi is still humble and assessable to the masses. He intimated that Public Works is a very busy Ministry and Minister Woods is always in meetings; but takes up time to meet visitors.
With current challenges on hand, it is hope that Kofi will continue to distinguish himself as an astute administrator. Importantly, it is hope that he would be himself and don’t forget the masses who are instruments of his national and international records.