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Liberia's President Fires Finance Ministry Staff


Liberia's new president has fired the entire staff of the country's finance ministry, amid efforts to fight corruption in her post-war administration.

In a surprise visit to the finance ministry late Wednesday, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf said she was firing all previously appointed staff. She said the ministry had embarrassed Liberia in front of the international community.

She told dismissed employees they would have to reapply if they wanted to work in what she called a sensitive ministry. She added her government would only hire those who receive basic training in financial management.

A Liberian in the capital Monrovia, Zueben Cooper, says the new president, sworn-in just last month, is moving quickly.

"She's living up to her word to clean house," he said. "The fact that she has done this so soon after taking office and with the fact that she does not have a cabinet yet is telling us that this is no longer to be business as usual."

He says he welcomes the move, but that some Liberians, especially civil servants, are also worried.

"A lot of people in a lot of other ministries and other areas are a bit apprehensive because they think that it might happen to them also but I am receiving it with joy," Mr. Cooper said. "I think it's a step in the right direction."

Some workers in the finance ministry said they would legally challenge the move. They also say they are owed months of back pay. An estimated 300 are reported to have been fired.

Newspaper editor and political analyst Philip Wesseh says Mrs. Sirleaf must be careful not to make herself too many enemies too soon, especially right after a tense election season.

"She must be careful how she goes about dealing with the issue of corruption, so she will not be seen as witch-hunting people or trying to bring about division, so it's a tricky situation. So she must be careful how she handles the situation," he said.

Earlier this week, she ordered all ministers from the previous transitional government to stay in Liberia pending a financial audit into their activities. There have been reports of millions of dollars missing from several ministries, as well as accounts of outgoing officials grabbing office equipment and looting government cars.