By: R. Joyclyn Wea

Monrovia-March-26-TNR:Liberia- Emmanuel K. Urey Yarkpawolo, Acting Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has responded to a petition for the Writ of Prohibition prayed for before the full bench of the Supreme Court by his predecessor Wilson Tarpeh.

Tarpeh has been challenging his replacement as Executive Director of the EPA by the Boakai-Koung administration since the transition of government here. He claimed that he had a tenure position of seven years, which according to him had not expired thereby taking the Executive Branch of the Government represented by the Ministry of Justice, and Emmanuel K. Urey Yarkpawolo as co-respondent to the nation’s highest court to undo the president’s decision.

In a 25-count response to the high court on March 25, 2024, Yarkpawolo noted that Tarpeh was an Acting Executive Director of the agency and could not legally continue holding himself out to the public as the tenured Executive Director of the agency when his service to act at Executive Director expired on January 22, 2024, with the inauguration of President Joseph Boakai.

PART III, Section 16 of the EPA act on the Executive Director position states in part “There shall be an Executive Director who is a person with wide environmental knowledge and recognized comment on sustainable management of the environment, appointed by the President from a list of three names recommended by the Council, except that the President may appoint an interim Executive Director pending the formation of the Council.”

It further states “The Executive Director shall serve for 7 years and shall be eligible for reappointment, except that there shall be appointed an interim Executive Director.”

Yarkpawolo’s response to the high court said Tarpet’sinterpretation of the EPA Act is flawed and has contributed to his misconception that he was given tenure by President Weah.

The acting ED noted that the Act requires that the President shall only appoint an executive director after the recommendation of the Policy Council which shall submit to him a list of three names from which he shall choose one, something which wasn’t done in this case.

Section 16 of the EPA Act, the President has the authority to appoint an Interim Executive Director pending the constitution of the Policy Council, Yarkpawolo said Tarpet’s appointment by President Weah was derived under this authority the Act gives the President to appoint an Interim/Acting Executive Director, and that Tarpet recommendation for the job was never channeled through the EPA’s Policy Council recruitment process.

Since the establishment of the EPA, there have been three (3) Executive Directors who have enjoyed tenure. However, there have also been several Interim Executive Directors who had no privilege of tenure. The first Interim Executive Director, Dr. Fodee Kromah, was appointed in 2003 and served up until 2005. After President Sirleaf came to office in 2006, the Policy Council was constituted by her. In the same year (2006) the Council vetted candidates for Executive Direct and based on their recommendations, the first ever tenured Executive Director, Mr. Ben Turtur Donnie, was appointed by President Sirleaf. However, Mr. Donnie passed away in 2009. Upon Mr. Donnie’s death, the EPA was run by officers in charge until the Policy Council again convened, vetted, and recommended a list from which another tenured Executive Director in person of Dr. Alfred Armah was appointed.

Unfortunately, again, in 2010 Dr. Armah passed away. Following the death of Dr. Armah, the Policy Council again vetted and recommended a list from which President Sirleafappointed 2010, Madam Anyaa Vohiri as the third tenured Executive Director. Madam Vohiri served her full tenure from 2010 – March 2018 when Mr. Nathaniel Blama, Sr. was appointed by President Weah as an Interim Executive Director.

Since then, the Policy Council of the EPA has not been reconstituted since the tenures of the majority of its members expired with the change of government from the SirleafAdministration to the Weah Administration in January 2018.

Yarkpawolo mentioned Nathaniel Blama, as a case study. According to him, former President Weah only succeeded in dismissing Nathaniel Blama as Executive Director of the EPA in 2018 and 2020 respectively because Blama was serving as an Interim Executive Director.

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