3 December 2012

Liberia: Let's Stop Violating the Constitution


Liberians under their nascent democracy are bubbling up over what they believe could be a violation of some clauses in the constitution, but appear unsure or timid to step upstage with their complaints for national redress.

The airwaves were filled with criticisms by callers on talk shows at the weekend accusing the legislature and executive branches of government of violating the constitution.

Almost all the callers questioned why the Foreign Ministry has failed to publish the multiyear national budget into handbills within 15 days after it was approved early September by the Executive. They charged that omission as being violation which says the budget, once approved, must be be gazetted and printed into handbills within a fortnight.

Without wondering why the lawmakers have not kept the executive in check about making the budget available in handbills, some callers accused their legislators of being reluctant about the matter because they (legislators) want to leave the public in darkness about their lion share in the approved budget. On the other hand, other callers suggested that the executive was delaying publication of the budget to avoid exposure of its stake in it after the financial document was approved.

But a fundamental element which all branches of government have remained silent on is Article 10 which states: The Republic shall ensure the publication and dissemination of this Constitution throughout the Republic and the teaching of its principles and provisions in all institutions of Learning in Liberia. But this is not being done and no branch of government has questioned this major fault.

Squarely lying at the doorsteps of the legislature is their failure to enact necessary laws deemed by the constitution on sticky issues meant to enhance probity, accountability and transparency.

According to Section C of Article 5, The Republic shall: "take steps, by appropriate legislation and executive orders, to eliminate sectionalism and tribalism, and such abuses of power as the misuse of government resources, nepotism and all other corrupt practices." But the concerned citizens accused their legislators of failure to pass an act defining nepotism, other corrupt practices and consequent penalties for violators, saying, "because they do not want to set trap for themselves."

Also, as it was with the 52nd Legislature, its successor has been unable to grapple with the mussel and will to enact laws to cover the provisions of Article 90 under CHAPTER XI stated as follows:

a) No person, whether elected or appointed to any public office, shall engage in any other activity which shall be against public policy, or constitute conflict of interest. b) No person holding public office shall demand and receive any other perquisites, emoluments or benefits, directly or indirectly, on account of any duty required by Government.

c) The Legislature shall, in pursuance of the above provision, prescribe a Code of Conduct for all public officials and employees, stipulating the acts which constitute conflict of interest or are against public policy, and the penalties for violation thereof.

We believe that enacting appropriate laws, especially on a Code of Conduct, covering these provisions would quell the hullabaloo over nepotism that sometimes resembles trying to remove a mote in someone's eye when you have a log in yours.

Therefore, we urge members of the legislature, the first branch of government, to do the appropriate thing by listening to the cries of their constituents and acting appropriately in the wake of a barrage of criticisms from citizens that lawmakers were violating the organic law of the nation.

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