28 December 2012

Liberia: Let's Debate the Code of Conduct


IN RECENT TIME there have been several calls from civil society organizations, religious institutions and other stakeholders in the society for the passage into law of a Code of Conduct not only to govern public officials but also help ensure that they do not abuse their respective offices at the detriment of the ordinary citizen, residents or the state. However it appears that since the submission of this bill before the National Legislature during the tenure of 52nd Legislature there has been feet dragging and nothing has been done to pass same into law. Calls after calls, the succeeding 53rd National Legislature to date has not acted on this all important document.

HOWEVER GRAND BASSA Senator John Whitfield who was not part of the 52nd Legislature has identified serious flaw in the Code of Conduct Bill currently before the National Legislature for passage into law. Senator Whitfield said in a local talk show in Monrovia on Thursday that those who drafted the Code of Conduct for Government officials did so hurriedly and as such there are certain insertions that do not correspondent with good governance and respect for those in authority.

CITING AN EXAMPLE when he appeared on the show aired on Truth FM, Senator Whitfield said a clause in the Code of Conduct indicates that for a government official to make public statement or pronouncement, he or she must seek permission or abrogation from their supervisor. He however did not address the issue of free gift to public officials.

SENATOR WHITFIELD WONDERED who the supervisor of the legislators is if it is not the people who elected them to office. He wondered if a legislator must meet his or her people before commenting on issues of national concern. The Grand Bassa County Senator said the Code of Conduct Bill is now before the National Legislature and discussion relative to its passage has started.

MEANWHILE SENATOR WHITFIELD said following the deliberations by legislators, the Code of Conduct Bill will be returned to the Executive Branch of Government to make the necessary adjustment that will make it proper and befitting a civilized society.

LISTENING TO AN outspoken man like Whitfield, we are of the belief that for this all important document to form part of our laws; there must be a public debate that will have the input of stakeholders because if we must hold our officials accountable, society as a whole must have an input in the form of a public debate. Besides, the document needs to be made public for the understanding of all. Only when this is done can Liberians know what constitutes the document called the 'Code of Conduct for Public Officials'. It is in this vein that we are calling for a public debate on the Code of Conduct Bill currently before the National Legislature for the understanding of all.

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