19 February 2014

Liberia: Lower House Concurs With Senate On CBL Act Amendment

In the wake of public criticism from the Public and Civil Society Organizations against the Liberian Senate for the passage of a bill to prevent members of the Board of governors of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) from participating in politics, the House of Representatives have concurred with the Senate in the passage of the bill.

In less than a week following the passage of the controversial bill by the Senate, the House's Plenary Tuesday suspended their rules and constituted themselves into a committee and took a majority vote in 37 for the passage of the bill while 7 Representatives voted against the bill and 1 abstaining from the process.

Before the passage of the bill a heated debate sparked up among lawmakers as some lawmakers were seen vehemently opposed to the passage of the bill, while others saw their colleagues in the senate action as what they call necessary precaution. A motion raised by Representative Alex Grant of Grand Gedeh County, brought the matter to an end.

Grant's motion was that plenary rules be suspended, and that the first reading of the bill constitutes the second, third reading and voted upon and any motion for reconsideration be tried immediately.

Representatives Munah Pelham Youngblood (CDC-District #7 Montserrado County), Thomas Fallah (CDC-#5 Montserrado County), Julius Berrian (CDC-#10 Montserrado County), Saah Joseph (CDC-District#13 Montserrado County) and Gabriel Smith (IND-District #3 Grand Bassa County) amongst were all against concurring with the Liberian senate to pass into law the CBL Amended law.

Plenary of the Liberian Senate Thursday, February 13 voted to pass into law the amended provisions of the March 18,1999 Act authorizes the Establishment of the Central Bank of Liberia.

Sub-Section 3 of Part IV Section 13 of the CBL Act calls for the removal of the board of governors from office upon a bill of impeachment by the House of Representatives, upon a finding by a majority of the Board of Governors and the recommendation of the President, for several reasons which include; Gross Breach of Duty, Misconduct of Office, Conviction of a Felony and Being declared Bankrupt and Violation of paragraph (a) and /or (b) of sub-section 1 of section 13.

In the Senate-amended provision, the bill gives power to the National Legislature to determine whether or not the Executive Governor or a member of the Board of Governors of the Central Bank of Liberia has committed an impeachable offense.

The bill also gives power to the Legislature to take the necessary action of impeachment in keeping with the relevant provisions of the constitution of the Republic of Liberia.

Part IX Section 44, which prohibits the Central Bank of Liberia from engaging in trade or participating directly, or indirectly on the ownership of any financial, Agriculture, Commercial, Industrial, or enterprises, was also amended.

In the senate amended provision, it prohibits the Executive Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia and members of the Board of Governors from contesting political office(s) while serving in their respective offices and shall not be qualified to contest any elected office within three years consecutively after the expiration of their tenure with the CBL.

The passage of the bill Thursday came as a result of a report submitted to plenary by a special committee established by the Plenary of the Liberian Senate chaired by the Ways, Means and Finance committee.

After the passage of the bill the House of Representatives Committee chair on banking and currency Julius Berrian expressed his disappointment in his colleagues for fast-tracking the bill without giving it the necessary consideration.

Berrian also argued that his colleagues who voted in favor of the bill were in violation of rules 53.1 of the legislature, which calls for a 24-hour notice to be given prior to the passage of any bill.

"Whenever a bill is introduced on the floor before deliberation, every member should have a copy of the bill, but that was ignored in the case of this bill we never got a copy of that bill," said Berrian.

"As chair on Banking and Currency, I believed the bill shouldn't have been passed plenary should have sent it to the committee room and the committee comes up with its findings as it is normally done."

House plenary mandated its chief Clerk to communicate the bill to President Ellen Johnson for subsequent approval.

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