14 June 2017

Liberia: House Endorses Ombudsman

The House of Representatives on Tuesday, 13 June endorsed an Act to amend Part XII of the Code of Conduct for the creation of an operational framework for the Office of the Ombudsman, as established in the CoC for public officials and employees of government here.

The plenary of the House of Representatives last Thursday sent the act to committee room for review and subsequent report to the body. According to the committee, as per plenary's mandate and in keeping with the latter portion of Article 77(b) that authorizes and empowers the Legislature to make laws, indicating the category of Liberians who shall not form or become members of political parties, and Article 90 (c) that gives the Legislature the authority to prescribe code of conduct for public officials, the joint committee convened and scrutinized the act carefully and critically and recommends that plenary concurs with the Liberian Senate on the amendment of Part Xll of the Code of Conduct.

The Senate unanimously passed the act recently and sent it the House of Representative for concurrence. According to the act, members of the Ombudsman shall hold office for two (3-year) terms following confirmation by the Senate and appointment by the President, and shall be removed from office by the President for nonfeasance, malfeasance, misfeasance, and criminal acts as prescribed under existing laws and regulations.

In matters of law, the office of the Ombudsman shall have the power to conduct hearings in a quasi-judicial manner and make findings, gives reasons and conclusions in matters filed before it, while an appeal from its decision relative to violations of the Code of Conduct shall be immediately appealable to the relevant courts of Liberia.

The act also states that no person, who files a complaint or participates in any investigation or proceeding pursuant to Chapter 12.6, shall be subject to any penalties, sanctions or restrictions in connection with his or her employment or be denied any right, privilege or benefit because of such action.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf early April nominated officials to the Ombudsman headed by ex-police chief Cllr. Clarence Christian Massaquoi amid public outcry that Massaquoi is a confidante of the President's, questioning his neutrality. The Office of the Ombudsman is an autonomous body in keeping with Section 12.1 of the Code of Conduct for public officials.

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