28 February 2018

Liberia: Senate Should Be Meticulous in Its Confirmation Process

Photo: Liberian Legislature
The Capitol Building houses the Liberian legislature.

One thing that is responsible for the poor performance of public servants in Liberia is favoritism, without regard for competence, honesty and qualification. This unfolds especially on the basis of friendship, politics and family connection.

There is no doubt that the immediate past administration came to be so corrupt and did little to impact the country because most of the officials running the government were directly connected to the powers that were, who could not exercise administrative control due to personal ties with those individuals.

Having learnt a lot from the past government's peculiar selection of public officials based on friendship, we hope this unfortunate and self-defeating system does not transfer to the current administration.

This is one of such concerns that Margibi Senator Oscar Cooper raised on February 20 about the confirmation of his fellow Margibian and former Speaker of the 53rd Legislature, Emmanuel J. Nuquay.

Senator Cooper, according to our Senate Correspondent J. Burgess Carter, is not against Nuquay's appointment in the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC)-led government, but the Senator argues on a legal grounds that only a person well experienced in aviation should occupy the highest position in the Liberia Civil Aviation Authority (LCAA).

It is this position for which Nuquay has been nominated.

Nuquay's profile shows that he has a Bachelor's degree in Accounting and a law degree. Holding onto the Senate's promise to evaluate properly political appointees so that the right person will occupy the right place, it is expedient that the ongoing confirmation process embraces best practices.

What will a person without knowledge in a certain career area achieve for government when he is placed there on the basis of "Who know you"? Such a person will only exercise autocratic and coercive styles of leadership to get his/her under men do the work while he/she receives unjustifiable salaries.

This, according to management theorist J. Stacy Adams, is "Inequity," because someone is receiving money and benefits for work he/she cannot do, while others receive low salaries and benefits for what they do and are capable of receiving commensurate benefits for.

Senator Cooper's concern, in fact, must claim the attention of President Weah, who is making the appointments. It is becoming glaring that many people, because of their political connection, are given positions that are far above their credentials, while at the same time others are presenting credentials that they are not able to defend before the Senate at the confirmation hearing.

While it may be necessary to prioritize partisans who worked hard to make the party successful, people need to be appointed to positions in which they are capable of delivering. That, of course, is IF WE WANT LIBERIA TO MOVE FORWARD.

This is important because most government positions need people who are professionally trained for performing specific professional duties. Some also need people who have the human relations and the cognitive skills to liaise with others to bring to the country the much needed development.

Reports have emerged in recent days that a family member of one of the ministers appeared before the Senate for confirmation and could not explain activities in which she would be engaged as Deputy Minister for Administration at the Ministry of Finance.

Let us look at how one of Africa's fast developing countries, Rwanda, structures its government to meet the needs of the Rwandan people. In order to have a balanced government without suspicion, the government passed a law that forbids close families and tribesmen working together in the same entity.

The law also prohibits giving a position to a person who does not have the expertise in that area. Jobs are advertised, applicants vetted on the basis of credentials and competence, and a test is administered to evaluate, without prejudice, each candidate.

Public positions are given to people on the basis of their credentials and public records. Anyone with a tainted record is automatically ruled out until proven otherwise. What outcomes are Rwandans getting from this efficient and systematic structure?

Research shows that this approach has dramatically erased the sentiment of tribalism, nepotism and tainted personalities, and Rwandans see one another not as Hutu or Tutsi, but as Rwandans.

This has also encouraged a solid learning environment among them; and no one depends on social connection to get a job; rather, they compete on the basis of merit, integrity and qualification.

Endemic corruption is a culture many Liberians are accustomed to. Corruption is not only about stealing public funds; it encompasses (involves) all activities that are currently ongoing in the appointment process.

We urge President Weah and the Senate to be meticulous in their appointment and confirmation processes and do everything possible to avoid compromising integrity and meritocracy (ability) in all appointments.


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