22 November 2018

Liberia: Tenure Positions Cancelled!

"The purpose of the bill is to correct the inadequate and inconsistent manner in which the Legislature over the years has awarded tenure to government institutions. The Bill seeks to nullify all tenure positions in Liberia with the exception of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), the National Elections Commission (NEC) and the General Auditing Commission of Liberia (GAC).

Following a communication from President George Weah, regarding the cancellation of tenure positions in Liberia, members of the House of Representatives has voted to pass into law an Act seeking to nullify all tenure positions in Liberia with the exception of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), the National Elections Commission (NEC) and the General Auditing Commission of Liberia (GAC).

Government entities with tenure positions that will be affected by the Lower House latest action are the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA), Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), Public Procurement and Concession Commission (PPCC), the National Lotteries Authority (NLA), the National Social Security and Welfare Corporation (NASSCORP), the Liberia Maritime Authority (LMA) and the Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (LEITI) among others.

Plenary of the House of Representatives reached the decision Thursday, November 22, 2018 following a comprehensive report from its joint committees on Good Governance and Government Reform and Judiciary on a Bill prohibiting tenure of public officials within the Executive Branch of Government following submission by President Weah.

In a communication to Plenary, the Joint Committees said following the conduct of several public hearings, followed by a critical research, it concludes that the decision of the Legislature to set aside several positions within the Executive Branch as tenure positions, clearly limits the power of the presidency in line with the 1986 Constitution of Liberia.

"The purpose of the bill is to correct the inadequate and inconsistence manner in which the Legislature over the years has awarded tenure to government institutions. Until recently, the Central Bank of Liberia was one of the few institutions whose officials were appointed by the Executive Branch and were given tenure by an Act of the Legislative Branch, therefore there is not much Legislative history or Constitutional jurisprudence that informs us on the appropriate manner to deal with the tenure scheme. Article 56 (a) of the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia provides that all officials appointed by the President, shall serve at the will and pleasure of the President," the Joint Committee noted in its communication.

Additionally, the Committee emphasized that Article 89 of the Constitution creates three autonomous public commissions, which are the National Elections Commission, the General Audition Commission and the Civil Service Commission.

The committee argued that the constitution gives the Legislature the power to create such other autonomous agencies as deemed appropriate.

Article 89 states that: "... the following Autonomous Public Commissions are hereby established:

CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION; B. ELECTIONS COMMISSION; and C. GENERAL AUDITING COMMISSION. The Legislature shall enact laws for the governance of these Commissions and create other agencies as may be necessary for the effective operation of government."

"Whereas, upon careful consideration of the benefits and downside of secure tenure, it has become necessary that the provision of the tenure... appointed officials of government be removed by appropriate legislation... "

The Joint committee clearly agreed with the President that the move by the Legislature years ago to set aside certain positions within the Executive Branch of Government clearly limit or impede the power of the Presidency in line with Article 56 of the Liberian Constitution which provides that all cabinet ministers, deputy and assistant cabinet ministers, ambassadors, ministers and consuls, superintendent among others shall be appointed and work at the will and pleasure of the President.

Additionally, the committee noted that the creation of tenure positions by the Legislature years ago was absolutely not constitutional in line with Article 89 as such should be revisited by cancelling all tenure positions excluding the CBL, GAC and the NEC.

"Tenure is a way but not the only way to confer autonomy. Except for tenure provided to integrity institutions, the Legislative Branch of tenure has not been consistent through the year and operated more as attempt to protect individuals rather than create independence. That unless the Legislature specifically say an entity is created independence under Article 89, any entity created under the Constitution is construed under Article 56 to operate at the will and pleasure of the President as that is the normal and customary manner. Consistent with our findings herewith, the committee finds that the removal by the President of a Lottery official could not have being contrary to law especially where the entire Lottery scheme is subject to political control of the office of the Vice President and its Board members are cabinet ministers who serve at the will and pleasure of the President," portion of the report added.

Based on the foregoing, the committee recommended that the House enact the propose bill with amendments that the CBL, the NEC and the GAC be excluded.

Meanwhile, the committee has called for total review of all integrity institutions including the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), and the Public Procurement Concession Commission (PPCC) be revisited in line with Article 35 of the Constitution, to the extent that the international protocols and conventions to which Liberia has accorded call for each tenures.

Article 35 says "... each bill or resolution which shall have passed both Houses of the Legislature shall, before it becomes law, be laid before the President for his approval. If he grants approval, it shall become law. If the President does not approve such bill or resolution, he shall return it, with his objections, to the House in which it originated. In so doing, the President may disapprove of the entire bill or resolution or any item or items thereof. This veto may be overridden by the re-passage of such bill, resolution or item thereof by a veto of two-thirds of the members in each House, in which case it shall become law. If the President does not return the bill or resolution within twenty days after the same shall have been laid before him it shall become law in like manner as if he had signed it, unless the Legislature by adjournment prevents its return."

Meanwhile, following the reading of the report, majority of the lawmakers concurred with the committee's report thereby enacting the Act, following a motion by Montserrado County Representative Moses Acarous Gray.

At the same time, House Speaker, Dr. Bhofal Chambers, has mandated the Chief Clerk of the House of Representatives to forward the document to the Liberian Senate for concurrence and thereafter forwarded to President George Weah for signature and possible printing into handbills.

It can be recalled that recently, President Weah requested the repealing of tenure positions so as to give the Presidency the power to exercise the law fully to ensure effective and efficient administering of the office of the President.

He noted that pursuant to the legislative actions taken in the past few years, securing tenure had been provided in statutes, amending or establishing several agencies or corporations of government, ostensibly to limit executive interference and provide independence to heads of those entities.

The Liberian leader say, upon careful consideration of the benefits and downside of secure tenure, it has become necessary that the provision of the tenure... appointed officials of government be removed by appropriate legislation.

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