Members of the Liberian Senate will today, September 20, decide the fate of Liberia's Minister of Finance and Development Planning Samuel Tweah, for his 'deliberate' failure to appear before that august body to provide information and documentary evidence why the Liberian banknotes should be changed at this critical time of the country.
The Senate committee on banking and currency with instruction from plenary, had on two separate occasions officially invited Minister Tweah to appear, but the Minister, who controls the fiscal policy of the state snubbed senators without giving any reason.
On Thursday, September 19, following the regular session of the senate, senators convened in their chambers with full understanding that Finance and Development Planning officials, including Minister Tweah and authorities of the Central Bank of Liberia would have appeared to explain the currency change process.
However, after hours of waiting, senators were left with no option but ruled that the matter will be before full plenary of the senate to decide the fate of Minister Tweah.
Grand Gedeh County Senator Marshall Dennis, who chairs the banking and currency committee, regretted that the action of Minister Tweah's has stalled the working of the committee and the senate at large.
Article 34 of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia, gives the Liberian Legislature the sole authority to decide printing of new banknotes and minting of coins.
Article 34 (d) (ii) of the Constitution states: "no monies shall be drawn from the treasure except in consequence of appropriations made by legislative enactment and upon warrant of the President; and no coin shall be minted or national currency issued except by the expressed authority of the Legislature. An annual statement and account of the expenditure of all public monies shall be submitted by the office of the President to the Legislature and published once a year".
The Executive has sought approval of the Legislature to print new banknotes with suggestion from the senate committee on banking and currency that denomination should range from LRD 100 to LRD20, while the rest be transmitted to coins. But the decision was resisted hugely by senators on size of the denominations and the committee report was sent back to committee room.Indications and expression on the faces of senators' yesterday evening following their disappointed waiting in the chambers appear to suggest that Minister risks senate contempt charges.
Article 44 of the Constitution of Liberia says, "Contempt of the Legislature shall consist of actions which obstruct the legislative functions or which obstruct or impede members or officers of the Legislature in the discharge of their legislative duties and may be punished by the House concerned by reasonable sanctions after a hearing consistent with due process of law. No sanctions shall extend beyond the session of the Legislature wherein it is imposed, and any sanction imposed shall conform to the provisions on Fundamental Rights laid down in the Constitution. Disputes between legislators and non-members which are properly cognizable in the courts shall not be entertained or heard in the Legislature."