Liberia: Senator Dillion's Investigation By the Liberian Senate Is Void Ab Initio


An Executive Mansion backed-letter apparently under the supervision of Senate Protempore Albert Chie, purportedly written by Lofa County Senator George Tengbeh, requesting the Liberian Senate to investigate Montserrado county Senator Abraham Darius Dillon for "acts unbecoming of a Senator of this Republic", is a pile of baseless claims. The letter refers to Senator Dillon's frequent, persistent and pointed public advocacies against blatant legislative compromises and palpable collusion with the Executive against the interest of the suffering masses as "a smear campaign aimed at denigrating the Liberian Senate both wholly and individuallyand have caused massive injury to the characters of Senators of this noble institution", Tengbeh noted.

The purported letter of Senator Tengbeh requested the Liberian Senate to "subject Senator Dillon to an investigation, give him due process in line with the Senate rules and the constitution of Liberia and apply the appropriate sanctions if found guilty of the allegation levied against him".

This article seeks to unmask the brash attempt by the Liberian Senate to use that letter as a tool to silence the loudest voice against the wholesale raiding of state resources through darkroom dealings.

Irrefutable sources close to the Senate leadership suggest that Tengbeh's letter has been turned over to the Senate'sleadership with a mandate to report to plenary in a week. In recent months the Liberian Legislature has come under a slew of public disapprovals for what pundits called its sell-outs and lack of courage to ensure checks and balances as required by the 1986 Constitution. As we alarmed about the surreptitious passage of the Recast Budget without due diligence and the subsequent concurrence by the Senate in obvious disregard forits rule with regard to the passage of budgets, the Senatecontinues to swim into waves of violations, claims of briberies and desecrations of its standing rules.

We argue that the speed with which the Senate is proceeding to investigate Senator Darius Dillon on accounts of his public advocacies, exposure of briberies and the Senate's persistent darkroom deals against the interest of the suffering masses, does not only show lack of sensitivity, it also flouts Rule 23, Section 1 of the Senate Standing Rules which states:

"A Senator may be suspended or expelled from the Senate:

a. When a petition, signed by two thirds of the membership of the Senate, addressed to the Liberian Senate, against a Senator is presented to the Secretary of the Senate, same shall be forwarded to the Plenary for consideration.

b. After the petition has been read and considered by the Plenary, a vote of 2/3 majority of the total membership of the Senators duly seated shall determine the merit or non-merit of the petition.

c. in the event the Senate believes that there is merit, a cross-sectional Review Team, comprising not less than 3 and not more than 5 senators, none of whom shall be a signatory to the petition, shall be constituted to investigate the matter, consistent with due process as provided for under the Liberian Constitution and report their findings and recommendations to the Plenary within a period not more than 30 calendar days. All recommendations shall clearly indicate the extent and limits of the action contemplated. The time to report may be extended by the Plenary upon request of the Review Team, but the combined total time shall not exceed 60 calendar days.

d. The Plenary shall debate the report and act upon the recommendation. If the recommendation calls for suspension or removal from the Senate, two thirds (2/3) vote is required.

e. the expulsion of a member of the Liberian Senate shall conform to Article 38 of the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia."

With the above provisions, the Senate is proceeding in egregious disregard of the laws in the cooked investigation and any outcome arising therefrom would be void ab initio.(void from the very beginning). The Senate's Rules are clear - an action that may lead to the suspension or expulsion of a Senator by the Senate is initiated by a petition signed by two-thirds of the membership of the Senate, not by a letter signed by a single senator as it is the case with Senator Tengbeh'sletter. Also, the Rules require that when the Senate finds merit in the petition, a Review Team comprising senators who did not sign the petition is set up to investigate the accused Senator and findings of culpability from the Review Team must be voted on by two-thirds of the entire membership of the Senate before a suspension or expulsion occurs. If the Senate truly believes that it is not spineless and rotten, I challenge it to follow its own rules and stop its butchering of the law just to silence a critical voice.

In other jurisdictions, a Senate commands much respect in the political structure of the state given its constitutional responsibilities. For this august body to blatantly, deliberately and intentionally violate its rules in a rush to silence a campaigner for good governance, a senator at that, speaks to one of the reasons Liberia still lags behind in nearly all socioeconomic indices.

We urge the Senate to confront vexing governance anomalies that will lift the ordinary people up the economic ladder. We note that during the secret passage of the resolution for the approval of the COVID-19 Recast Budget, neither the Minister of Finance nor any other authority of a public sector agency was invited to public hearing to give some clarity on the proposed appropriations and the cuts to the budget of the Health sector and other critical sectors. But the same Minister of Finance who could not be invited to give clarity of the Recast Budget was invited to address budgetary concerns on the impending special senatorial election, a portion of which was part of the Recast Budget, just three days after the Senate had hastily approved the Budget, without even caring to investigate whether or not the Recast Budget allocated adequate sums of money for the holding of the Special Senatorial Elections. What else can explain the Senate's shameless behaviour other than spinelessness, uselessness and rottenness? What else can explain the behaviour of the Legislature and the Executive not to make the Recast Budget public immediately after its submission and immediately as required by Sections 14 and 18 of the Public Financial Management (PFM) Law?

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