Monrovia - Article 90 B of the Liberian constitution prohibits government employees demanding and receiving fees for services rendered in line with the performance of their duties, a provision that is being used to criticize Grand Kru County Senator Peter Coleman for receiving money from the John F. Kennedy Hospital.
The issue has also been debated in the past with government officials who are serving as members of Board of Directors on public corporations and at other government entities with former Labor and Public Works Minister Samuel K. Woods returning board fees paid to him while serving in government, challenging other government officials to do the same. The debate has been renewed with revelations that Senator Coleman who is Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health received payments from the JFK. But Senator Coleman, one of the officials of government named in the JFK syndicate says he received professional fees not kickback. In a statement from the Grand Kru County senator, his office says its attention has been drawn to allegations made by Mr. Henry P. Costa on the Costa Show about Senator Coleman receiving "Kickbacks" from the John F. Kennedy Medical center for which he is reneging on carrying out his oversight responsibility at that institution. According to the Senator’s office contained in a statement the allegation is false, misleading, unfounded, lack of proof, and is intended to diminish the good reputation of the senator. The senator office said: “Mr. Costa needs to know that besides been a legislator, Dr. Coleman is a trained and qualified Surgeon and has been a Professor of Surgery at the A. M. Dogliotti College of Medicine/University of Liberia for more than 25 years. He is also a fellow of the West African college of Surgeons as well as a Professor at the Liberia Post-Graduate College of Surgeons”. According to Senator Coleman’s office, the Senator has been involved with the training of young doctors who have the desire of acquiring surgical skills. “Dr. Coleman has been involved with the training of young Doctors who are desirous of acquiring surgical skills for more than 20 years. He is also a part- time Consultant Surgeon in the Department of Surgery of the JFKMC (involved with training of young doctors and performing major operations), for which the JFKMC provides a "simple honorarium', of US$900 on a monthly basis. This amount does not represent any "kickback" as alleged by Mr. Costa but is given as a token of appreciation for his professional services to the institution.” The Grand Kru Lawmaker office further stated that the payment is based on a professional Services Contract signed between the JFKMC and Dr. Coleman copies which he says are available. “The Senator sees this as part of his patriotic duty to serve the Liberian people and will continue to be involved with the training of young doctors, with his knowledge, skills and Experience. In terms of the issues at JFKMC, both Committees on Health of the Legislature have been deeply involved with finding solutions to the multiple problems that concern JFKMC,” he said. He referenced actions by nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals who petitioned the Legislature and had go-slow actions, to highlight issues at the hospital that led both committees on Health at the Legislature to engage the Board of Directors of JFKMC as well as the Senior Management Team about these issues on many occasions. The statement from the lawmaker also claimed that one of the fundamental short-comings of the JFKMC was the 1972 Act creating the JFK Act that gives all powers to the President of Liberia to appoint the Board of Director as well as top management team of the hospital something Senator Coleman says is making the institution to be influenced by political manipulations, unlike other Universities / Referral Hospitals in the region and around the world. He stressed that there is an urgent need to depoliticize the JFKMC and make it a highly professional institution void of political manipulations. “ln consonance with the Liberian constitution, it is the Executive Branch of Government that is Responsible for the Administrative functions and operation of the hospital”, the office of Senator Coleman stated. “The Legislative Branch can only highlight the issues, but it will be the Executive Branch that must execute the needed reforms. A similar situation arose when Liberian took up issues with the Ministry of Health during the tenure of Dr. Gwenigale, which almost led to a constitutional crisis between the Executive Branch and the Liberian Senate,” the statement added. During the disagreement between the senate and the Health Ministry in 2015 President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf invoked Article 50 of the Liberian Constitution and the Senate had to back down. The office of the senator noted that the legislature pushed certain issues up to a certain level but in respect of the separation of powers, there is point where its oversight stops. As it relates to the ongoing investigations on financial malpractices at the JFKMC, Senator Coleman said, both Committees have had multiple hearings to fast-track the ongoing investigation. “The Office of the Senator Dr. Peter S. Coleman would like to remind Mr. Costa to kindly ascertain the facts before the dissemination of misleading information. Reputable media institutions would have double-checked with this office before accusing somebody of wrong doing,” the statement said. Many of us who are professionals and that are part of this government will continue to provide service to our country given the scarcity of professionals in many sectors. My professional service the JFKMC has saved the Government of Liberia of thousands of dollars because if any expatriate had been recruited, it would cost the GOL not less than Ten Thousand United States (USS10, 000.00) a month