Monrovia - Two of Liberia’s popular politicians currently serving as members of the Liberian Senate have been slammed for poor showing at the Legislature in terms of participation in making contributions to legislative debates which is a statutory responsibility of senators, a situation that is likely to cast dark cloud over their abilities to steer the affairs of the state at the level of the presidency.
Dummy Senators? Poor Showing Could Hinder Presidential Ambitions
“On the contrary, there were five Senators who got the lowest in plenary Participation; those Senators include: Sen. George M. Weah of Montserrado County, Sen. Jim W. Tornnlah of Margibi County, Prince Y. Johnson of Nimba County, Sen. Henry W. Yallah of Bong County and Sen. Sando D. Johnson of Bomi County”- Institute for Research and Democratic Empowerment
Both George M. Weah of the Congress for Democratic Change (Montserrado) and Prince Y. Johnson(Independent, Nimba) are popular in the two most populous counties - Montserrado and Nimba respectively and were key political actors during the 2011 general and presidential elections.
Johnson contested as a presidential candidate in 2011 where he managed third position behind incumbent Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and the Congress for Democratic Change, a party on which Weah also contested as Vice Presidential candidate even though the party came second behind the ruling Unity Party largely based on the popularity of Weah.
During the 2014 special senator election, Weah and Johnson won with huge number of votes in their respective counties, something that has made the two serious political actors in Liberia’s body politics.
For Weah, he is now occupying his first elective post and his supporters say his election to the Senate is a stepping stone to enable Weah showcase his ability to manage a high profile political position such as the presidency.
But Weah’s political aspirations have always been dogged by perceptions that he is not politically mature enough to become President of Liberia. Thus, his supporters have been looking at his Senate performance as a stepping stone in convincing voters that their political leader can perform at any level.
Weah’s supporters say he will contest as presidential candidate in 2017 and a big political program is expected to be held on April 28 where the Montserrado County Senator will respond to a petition from citizens to contest the presidency.
Mulbah Morlu, an official of the CDC Monday said that Weah will be declaring officially that he is contesting the presidency on April 28.
Said Morlu: “Someone from the commission says they are able to ban the CDC for doing what is right, we will say today clearly that we challenge the chairman of the NEC; he does not have the authority to ban the CDC for doing what is right. Boakai declared for President you didn’t comment, people gathered at the ATS to declare support for candidates you didn’t comment, but when Weah says he wants to declare his presidency you issue warning. Let me warn NEC that these elections are not for child play.”
While Weah’s supporters are looking to use his Senate’s performance to make a case for his presidency in 2017, a report released by a non-governmental organization that periodically grades the performance of members of the National Legislature has placed Weah is a shaky position.
The Institute for Research and Democratic Empowerment, an institution whose report is rarely challenged by lawmakers has indicated in its 2015 Legislative Monitoring Scorecard that Weah and Johnson are amongst five senators with the lowest participation in the Senate deliberations.
“On the contrary, there were five Senators who got the lowest in plenary Participation; those Senators include: Sen. George M. Weah of Montserrado County, Sen. Jim W. Tornnlah of Margibi County, Prince Y. Johnson of Nimba County, Sen. Henry W. Yallah of Bong County and Sen. Sando D. Johnson of Bomi County”, stated the IREDD report.
According to the report five Senators got the highest in plenary participation including Sen. J. Milton Teahjay of Sinoe County, Sen. Alphonso G. Gaye of Grand Gedeh County, Peter S. Coleman of Grand Kru County, Albert T. Chie of Grand Kru County and Sen. Francis S. Paye of River-cess County.
At the House of Representatives, there were five Representatives who got the highest in plenary participation; those Representatives include: Hon. Larry P. Younquoi of Nimba County, Hon. Thomas Fallah of Montserrado County, Hon. Gabriel B. Smith of Grand Bassa County, Hon. Bhofal Chambers of Maryland County and Hon. Garrison Yealue of Nimba County.
The report stated that there were a total of 73 plenary sessions held at both houses of the legislature with five senators attending majority of the sessions held.
The report stated that the senators include Sen. Francis S. Paye of Rivercess County, Albert D. Chie of Grand Kru County, Sen. Commany B. Wesseh of Rivergee County, Sen. Daniel FlomoNaatehn of Gbarpolu County and Sen. J. Milton Teahjay of Sinoe County.
Conversely, on the contrary, another set of five Senators also attended the least number of plenary sessions; those Senators include: Sen. George M. Weah of Montserrado County, Sen. Nyoblee K. Lawrence of Grand Bassa County, Sen. Henry W. Yallah of Bong County, Sen. Joseph N.Nagbe of Sinoe County and Edward B. Dagoseh of Grand Cape Mount County.
Releasing the findings Monday at the organization’s headquarters in Monrovia, IREDD executive director Mr. Harold Marvin Aidoo said, the lower participation level may be attributed to legislators’ new entrance into the legislature or due to their official absence to participate in ECOWAS parliament amongst others.
There were a total of 73 plenary sessions held at both houses of the legislature. Five senators attended majority of the sessions held, they include: Sen. Francis S. Paye of River-cess County, Albert D.Chie of Grand Kru County, Sen. Commany B. Wesseh of Rivergee County, Sen. Daniel Flomo Naatehn of Gbarpolu County and Sen. J. Milton Teahjay of Sinoe County.
Weah attends least session
The report again listed senator Weah senators that attended the least number of plenary sessions.
Stated the report: “Conversely, on the contrary, another set of five Senators also attended the least number of plenary sessions; those Senators include: Sen. George M. Weah of Montserrado County, Sen. Nyoblee K. Lawrence of Grand Bassa County, Sen. Henry W. Yallah of Bong County, Sen. Joseph N.Nagbe of Sinoe County and Edward B. Dagoseh of Grand Cape Mount County”.
Similarly, the report further stated five members of the House of Representatives attended majority of the sessions held. Those Representatives include: Hon. Mary M. Karwor of Grand Bassa County, Hon. Garrison Yealue of Nimba County, Hon. Robertson N. Siaway of Grand Bassa County, Hon. Ben A. Fofana of Margibi County, and Hon. Alfred G. Jaweh of Rivercess County.
While a similar five members got the lowest in plenary attendance; they are: Hon. Tokpah J. Mulbah of Bong county, Hon. Emmanuel J. Nuquay of MargibiCounty, Hon. Saah H. Joseph of Montserrado County, Hon. Eugene F. Kparkar of Lofa County and Hon. Isaac B. Roland of Maryland County.
The IREDD survey shows that the legislature has been weak in the exercise of its statutory mandate in compelling Government Agencies and Ministries to submit Quarterly and Annual Budgetary performance reports on a regular basis. Noticeably, the exercise of this function, the reports states has been marred by sporadic tendencies without any evidence of pursuing this valuable function as a matter of legislative responsibility.
The report also described as structurally weak legislative committees, opaque, lack organizationally disposition and allow personal political and economic interest to supersede duty and responsibility to country.
“This is manifested in the manner in which the legislature makes self-serving budgetary appropriations. For example, a Ministry of Finance and Development Planning proposal to earmark $3 million for staffers capacity building was rejected by legislators and the appropriation was rather requested to be allocated towards legislators’ personal “capacity allowance” (USAID Evaluation Report, 2014).
“In FY2012/13, an allocation approved from $20.5 to $34 million in the name of reform was rather converted for legislators’ personal wealth leaving out purported reform to support Legislative Budget Office and Legislative Information System, the report is quoted.
The IREDD report also accused the legislature of failing miserably in the well-intended purpose of assessing nominees’ competence, capability to serve and integrity to manage public portfolio during confirmation hearing this she said has lost its value essence miserably.
“The persistence confirmation of nominees with proven lack of competence after even been rejected by a specialized committee has often beclouded the image of the Senate. For example, the Robert Kerby scenario and many others who also did not pass public and senate scrutiny but were later awarded confirmation, Mr. Aidoo said.
The report also claimed that Committee systems and their manner of structural composition are driven by either partisanship, political interest and not on the basis of competence and knowledge. This according to IREDD has undermined the functionality and productivity of not just committees but the legislature as an institution.
“The weakness in the manner and form committees function is amplified by the lack of experienced and qualified staffs to support the work of specialized committees. The legislature successive appropriations in the last two years lack budget line to support the strengthening of committees and the development of staffers.
The current state of corruption, waste and abuse of state resources can in large part be attributed to weak oversight over the executive by the legislature. The legislature’s continuous silence or blind attention in ensuring ministries and agencies adhere to their statutory responsibility of submitting quarterly reports on their expenditure is tantamount to aiding and abetting the squandering of the Liberian people’s money.
In the year under review, only two governmental agencies: Ministry of Finance and Development Planning and the Central Bank. However, during the annual budget hearing, all other ministries and agencies were compelled to submit their annual spending as precondition to certify their appropriation.