Liberia: Senate Fails to Hold Session Due to Lack of Quorum

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Monrovia – The Senate could not conduct normal Legislative business Thursday, March 5, because of the lack of quorum. 

Montserrado County Senator Saah Joseph, who chairs the Senate Committee on Executive, presiding in the absence of the Pro-Tempore, called for a motion for adjournment after many failed attempts to have senators attend session.

Senators present for the session were 14, two-third of the number required for a quorum. It was said that some senators were attending the funeral service of falling Liberia’s Ambassador to Senegal, Madam Mary-Ann Fossung; while a good number of them are in their counties campaigning ahead of the campaigning period for the 2020 Midterm Senatorial Election.

Section 1 of the Senate’s standing rules, states, “A simple majority of the Senators who have been duly seated shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business and a decision of a two-third (2/3) of said quorum shall be binding.

“A lower number may adjourn from day-to-day and compel the attendance of absent members. Should there not be a quorum at the hour to which the Senate adjourns, those present shall direct the Sergeant-At-Arms to request, and where necessary compel, at the expense of such absent Senator(s), the attendance of the absent Senator(s). On the appearance of the absent Senator(s) at the Senate’s Chamber, such Senator(s) shall not be allowed to address the Senate or take part in its deliberations, except to explain his/her absence, until excused in open session by the body.”

Also, Article 33 ‘A’ of the Liberian Constitution states, “A simple majority of each House shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business, but a lower number may adjourn from day-to-day and compel the attendance of absent members. Whenever the House of Representatives and the Senate shall meet in joint session, the presiding officer of the House of Representatives shall preside.”

“These things have not been happening because we haven’t given attention to them. Few persons sit in session with lot of empty seats and make decisions that are binding on the Liberian people. We haven’t been following the rules.”

Senator Abraham Darius Dillon, Montserrado County

What Was the Implications? 

Yesterday, it was expected that the Minister of Finance and Development Planning would have appeared before the Senate as a follow up to the appearance of the Board of Commissioners of the National Elections Commission (NEC) to explain issue of funding for October Mid-term elections.

Last week the NEC through its Chairman Cllr. Jerome George Korkoyah, told member of the Senate that the Commission has not received a dime for the pending election to carry out pre-election activities and that the process may be handicapped if the process is delayed up to May.

Minister Tweah’s appearance Thursday would have laid to rest the question of funding availability for election and provide information on addressing the issue of funding allotment for the election.

Need for Stronger Rules on Absenteeism 

Speaking to Legislative reporters, Senator Darius Dillon, who has in recent time raised the issue of roll call, frowned on absent colleagues and called for stronger rules to punish people who will stay away from session without reasons or excuse.

“These things have not been happening because we haven’t given attention to them. Few persons sit in session with lot of empty seats and make decisions that are binding on the Liberian people. We haven’t been following the rules.

“Every week we should, on the record, give eight hours to country by participating in session. We need to work for the money we make here. I decided that I will be keen on roll call because the rule says a Senator can demand a roll call.

“We will work to amend the rules to include if you didn’t come to session because of illegitimate reasons and cause the Senate not to function, you will not only explain but made to pay fine that will go to government revenue and also go beyond to suspend on expel senators.”

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