Liberia: No Justification For Code Of Conduct Violation

THE ISSUE OF GOVERNANCE is cardinal to the success of any government. This is why President George Weah owes to himself and his legacy to toe the line of good governance over bad.

IN JANUARY THIS YEAR, President George Manneh Weah mandated all Presidential appointees and civil servants covered by the Code of Conduct and desirous of contesting the pending Senatorial Elections to resign within 30 days. 

THE PRESIDENT’S DIRECTIVE was in line with Chapter 5.2, Section 10 of the Code of Conduct, which states that all officials and civil servants covered by such category, resign their positions within 30 days upon the issuance of the Presidential Directive.

THE SUPREME COURT had earlier rendered an opinion over the intense controversy on the implementation of the Code of Conduct during the 2017 Presidential and Legislative Elections. The National Elections Commission also disqualified some candidates for violating the Code of Conduct in the same year.

CHAPTER 5.10 of the Code specifically deals with Avoidance of Conflict – Politics and Work. It states: “Every Employee of Government shall ensure that his or her participation in political activities does not bring him or her in conflict with official duties.”

PART V: 5.1 OF THE CODE STATES: “All officials appointed by the President of the Republic of Liberia shall not: Engage in political activities, canvass or contest for elected offices, use government facilities, equipment or resources in support of partisan or political activities, serve on a campaign team of any political party, or the campaign of any independent candidate.”

OVER THE PAST FEW DAYS a lot of issues have been raised regarding clear and outright violation of the COC.

THE CONTROVERSY was resurrected after the Chairman of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change(CDC), Mr. Mulbah Morlu, named scores of appointed government officials to the party’s campaign committee for the ensuing December 8, senatorial elections across the country.

AMONG THOSE NAMED WERE: Professor Wilson Tarpeh (Director of the Executive Protection Agency and former Minister of Commerce and Industry) as National Chairman, Williametta Piso Saydee-Tarr (Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection) for Media and Communication, Monrovia City Mayor Jefferson Koijee for Operations, and Deputy Finance Minister for Fiscal Affairs Dr. Samora P. Z. Wolokolie for Policy and Strategy.

ALSO NAMED ARE: National Port Authority (NPA) Managing Director Bill Tweahway as County Coordinator, Liberia’s Comptroller General Mr. Janga A. Kowo as Head/Campaign Secretariat, Education Minister Prof. D. Ansu Sonii Chairman for Region 1 (Montserrado & Margibi), Special Aid to the President Mr. Sekou Kalasco Damaro Secretary, Chief of Protocol of the Republic of Liberia Madam Nora Finda Bundoo Chairman Region 2 (River Gee & Maryland), the Director of the Liberia Civil Aviation Authority Mr. Moses Y. Kollie as Chairman Region 3 (Grand Gedeh, Nimba & Lofa), among others.

THE APPOINTMENT has drawn criticisms from a cross section of Liberia.

THIS WEEK, THE LIBERIA COUNCIL OF CHURCHES (LCC), through its President, Bishop Kortu K. Brown, condemned the ruling CDC for flagrantly violating the National Code of Conduct Act through the inclusion of appointed government officials on the campaign team of the governing party.

SPEAKING TO FRONTPAGEAFRICA Monday, Bishop Brown pointed out that the ruling party’s action undermines the tenets of good governance, including the upholding of the rule of law in Liberia.

THE CLERGYMAN ALSO maintained that it does not augur well for Liberia and its people to see the CDC which consistently spoke in favor of the upholding of the Code of Conduct during its opposition days, to change gear at a time that the party now has the authority to do so.

BISHOP BROWN termed as “unacceptable” the open and fearless violation of the document by the CDC by naming public officials in top positions at revenue generating entities on its campaign committee. “The LCC believes that CDC is wrong to appoint government officials on the campaign committee of the ruling party. It is a violation of Section 5.1 of the National Code of Conduct. They are in error with that kind of action which undermines the rule of law and the tenets of good governance. We supposed to be upholding and celebrating the rule of law at this time”.

IN MAY 2014, former Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf signed into law the Code of Conduct Act following the House of Representatives concurrence with the Liberian Senate in March 2014.

MEMBERS OF THE 53RD National Legislature at the time passed the document, which was submitted by the Executive in 2009, in keeping with Article 90 (c) of the 1986 Liberian Constitution.

ARTICLE 90 (C) OF THE CONSTITUTION provides that “The Legislature shall prescribe a Code of Conduct for all public officials and employees stipulating the acts which constitute conflict of interest or are against public policy, and the penalties for violation thereof.”

THE NATIONAL CODE OF CONDUCT ACT, which suffered series of setbacks prior to its passage, sets out standards of behavior, and conduct required of Public Officials and Employees of Government.

THE CODE also guides, regulates and ensures compliance with the norms and behaviors required of all Public Officials and Employees of Government for the sake of impartiality, objectivity, transparency, integrity, efficiency and effectiveness in the performance of their duties and mandates.

AMID THE MANY OUTPOUR of dissent against the outright violation of the COC, Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Mr. Nathaniel McGill defended the naming of appointed officials to the party’s senatorial elections campaign team. The Minister insisted that he sees no issue with the officials violating the Code of Conduct, because similar violation was carried out by previous government of Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

SAID MINISTER MCGILL: “Everybody is a court in this country. When the Code of Conduct was crafted, we challenge people on the basis of our thinking that they violated the Code of Conduct and when we went to the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court said we were wrong.”

ACCORDING TO MINISTER MCGILL, the reason why the COC is not being implemented is due to the fact that there is no Ombudsman appointed to monitor.

THIS BEGS the question: Who is responsible for appointing the Ombudsman? Who is in charge of the government? Where is the President? Who is advising the President?

THE MINISTER SAYS the Supreme Court rejected their argument that public officials did not resigned their posts two years prior to expressing intention to contest elected offices in Liberia.

HOWEVER, IT APPEARS the Weah administration itself is divided on the issue. Mr. Bill Tweahway, head of the National Port Authority, one of the many officials appointed to the campaign committee as Counties Coordinator, has resigned the appointment.

TWEHWAY WHO served the 53rd National Legislature as Montserrado District Three Representative when the Code of Conduct was enacted into law, believes it was prudent for President Weah to ask all appointed government officials to relinquish their positions on the campaign team.

SPEAKING AT HIS BIRTHDAY observation on Tuesday, October 27 The NPA Managing Director expressed conviction that the President will ensure that other public officials respect the Code of Conduct anytime this month.

SADLY, MANY WITHIN the administration appear unwilling to respect the code, laying the blame on the former administration of Madam Sirleaf even though the CDC ran for the presidency on the mantra of Change.

THE ISSUE OF GOVERNANCE is cardinal to the success of any government. This is why President George Weah owes to himself and his legacy to toe the line of good governance over bad.

IN DOING SO, President Weah must ensure the withdrawal of the names of those appointed to serve in government from the campaign activities of his party.

SADLY, SOME OFFICIALS LIKE Mr. Lester Tenny, Vice President for Technical Services at the National Oil Company of Liberia(NOCAL) has chosen to make a mockery of the governance process, posting on his Facebook page Wednesday that he has asked his boss, Saifuah Mai Gray for a leave of absence from work in order to actively engage in political activities.

AND EVEN the chairman of the campaign team, Prof. Wilson Tarpeh, Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency has also withdrawn from the team, stating he would rather support the candidates from within, rather than being a member of the campaign team.

THE DEFIANT POSITION of Minister McGill and certain officials of the Weah administration in relations to the COC violations is a key reason why many are still skeptical about promises made by politicians seeking office.

IF THE WHOLE IDEA OF CHANGING from the old to the new was driven by a desire to restore hope and inspire new ideas, then why is the Weah administration repeatedly revisiting the frailties of the past regime in order to justify its bad governance play?

THERE CAN BE no justification for bad governance from a government which trumpeted change and promised to do away from all the ills of the past regime. In the same vein, no amount of justification can erase the negative perception the clear violation of the code is bringing on the Weah administration.

THIS IS WHERE LEADERSHIP is needed and where the President must stand and deliver. Sadly, it seems, everyone around the emperor seems to be toeing the line of bad over good and embracing clear violations of the COC under the guise of the previous government did it; so, we can too!!!

SADLY, IN SO DOING, the President’s key advisors are undermining his own mandate regarding the COC – with outrageous justifications, to the administration’s own detriment.