Liberia: ‘Defiant’ Lawmaker Still Making Decisions in the Executive

Senator Saah H. Joseph said he is exercise his ‘Oversight Responsibility’ as he meddle in the affairs of the Executive

Monrovia – Montserrado County Senator Saah Hardy Joseph has instructed the Liberia Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Authority (LMHRA) to conduct inspection on all pharmacies operating in Liberia despite the warning from President George Manneh Weah about officials in another branch of government trying to perform functions exclusively dedicated to the Executive.

In a letter dated July 19, 2019, Montserrado Senator Saah Joseph wrote and sought to effect an appointment and a dismissal at the LMHRA, thus improperly arrogating unto himself the power to “grant” someone the authority to serve as Managing Director of LMHRA.

But the Office of President George Weah speedily reacted to the communication and described the senator’s action as an unlawful act that runs contrary to Article 56 ‘A’ of the Constitution, which grants exclusive authority to the President to appoint all such officials.

“The President has also expressed disapproval of this attempted usurpation of his function and reiterates his call to all officials of the government to carry out their duties in accordance with law and to work diligently to improve the lives of the Liberian people,” he said.

The President had directed that all actions of appointments and dismissals carried out at LMHRA as a result of Senator Joseph’s communications were null and void. He also directed the Minister of Finance and Development Planning to effect a freeze on all accounts of the entity pending a review of its financial records.

Despite the President’s call for the senator to stay away from the entity, the Montserrado County lawmaker is still taking major decisions at the LMHRA and instructing the current Human Resource (HR) manager, who now runs the day-to-day activities of the entity.

On Monday, August 19, Senator Joseph held a meeting at the LMHRA where he instructed the LMHRA’s Inspector General to immediately organize his team and begin to conduct inspections on all pharmacies in the country.

Sen. Joseph also instructed the Finance Department to ensure that all employees are placed on government payroll, including the 25 persons he had recommended to the entity.

According to one of the employees, the meeting was interactive as people gave their views on issues.

According to this employee, who asked not to be named as he is not authorized to speak to the media, the Senator told the finance people that there is an audit to be conducted shortly. He further narrated how Senator Joseph boasted that he is capable of making the auditors delay the audit if the finance department is not prepared for now.

“I am asking if you guys want the audit done now or later; if you not prepared now, I can tell you that I have the ability to ask for time to enable the finance department put documents together to enhance the auditing,” he quoted the Senator as saying in the meeting.

Though it is the responsibility of the Executive to ensure the smooth working of the institution, the Senator has arrogated onto himself to run the LMHRA and has even threatened to dismiss any employee, whom he said will be caught in giving information to the press.

Our source further stated that the Senator cautioned all the new workers he sent to the entity to work in line with the technical people in order to improve a good working environment and warned against any disorderly conduct as it relates to the function of the authority.

When this newspaper contacted the Senator on Wednesday, August 21, he confirmed that he held a meeting with the LMHRA employees. Sen. Joseph bragged that he was exercising his oversight responsibility as a lawmaker.

“Yes, I had a meeting with them; I was acting on my oversight responsibility as a lawmaker and a member on the Health Committee,” he noted.

The lawmaker also confirmed that he instructed the LMHRA to conduct an inspection of pharmacies in the countries.

This is a willful defiance from the Senator, who is in another branch of government.

Currently, the LMHRA doesn’t have a Managing Director; it is being supervised by the HR, who is a pastor and does not have any training in medicine. The Act that established the LMHRA, says the head or the Managing Director should be a qualified Liberian Pharmacist, to serve as the administrative and technical head of the Authority, and shall direct and administer the day-to-day activities of the Authority.

The institution is responsible to protect the Liberian public from the harmful effects of substandard and counterfeit medicines and health products. It also ensures fair trade practices in medicines and health products.

The entity also issues licenses or permits for premises and personnel to engage in the manufacture, import, export, transit in or out of the Republic of Liberia, supply, storage, distribution, or sale of medicines and health products, excluding retail pharmaceutical outlets.

In addition to not having a Managing Director at the moment, the LMHRA does not also have a board of directors to conduct the affairs of the institution. The LMHRA Act also calls for the entity having an 11-member Board of Directors, who shall be appointed by the President.