House of Representatives Speaker Turns Government’s Lobbyist
Monrovia – Instead of reviewing concessionaires, loan agreements and making laws, the Speaker of the 54th Legislature, Dr. Bhofal Chambers, is flying the world over with the Ministers of Finance and State for Presidential Affairs in search of loans and investors thus abandoning his constitutional mandate.
Report by Al-Varney Rogers [email protected]
Article 34 Section ‘F’ says: “The Legislature shall have the power to approve treaties, conventions and such other international agreements negotiated or signed on behalf of the Republic.”
To the contrary, Speaker Chambers formed part of the delegation, including Finance and Development Planning Minister Samuel Tweah, Public Works Minister Mabutu Nyenpan, Minister of State for Presidential Affairs Nathaniel McGill, Justice Minister Musa Dean and Cllr. Archibald F. Bernard, Legal Advisor to the President, who travelled to Southeast Asia.
Phoning in on a live-talk show on Kool FM, Speaker Chambers’ Chief of Office Staff, Bobby Addison, confirmed that the Speaker along with both Ministers were out of Liberia to secure loans and investments to support President George Weah’s ‘pro-poor agenda.’
A source on the delegation confirmed to Frontpageafrica that the deal which is subject to Legislative approval will cover a little over 500 kilometers of roads.
However, the US$536 million still falls short of the estimated US$3 billion the President projected it would cost to link all the counties’ capitals, including those in the Southeast, in his Annual Message in January.
This is not the first time for Speaker Chambers to join the Executive in its foreign engagement to attract investment to Liberia.
It can be recalled, that the Speaker and the Pro-Tempore were part of the delegation that when to France in search of loan and investment for Liberia.
President George Weah met with several French businesses, investors and private institutions in an effort to encourage investments, a trip the Speaker and Pro-Tempore were part of.
During the State visit to France, the Liberian leader initiated discussions with the Vice President of the World Bank, Makhtar Diop, leading to the front-loading of US$45 million of additional financing from Liberia’s 3-year allocation of $210 million to help stabilize the Liberian economy.
President Weah also secured additional financing of US$5 million from the World Bank Social Protection Program to enhance his sports agenda.
It is those loan agreements and investments the Legislature should be reviewing but with the role been played by the heads of both houses, one can imagine what the outcomes would be if those agreements come before the Legislature.
The opposition Liberty Party Vice Chairman, Darius Dillon, told this newspaper that “Securing loan is the function of the Executive and if that loan requires rectification then the Legislature comes in to rectify it. So no member of the Legislature should be a part of a delegation to secure loan; it not a Legislative function.”
According to Mr. Dillon, Speaker Chambers’ involvement in securing loan can be equated to former Speaker Edwin Snowe getting involved in Liberia’s foreign affairs matter when he had no business in it.
“It is the Legislature that will rectify the loan agreement for it to be binding on Liberia; so it is not the Speaker to negotiate loan for Liberia,” the Liberty Party stalwart insists.
A civil society activist, Hilbert Johnson, said the Speaker’s action undermines the independence of the Legislature.
“Negotiations, securing loans are squarely the responsibility of the Executive.”
“The Legislature should be ratifying agreements not negotiating agreements,” Johnson stressed.
While he acknowledged that the Speaker is a member of the ruling party, he stressed, however, that it does not warrant the Speaker to lower himself to a ‘kitchen cabinet’ position.
“Our democracy is modeled after America. Have you seen Speaker Paul Ryan follow President Donald Trump looking for investors? We have to be serious,” Johnson said.
In 2007, former Speaker Edwin Snowe faced stiff resistance from his colleagues for meddling in Liberia’s diplomatic policy on China and Taiwan.
Political pundits frown on Mr. Snowe for intruding in the Executive’s function.
Apart from Speaker Chambers getting involved in the negotiation of loans and investments, he has had several missteps.
During the inauguration on Monday, January 22, he allowed Representative Clarence Massaquoi to second a motion when he (Massaquoi) was not a member of that August body.