Monrovia – The Institute for Research and Democratic Development (IREDD) performance report on the 54th National Legislature for the period of January to June 2021 has disclosed that 90 percent of all the bills passed by the Legislature came from Office of President George Weah, thereby, leaving other “citizens driven” bills to languish in committees rooms.
IREDD is one Liberia’s leading policy research advocacy and democratic advancement institution championing the voices of the ordinary citizens of Liberia for democratic governance since 2000.
The report from IREDD under the banner “Lawmakers Watch” highlighted the performance of the 54th legislature of Liberia. It report reveals findings from all of the 47 sessions held at the House of Representatives and the Liberian Senate respectively.
Matthias M. Yeanay is the Executive Director of IREDD. He told journalists Monday at the Head Office of IREDD in Sinkor that most of the legislation including concession agreements has been speedily passed by the Legislature especially when it comes from the office of the President.
“In our report, there are 90 percent of the bills that came from the President were passed and signed into law. However, there are bills at the House of the Representative including the National Youth Act, the CLGS bill and other bills that are lingering at the Legislature that have not been passed. These are citizens driven and interest bills. These bills need to be passed as equal as the bills from the President’s office,” Yeanay said.
IREDD Executive Director added: “IREDD is concern as to whether the Liberian legislature is working for the people or for the president. IREDD noticed, 90 percent of the legislations passed by the legislature under the period recorded originated from the President. It is also important to highlight that most of these legislations were speedily passed sometimes ignoring the clear procedure to pass legislations. It seems that the Legislature is working for the President and not the people.”
Undisclosed Information at the Legislature Undermines Transparency
Also speaking, the Executive Director of IREDD terms the budget office and the legal drafting center of the Legislature as are very weak. This, he says is due to limited budget and logistical support.
According to him, Legislators are not regularly updating the Legislative information service; something he says is creating a huge challenge of the public to access near real time Legislations that are passed and pending at the Legislature.
“These factors also undermine Legislative transparency and promote closed governance system that leads to corruption,” he says.
Yeanay added: “Holding the Liberian Legislature accountable most especially individual Legislators relating to decision-making has become a challenged to the public including CSOs due to the breakdown of voting machine. Citizens are unable to hold their elected Leaders accountable due to the lack of voting machine at the Legislature.”
According to IREDD Executive Director, the offices of the Secretary of the Senate and the Chief Clerk of the Liberian Legislature faced huge challenges of the needed logistics to effectively operate and meet the demand of the Legislature and the public.
“This situation does not only affect the Legislature, but it greatly affects the public most especially those who visit the Legislature to obtain information,” he said.
Secret Sessions on the Increase at the Legislature
The Secret sessions have become a regular component of plenary sessions, that according to IREDD Executive Director Yeanay.
He said very crucial agenda that the public need to be aware about are discussed in closed door. This situation, Yeanay says continues to undermine Legislative accountability and transparency and creates information gaps and doubt on the minds of the public.
“For instance, the replacement of the Liberian Dollar was discussed in secret sessions and confirmation of public officials are also carried out in secrete sessions. Based on best parliamentary practices, Secrete Sessions are intended for state security related matters but what confirmation of a presidential Nominees have to do with State Security issue?” Yeanay asked.
He added: “The Legislature which is considered as the first branch of government is parked with dark cloud with the lack of transparency and accountability evidence by the lack of voting Machine and continuous secret session. In view of the foregoing, the Legislature which monitors the Executive Branch of government is not transparent; therefore the executive branch of government is also not transparent in-Service delivery to the Liberian people evident of the lack of budget performance reports.”
County Service Centers are Closed While Lawmakers Received US$30,000 Each
Last year, each Lawmaker received US$30,000 for their special projects in their various constituents or respective counties. Yeanay says it was wrong for Lawmakers to be given such an amount while the county service centers across the country are on the blink of shutting down.
“The County Service Centers are nearly closing but the Liberian Legislature has not been able to address the situation but was able to allocate thirty thousand (30,000) for each Legislator in the National Budget neglecting national and communities’ interest for development. These acts of the Legislature undermine national development and sadly promote individual legislators’ political interest above their electorates,” he stressed.
Yeanay added: “IREDD believes that the Liberian Legislature needs to take prompt actions that address citizen’s interest and national development.”