Liberia: House’s Leadership Leads Plenary in Blocking Ministers Tweah, Diggs’ Appearance for Questioning

Speaker Chambers has been accused of constantly shielding top cabinet officials from the House’s scrutiny

CAPITOL HILL, Monrovia – A move to summon top cabinet officials before the full plenary of the House of Representatives to give account of US$4 million allocated over two budget years, and the current state of the economy was on Tuesday blocked through a legislative maneuver orchestrated by Rep. Acarous Moses Gray (CDC, District #8, Montserrado County).

By: Gerald C. Koinyeneh

Rep. J. Marvin Cole (District #3, Bong County), in a communication had called on the plenary to invite Samuel Tweah, Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Marwine Diggs, Minister of Commerce and Industry and Internal Affairs Minister, Varney Sirleaf to give account of US$4 million allotted over two fiscal periods.

Though, Rep. Cole did not state why the money was intended for, he requested plenary to invite the officials to explain how the money was used.

He also sought the appearance of Minister Tweah to brief the House on the state of the economy and the money allotted for the subsidy of rice.

Accordingly, Hon. Presiding officer and fellow colleagues, I want to further request that the Minister of Finance provides full account of the economic status of our country and the way forward as it relates to the many outcries from our citizens which borders on the following issues: civil servant salaries; to give full account on subsidies that has been provided to the rice dealers… Rep. Cole said in his communication.

The Bong County lawmaker also wanted Minister Tweah invited to speak on the vulnerability of hospitals across the country which, which he said threatens the lives of the citizens.

Following the reading of the communication, plenary’s response started on a positive note when Rep. Dorwohn Gleekia (District #6, Nimba County) filed a motion to agree with his colleague’s request and invite the three officials.

Minister of Commerce Mawine Diggs

But everything turned the opposite when Rep. Gray interjected with an amendment to stop the officials from appearing before the full plenary. Instead, to pleaded with Rep. Gleekia to amend his motion to allow the official to only appear before the leadership of the House of Representatives.

This sparked a huge commotion in plenary as several lawmakers including Rep. Cole, the author of the communication, called for the officials to appear in open session to address the lawmakers’ concerns. 

Rep. Gleekia, apparently was left indecisive, and in a rare move, fled to House Speaker Bhofal Chambers, the presiding officer for consultation.

Several lawmakers cried foul and told their colleague that he was proceeding wrongly by seeking the Speaker’s opinion. They argued that he was privileged to either accept Rep. Gray’s amendment or deny.

The Speaker’s desk soon turned crowded as several lawmakers, with split opinions surrounded the Speaker and Rep. Gleekia.  Following a brief chat with the Speaker, Rep. Gleekia accepted Gray’s amendment to stop Minister Tweah and his colleagues from appearing before plenary.

The decision consummated with a vague yea and nay vote in which the Speaker decides which of the two responses agrees with motion.

 Several lawmakers were left fuming. Rep. Cole walked out of session in an apparent protest.

Speaker Chambers has been accused of constantly shielding top cabinet officials from the House’s scrutiny.

Last week, Rep. Younquoi threatened (ANC, District #8, Nimba County) to vote against a motion inviting Minister Tweah to the House on grounds that it would be a mere bluff since the minister is always protected by the House’s leadership.

But later he rolled back his statement and said he spoke out of frustration. 

“I said out of frustration that I will be willing to vote if the Finance Minister is made not to appear because he will never come,” he said.

“We can’t continue to make fun of ourselves.  I was saying out of frustration because he has been insulated by the system, and unless we are cut pens down, we will not know what we are doing to this country.”