Liberia: Senate Plenary Institutes Several Legislative Reforms
MONROVIA – The Liberian Senate has taken steps to institute landmark legislative reforms aimed at promoting transparency, accountability and enhancing legislative proceedings.
These reforms were disclosed by the Senate Pro-Tempore, Albert Chie, at the joint Senate and House luncheon marking the opening of the 5th Session of the 54th Legislature.
In his statement, Senator Chie revealed that the Plenary of the Senate decided to minimize Executive or closed-door sessions in a bid to foster democracy. “It is said that wherever there is even a small cloud of darkness, Democracy suffers,” Sen. Chie asserted.
According to him, Executive and closed-door sessions are now held only for issues of national security and to vote during confirmation of presidential nominees. He disclosed that there are plans to amend the Senate Rules to vote publicly during confirmation.
Still on voting, Senator Chie said votes of Senators are now recorded and published for crucial bills and instruments so that the constituents know how their Senators vote on issues.
At the same time, the Senate has stopped citing concessionaires and international organizations to Plenary and Committee Rooms. He said, they will rather cite heads of superintending agencies. For example, citing the Ministry of Agriculture rather than inviting Firestone.
“The Senate and House have jointly started the process of seeking interpretation from the Supreme Court on several constitutional issues which have lingered for many many years and will help in our legislative processes. This in no way should be construed as the Senate and House are at loggerheads, but instead should be viewed in the context of manifestation of the nation’s democratic maturity,” he further noted.
Speaking on the 4th Session, Senator Chie said they worked overtime scrutinizing several bills and other legislative instruments but could not exhaust several other issues on the agenda.
He listed some of the issues as Review of certain concession agreements by the Executive Branch, as the review period indicated in some of them have since elapsed; and for other concessions, profound changes in current circumstances necessitate reviewing them to achieve a win-win situation for the investor and the Government;
Review of the status of the various incentive agreements approved by successive governments;
Review of legislation for pensions of various categories of public servants to ensure they live descent lives after so many years of sacrificial public service;
Review of legal instruments creating some of the public corporations and state enterprises to understand and harmonize their functions, prevent wastage and make them functional and more accountable; and
Roads rehabilitation, especially along major corridors throughout the country.
“The issue of road rehabilitation along the Bong-Lofa Corridor, the Southeastern Corridors, the Duala-Bopulu road segment and the Robertsport road segments continue to pose challenge and shame us as leaders. That is why it is important that the House of Representatives quickly review the proposed amendment to the National Road Fund Act submitted to it by the Senate so that, as people often say ‘we cannot be doing the same thing over and over and expect different results’” he said.
He maintained that the Senate will work assiduously on issues of security, the distribution of electricity and the perennial problems in the education and health sectors.
He committed the Senate’s Banking and Currency Committee to monitoring the infusion the new family of Liberian dollar currency authorized for printing and the concomitant withdrawal and replacement of all the old currency by the Central Bank of Liberia.
“The net effect of this infusion and replacement on the liquidity positions of the commercial banks, on the purchasing power of Liberians and on the confidence in the bank sector will also be analyzed,” he added.
For the 2023 general and presidential elections, the Senate Pro-Tempore said, they will look at the proposed amendment to the elections law and also prepare to submit several proposed amendments to the 1986 Constitution for referendum during the 2023 elections.
“I wish to thank our bilateral and multilateral partners for the various assistance, especially the Government of the United States, the European Union and the People’s Republic of China to which we commit to the One China Policy on behalf of the Liberian Senate,” he said.