Senator Conmany Wesseh Assures Heads of Integrity Institutions that Legislature Won’t Scrap Tenure
Monrovia – The House of Representatives’ quest to remove tenure from several governmental agencies has suffered a setback after a ranking member of the Liberian Senate, Conmany Wesseh assured heads of integrity institutions that their tenures will be maintained.
The administration of former president Ellen Johnson Sireaf and the 52nd and 53rd Legislatures established several governmental agencies including integrity institutions. In the process they attached tenures to most of the administrative positions in order to boost the independence of officials occupying these posts.
But the House of Representatives of the current 54th Legislature has been calling for the removal of tenures from some of these institutions on grounds that officials are often complacent in the discharge of their duties because of the tenure attached to their post since they cannot be fired by the President easily.
Some argued that the tenures undermine the functions of the President as the Constitution of Liberia delegate the appointment of cabinet officials and heads of government’s agencies to the President.
As the result, in October 2020, the House passed a bill stripping of tenure from all deputy commissioner positions at the Liberia Maritime Authority.
The decision was based on a bill submitted by President Weah calling for the complete cancellation of tenured positions at the Maritime Authority to grant him full authority over the institution.
The House’s Plenary then mandated House Speaker Bhofal Chambers to constitute a specialized committee dominated by the Committee on Judiciary to review the bill and report with a set of recommendations.
In its report, the committee made slight changes to President Weah’s version by upholding tenure for the Commissioner but eliminating tenure for the deputy commissioners; and at the same time creating assisting commissioner positions.
The polarizing bill garnered huge debate and despite several dissenting views, plenary voted in favor of the Specialized Committee’s report and forwarded the bill to the Liberian Senate.
Recently there have been renewed debate among members of the 54th Legislature, with some joining the President’s inner circle in calling for the cancellation of tenure from almost all of the agencies except for those ones that were designated by the Constitution; while the other party is against the removal of tenures.
The debate prompted the President pro tempore of the Liberian Senate, Albert Chie to constitute an ad hoc Committee headed by Senator Wesseh to weigh in on the debate and report to plenary with a set of recommendations.
However, while his committee is yet to report, Senator Wesseh has assured the heads of anti-graft institutions that the tenure will be maintained.
Speaking at the launch of the National Strategy and Action Plan on Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism organized by the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) of Liberia, the River Gee County Senator said perhaps those calling for the removal of tenures have not really been enlightened on the importance of placing tenures to integrity institutions.
He said: “I have been giving the task to chair the committee which is the ad hoc committee on tenure. It was a suggestion from the Lower House that we scrape tenure at certain level, but with no clear understanding from some sources about the importance of tenure to anti-graft institutions. For some reasons, the Protem (president pro tempore) appointed me to head that committee and I want to assure you that we are doing everything to maintain the tenure that you have now.”
He was quick to point out that while he and his colleagues are opting to uphold their tenures, officials of anti-graft institutions who are predominantly young should be honest and diligent in performing their duties.
“You have to be honest to yourself. And you have to do your work properly. You have a special responsibility. We noticed that good number of you are young people and it tells that the future of our country is in the hands of the young people.”
Continuing, he said: “And that starts with all the processes of our people that we confirm; starting with your own qualification. If you bring fictitious papers to the Legislature and convince us to confirm you, then know that is the beginning of the dangerous road to corruption.”