A Tribute To Tenure Positions

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The Editor,

For a while now, CDCians, and perhaps few Liberians, have been struggling with how to handle legal implications of making appointments to Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of Government whose leadership is subject to tenures, many of which has exceeded the lifespan of the president that appointed them. 

The same argument is made of civil servants, who many CDCians believe should now be replaced with members of their party, now that they have won the elections with a national alacrity.  The issue reached a milestone when the President sought to make an appointment that was challenged in the Supreme Court by a tenure appointee.  As the public awaited the adjudicatory process of The Court, there again came a political dynamic to seek remedy from the legislature, as if to suggest that the Executive had ran out of legal options to justify replacing tenure appointees.

Also, bewildered by the despondent squabble of a young CDCian to whom I once gave lift, I thought to grant him the courtesy of sharing my thought, vis-à-vis making appointments to tenure positions, as well as the good intention of restructuring the Civil Service Agency of Liberia that now appears to have gone out of bounds.   

Nothing Is Wrong Until It is Wrong It is firstly fair to state that continuity, as this is the intent of proponents for “Tenure” positions, is helpful to our democratic transition, which is why competitive recruiting/vetting must govern the process. 

Under public policies of Liberia, the employment process is required to be governed by standards, not by Luck or Connection, so that the best mind is recruited to avoid disruptions in the wake of a political transition.  To ensure inclusiveness in Liberia, owing to the advent of the civil war, the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) sought to make specific reference to making appointments based on recruiting the best minds and based on geographic lines.  Within the framework of using geographic representation as a benchmark, the CPA reasoned that doing so would address the tribal divide that had contributed to the civil war that killed more than 200,000 people.  

To further strengthen the objectives of the CPA, the government of Liberia, under President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, introduced a law governing all vetting processes by way of establishing the Public Procurement Concession Commission Act, popularly known as the PPCC law.  Under the PPCC law, nobody is to be appointed to a position that is required to be vetted or recruited, without going through a competitive process.  To the extent that it is established that government/public agencies had massively deviated from established laws during these appointments, then it would appear to be unfounded for government to seek for the dismissal of qualified Liberians who so desire to serve their country.   

To the contrary, the employment of many civil servants was improper!  It is wrong to the extent that some of the advertisement had “age requirement”.  Outrageously, it has been rumored that more than half of civil servants are residents of Monrovia, borne in Montserrado and Margibi and went to high school in these counties.  If this rumor is correct, might this be a reason for restructuring so that the populace of the civil servants represent the intent of the CPA and the PPCC laws, both of which were in force when these recruiting were done? To satisfy the competitions test, would it make sense to determine whether most of the Civil Servants were recruited from one tribe, few high schools out of 

the many schools in the country? Can government commission an investigation to empirically establish that graduates of a particular university dominate the civil servant population?   

Tenure Positions : Objectively, political positions/assignments are intended to enable the President achieve policy objectives for which he/she is elected.  This is why many think, whether it makes sense for a tenure position to exceed the lifespan of the President making the appointment.  Constitutionally, it is stated, as well as, in our organic laws, that the President has the sole right to make appointments to political position.  A policy that therefore, seeks to undermine this constitutional prerogative of the President is unfounded and must not be allowed gain precedence.  If the purpose for tenure position is to ensure stability, doesn’t it make sense that the process be limited to the lifespan of the appointing President?   

Again, the law and legislative intent establishing and restructuring public offices to which tenure positions are appointed is obvious-that a vetting process be initiated to ensure that the best Liberian is appointed.  Unfortunately, and like in the case of many civil servants, this was not done.  Was this legislative intent realized? Was there a fair vetting/recruiting process? Were the compensations commensurate and equitable?  Did these appointees, given their level of education, experience and overall competence in the position obligated to know or should have known that appointment to these positions require a competitive process? I am inclined to believe that a presidential appointee, under some reasonable standards, should know if they are participating in an arranged process that may be less than objective.    To the extent that the process may have deviated from the laws and norms of Liberia, so much so that, the tenure extends beyond the tenure of the President that appointed them, it makes sense for restructuring.   

Two Wrongs Don’t Make Right The bible says vengeance is mine, although it is obvious that ratification does not equates to vengeance.  For government to not appear vindictive, wouldn’t it be prudent for it to seek the path of reviewing the recruiting file and continue to make its case at both the Court and the Legislature? After it is established, through a review of recruiting and appointment files that there were deviations and that folks were not vetted according to both standards and Liberian Laws in force at the time of these appointments/recruitment, government may argue to The Supreme Court that it intends to correct the system by making changes to ensure inclusiveness and objectively give a plan as to how it intends to ratify the system.  Under this scenario, government will have no obligation to make settlement, given that these employees participated in a process that was fraudulent, and that they known, or should have known that the process from which they were benefiting was fraudulent.  This argument could help government win in the court and then win at the Legislature, a win-win.     

As I hope that I have contributed to the debate, may I also take this as a tribute to tenure positions, while at the same time, hoping that the civil service would be reviewed with the goal of building a socially inclusive society. 

To conclude, let me remind readers that all of this squabble has historical underlying-tenures of the President and Legislature are excessively long and contradict the intent of the revolution and that of the 1985 voters that approved constitution through a national referendum.  My assertion was outlined 

in an article titled, “Constitutional Talks and the Unfinished Agenda, A challenge to President Sirleaf”.  In that commentary, I sought to remind my readers that Experiences under President Doe, along with other governments before that, compelled Liberian leaders to work with President Doe in setting a new agenda for the governance of the country.  Concomitant to that desire, a constitution was drafted reviewed nationwide by visitations and on radio and television.

That draft constitution, realizing that all of the political problems endured by the country had emanated from the President, limited Presidential term of office to Four years, Representative to Four years and Senator to Eight years (eyebrows were raised about the eight years for senators).  That hope of having a timely transition was lost when an Advisory Body extended presidential, as well as legislative tenures to what we now have-six for president, six for representative and nine for senator.  That Next President that Liberians had hoped for in 1985 to make the necessary political reforms, and therefore decided to approve the constitution in 1985, came 21 years later in 2006, with the election of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.  Do we still have time, we do!

Francis K. Zazay 

[email protected]

Journalist on Trial: Fighting Corruption, Media Muzzling and a 5,000-year Prison Sentence in Liberia

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