Liberia: Professionalize The Legislature Via This Harmonization Program
It is no better time than now for Members of the 54th Legislature to engage the Executive Branch in ensuring that the country’s first branch of government begins the process of attracting “best and brightest minds” from in and out of the country.
One key way to accomplish this is to improve on the remunerations of senior personnel of the Legislature. Chapters V, VI and VII of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia clearly outline the powers, functions and responsibilities of the Legislature, Executive and the Judiciary.
The three separate but coordinate Branches of Government have personnel who run the affairs of each Branch. Hence, there must be equal pay for equal work. And like the Executive and Judiciary, the Legislature has a set of personnel who runs and manages its day to day affairs.
It is important to note in this circular that under the Executive, the nomenclature for highest ranking positions are: Minister, Deputy Minister/Assistant Minister, Managing Director, Director General, Deputy/Assistant Managers; while at the Legislature, the highest ranking positions are Chief Clerk/Deputy, Secretary of the Senate/Deputy, Bi-Cameral Directors, Chiefs-of-Office Staff (COS) to the Speaker, President Pro tempore and Deputy Speaker, Unicameral Directors, Deputy and Assistant Directors. Considering that all Branches are ‘equal’ it is utterly unfair to have one Branch of Government senior personnel earn far more than another Branch when they all work from diverse perspectives to have central government running effectively.
It is vital to, herein, divulge that the Legislature’s (own) modernization document, known as the Legislative Modernization Plan (LMP) divulges in Section 2.5 that staffers of the Legislature are poorly paid. Following decades of such disincentive practice, there is no better time than now to revisit such de-motivational/dis-incentivized act, especially as the Executive has embarked upon a critical harmonization program.
It would be professionally prudent were the two highest personnel positions of the Legislature: Secretary of the Senate and Chief Clerk of the House of Representatives be equivalent to that of Ministerial level under the Executive Branch; whereas the positions of Deputy Chief Clerk, Assistant Secretary of the Senate, Joint Services’ Directors (LBO & LIS), Legal Counsels of the House and Senate, Chiefs-of-Office-Staff to the Speaker, President Pro tempore and Deputy Speaker all be equivalent to Deputy Ministerial position. Further, uni-camera Directors of the House and Senate as well as Chiefs-of-Office Staff to all lawmakers must be paralleled to Assistant Ministerial position; nothing less!!! In worst case scenario wherein inter-branch senior personnel harmonization does not materialize on an equilibrium basis at this time, then central Government, critically inclusive of the Legislature must establish a “Professional Legislative Services Pool”.
With portion of money expected to be deducted from all 103 lawmakers, a strength of at most a dozen top-notch professionals established and charged with the task of providing joint legislative services. Hence, interested Liberians be encouraged to apply and be vigorously vetted with first priority accorded current senior personnel of the Legislature. Those successful be paid compared to a Minister and/or Deputy Minister.
If considered, will serve as a commencing point for attracting “best and brightest brains” for effective professional service delivery. The outcome would yield optimum output and maximum productivity as in the case with the Executive and Judiciary Branches. There is certainly no better time than now to achieve this; courtesy of the much heralded national harmonization being undertaken. Hence, we trust that Members of the 54h Legislature will act on this very vital issue thus securing an enviably indelible legacy.
B. McCarthy Weh, II,
Director, Legislative Information Service (LIS)