President Weah’s Bill to Repeal Tenure Positions: An Undermining Tool of Pillar 4 of the Pro-poor Agenda for Development and Prosperity (PADP)

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Hearing that President George M. Weah submitted to the National Legislature a bill that is aimed at repealing tenured positions within the Executive Branch of government coincided with my final reading of the Pro-poor Agenda for Development and Prosperity (PAPD), the five year National Development Plan of the CDC –led government to promote economic growth, sustainable development, and lift 1 million Liberian out of poverty in the next five years.

Comparing and contrasting the ingredients of Pillar 4 of the PAPD and the President’s bill provides the fertile ground for one to surmise that President Weah has not either read the PAPD to fully grasp the various goals and objectives or does not believe in the various aims and objectives of the development plan. The former can be attributed to his lack of discipline or sophistication to play with complex ideas and draw progressive conclusions while the latter can be ascribed to the President’s lack of national consciousness for social transformation.

Meanwhile, his bill is a clear expression of the fact that the homeland has relapsed into the dastard era of the imperial presidency and represents a penchant for unchecked powers and personification of authority.

It signals a throwback to that prehistory of autocracy in the republic where governance was the preserve monopoly of the president, and a brutal and blatant reversal of the gains that the country has made in governance over the decade in terms of de-concentrating power and promoting the independence of anti-grafts, integrity institutions and increase the confidence of citizens, investors and civil society in the governance process.

Here there are contradictions that unmasked Weah as a crude autocrat who on one hand plays to the gallery as a believer in the concept of democracy along with all its adjuncts by peddling overheated rhetoric and on the other hand we see a Weah who shows his true color by undermining the fundamentals that keep democracy in check in the homeland and put a brake on the monopoly of power. Clearly, our president demonstrates a particular idiocy typical of misleaders in Africa: pretend to be champion of inclusive governance and democracy so as to be in the good books of his handlers in the West in order for the aid money to keep pouring in, whereas use the subservient legislature to enact law that entrench and consolidate your power.

On a wider outlook of the PAPD, in my view, for the purpose of meeting citizens demand for a plan to explain or accompany the government’s “Pro-poor mantra, such plan as the PAPD was hurriedly crafted through the process of patent copying and pasting of the Unity Party’s Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy (iPRS) (2006 – 2007), Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS) (2008 – 2011), Agenda for Transformation (AfT) (2012 – 2017), UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Africa Agenda 2063. This is just a further proof of our assertion that fraud, incompetence, and awful knowledge deficit decimate and pervade the Weah-led government. It thus goes without saying that any expectation of this government delivering social transformation and shared prosperity to the wretched people and broken state is an absolute nonsense. The Presidency of Weah is a further authentication of leadership degeneracy in Africa that the Liberian people must now not only have to live with for the next five years but also get prepare to struggle against its aim of undemocratically consolidating power in order to industrially plunder the resources of the country.

The principle goal of Pillar 4 (Governance and Transparency) of the hurriedly prepared copied and pasted PADP is to build “An inclusive and accountable public sector for shared prosperity and sustainable development.” This document which I am convinced has not been read by the intellectually deflated president acknowledges the establishment and strengthening of integrity institutions such as the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), Internal Audit Agency (IAA), Public Procurement and Concession Commission (PPCC), National Bureau of Concession (NBC), and the Liberia Extractive Initiative for Transparency International (LEITI) which have “serve as ‘checkpoints’ for effective management of government resources and for follow-up actions to deter breaches”. One of the ways in which these institutions have played such roles is the inclusion in their Acts tenure positions for those who head them.

This prevent these institutions to not be undermined by political influence but instead ensure their independence from the interference of the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary Branches of Government. The PADP has as a development outcome from one of the objectives of Pillar 4 that by 2023, integrity institutions would be more autonomous, well-funded and with strengthened staff’s capacity and given more teeth to provide checkpoints for the effective management of government’s resources.

President Weah’s bill seeking the repealing of tenure positions of these integrity institutions not only contradicts his own development plan but also serve as a recipe to scrap the little gains made under the UP-led government and create subservient state institutions that will function at the whims and caprices of a breeding despot in George Manneh Weah. In the PADP, which is geared at giving power to the people, creating economic stability and jobs, sustaining the peace and ensuring good governance and transparency, we read that the plan is aligned with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the African Union’s Africa Agenda 2063. On the contrary, President Weah’s bill seeking to repeal the tenure positions of anti-graft commissions and agencies that are supposed to be independent in the execution of their statutory mandates is against the Goal 16 of the SDGs which commits to the “Promotion of peaceful and inclusive society for sustainable development, and building effective and accountable institutions at all levels”. The bill is also against the Agenda 2063 Aspiration 3: “An Africa of good governance, democracy, and respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law.”

Already, in the first year of his Presidency, President Weah initiated the violation of the Acts and undermining of integrity institutions especially the Public Procurement and Concession Commission (PPCC) Act and the Liberia Extractive Industries and Transparency Initiative (LEITI) Act. President Weah submitted to the National Legislature a road contract which was awarded to his Burkinabe friend without national or international competitive bidding as it is required by the Public Procurement Law. The government again awarded the Military Hospital Contract and the Doe Community road Contract to Bittar Construction Company (Lebanese company) through a single source although other construction companies in Liberia including Liberian owned construction companies have the capacity to execute the projects. But because Bittar is constructing the exotic mansions of President Weah and it is alleged that Bittar Construction is listed as one of the assets of the President, the contracts were awarded through single sourcing, thus prohibiting other companies from bidding for those contracts.

J. Gabriel Nyenkan was appointed as the head of Secretariat of LEITI at a time the five year tenure of the erstwhile head of secretariat had not ended. In fact, the Act of LEITI calls for the President to appoint a Multi Stakeholder Group (MSG), drawn from the government, civil society and the extractive industry which will then appoint the head of secretariat of LEITI. On the contrary, the President appointed the head of secretariat and has up to writing this piece not appointed the MSG. This led to the distortion in the programs of LEITI to an extend Liberia was suspended from the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) for failing to present a report to the International body in time. With these violations of the laws of these integrity or anti-graft institutions, imagine how would it be were the institutions to be scrapped of tenure positions. We will be right; they will be wrong. We will be right that the George Weah’s phenomenon is a poison chalice instead of a political revolution that would transform into social revolution.

With the gullibility of a National Legislature that passed two bogus loan deals (Eton and EBOMAF) without any due diligence, we see no hope in that body to quash the bill of President Weah. That instrument will be passed into law, thus giving the president more power to distort the process of good governance, transparency and accountability (important pillars of democracy) and build a more imperial presidency that has the aim of consolidating power in order to not only gang rape the national treasury as was done with new Liberian bank notes that were printed to replace mutilated notes in the Liberian economy, but also abuse the human rights and dignity of our people at a higher level than the oligarchy of the True Whig Party, the autocracy of Samuel K. Doe, the despotism of Charles Taylor and the economic gangsterism of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf did to the mass of people. These injustices and distortions in the upward socioeconomic mobility of the country perpetrated against the nation-state have never happened without the heroic struggle of the people. Soon and very soon, the people will realize that they are far detached from a political class they have so much confidence in and they will engage in an intense class struggle to undo it!

Gabriel Moore Doe is a Research Fellow at the Independent Democracy Forum in Liberia. He can be reached via [email protected]

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