Liberia: House Repeals Tenured Positions

Lawmakers in the House of Representatives have to voted to repeal all tenured positions

Monrovia – The House of Representatives Tuesday, November 22, voted in favor of a report from its Judiciary Committee repealing all tenured positions in government.

Report by Henry Karmo [email protected]

However, the only tenured positions at — the General Auditing Commission (GAC), the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) and the National Elections Commission (NEC) — were recommended as exceptions. But all others have been scrapped and power returned to the President of Liberia.

Positions including the Public Procurement and Concession Commission (PPCC), the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) amongst others were affected by the House of Representatives’ Tuesday decision.

Cllr. Jonathan Fonati Koffa, Chairman of the House’s Judiciary Committee, said their reconsideration stands from what he described as “a constitutional conflict these tenured positions are creating.”

According to him, previous legislatures didn’t properly pass those tenured positions.

“In my mind given Article 56 of the Liberian Constitution, will and pleasure any law granting tenure must state that the legislature draws this power from Article 89 otherwise it is properly construed under Article 56 and such tenure would be a usurpation of Presidential powers.

“So the vote repealing them is simply a move to revisit them individually as recommended by the Committee. The tenured system has been abused and must be corrected to be constitutionally cognizable,” Cllr Koffa further recommended

According to him, the Constitution calls for autonomy not tenure and there is nowhere in the constitution were the word tenure is used.

“In order to grant autonomy, I would like to see independent vetting, budget independence, and different report mechanism. Anything short of that is merely protecting jobs for some individuals, who were appointed by a prior president. I am not opposed to tenure. I just want a holistic and constitutionally sensible approach.”

President George Weah early in November presented a bill to the House of Representatives to repeal all tenured positions in the Executive Branch of government.

The bill titled, “An Act Prohibiting the Tenure of All Public Officials Within the Executive Branch of Government,” was placed on the agenda of the House’s plenary for discussion during the first day sitting of the legislature for its extraordinary session on Tuesday, October 30.

Following that adoption of the day’s agenda, the lawmakers voted to go into executive session, thus preventing observers and journalists from following their discussions.

Reason for the decision of the House to revert to executive session was not disclosed.

The bill will be sent to the Senate for concurrence. Prior to the House of Representatives’ Thursday decision, officials serving in tenured positions including Executive Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia, Executive Director of the Public Procurement and Concession Commission and Commissioner General of the Liberia Revenue Authority cannot be dismissed by the President, except for specific causes relating to their ability to perform their duties or failure to adhere to specific ethical guidelines.

The act explains that although legislative actions taken in the last few years provided security of tenure, it has become necessary that the provision of tenure granted to appointed officials of government, to be removed by appropriate legislation upon careful consideration of benefits and downside of security of tenure.

President Weah believes that tenured personnel in the government would likely impede, obstruct or materially or adversely affect the development agenda of the President.

Opposition Political Parties Respond

The former ruling Unity Party (UP) and two other collaborating political parties — Liberty Party and Alternative National Congress (ANC) — said the President’s intend to stop all tenured positions was “troubling.”

“We speak out today because these efforts by the President represent an unwise attempt to concentrate unchecked power in one branch of government. And if there is any one lesson we should learn from our recent history it is that this could lead to serious abuse of power at the highest rungs of government with dire consequences for us as a people and as a nation,” they said in a collaborating statement they issued Thursday.

The three opposing parties asked all Liberians to think about the profound implications that the end of tenured positions will have for good and accountable governance in Liberia. They added: “The end of tenure means the President will have the power to sack the Chairman and all of the Commissioners of the National Elections Commission (NEC) at any time, even in the midst of a highly contested election.”

Among other things, UP, ANC and LP asked “Or take the case of the Executive Governor and Deputy Governors of the Central Bank. They have tenure so they can make monetary policies free of political interference. Do we want them making policies that reflect their professional judgment about what is best for our economy or do we want them taking into account political considerations that have nothing to do with sound economic principles simply because they are afraid that the President will fire them for refusing to obey his or her directives?

“Finally, consider the case of the National Social Security and Welfare Corporation (NASSCORP), which is the custodian of funds that thousands of Liberians depend on for their retirement. Do we want the leaders of NASSCORP making decisions as to how to manage and use retirement funds for which Liberians have worked so hard because they want to please the President who could dismiss them at any time, or do we want them making such decisions free of political bias and based only on what makes economic sense?”