Liberia: Senate Wants Conference Committee on Tenured Positions
Monrovia – The Senate Judiciary Committee has recommended to its Plenary that except for the General Auditing Commission, the National Elections Commission and the Civil Service Agencies, which were established by the Constitution as autonomous agencies, all other tenured positions in the government could be a subject of judicial challenge.
Report by Henry Karmo [email protected]
According to Senator Varney Sherman, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, this is possible based on the unconstitutionality of the laws, which created those tenured positions in the Executive Branch of Government.
“Consequently, it is better that the legislature cooperates with President [George Manneh] Weah in streamlining the number of agencies which carry tenured positions and in adopting a public policy for the establishment of tenured positions for certain agencies in the Executive Branch of Government.
Chairman Sherman believes that in streamlining the agencies, only essential financial and economic integrity agencies and social human protection agencies, which, as a matter of public policy grounded in good governance, should have tenured positions.
Agencies in this category include the Central Bank of Liberia, Public Procurement and Concession Commission, Liberian Revenue Authority and the National Human Rights Commission. According to Sherman and his committee members, by agreeing that as a matter of public policy only these agencies shall have tenured positions, would be acceptable to President Weah and successive presidents.
To further support their assertions, the Sherman Judiciary Committee wants tenured positions be reflected in the presidential six-year term. They clarified further that tenured position should be for three years, with the appointee being eligible for as many three-year terms as the President might decide to nominate him/her and the Senate might deem appropriate to confirm him/her.
“That in all cases of tenured positions, the term of service shall be automatically terminated once at the beginning of new presidential mandate. For example, if a person were appointed to a tenured position during the last year of President Weah’s six-year term, notwithstanding the fact that the position is tenured position, the services of such tenured person would be automatically terminated immediately upon inauguration of a president the subsequent year, even if the President so inaugurated is the same President who appointed him/her.”
The Senate Judiciary Committee further recommended that boundary for tenured positions in the Executive Branch of government will assure any powers as provided by the “Presidential Termination power clause” of the Constitution.
A person under this new amendment tenured position may be terminated by the President of Liberia for “good cause,” which is yet to be defined by the report. And if a person holding a tenured position is not terminated for good cause, they may challenge their termination in court and his/her position shall continue to be vacant until a final court decision is rendered.
“This provision of a new law on tenured position in the Liberian Government will assure any President that persons holding tenured positions are not protected from disciplinary measures by the President of Liberia.
“An agency declared by this new law to have tenured positions shall be for the head and all deputy heads of such agency. Assistant heads and other positions at such agency shall serve at the will and pleasure of the President.”
Except for tenured positions at the General Auditing Commission, the National Elections Commission and the Civil Service Commission, all other tenured positions shall be considered null and void ab initio and the three-year term for those appointees to those positions considered tenured by the new law, shall commence as of the date on which such persons were appointed by President Weah.
The committee report presented questions which the Judiciary Committee believes that only a conference committee of the Senate and the House of Representatives can effectively resolve. Because of the many issues the Senate Judiciary Committee declined to draft a law that would incorporate all recommendations from the House of Representatives and has recommended that a conference committee of both houses be established to answer the questions raised and then draft appropriate law for consideration by plenary of both houses.
House Version Passed
In November of 2018, the House of Representatives voted in favor of a report from its Judiciary Committee repealing all tenured positions in government.
However, 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’ 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.