Liberia: Weah Cautioned Over Tenured Bill

Mr. Ibrahim Al-barkri Nyei, political analyst, columnist and blogger

LONDON – Mr. Ibrahim Nyei, a leading Liberian academian, researcher, political analyst, and blogger has urged the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change under the leadership of President George Manneh Weah to reconsider a legislation against tenure positions in the Executive Branch.

Last week, President Weah submitted before the 54th Legislature a bill calling for the cancellation of tenured positions within the Executive Branch of Government.

Some tenured positions include NASSCORP, Liberia Revenue Authority, Liberia Telecommunications Authority, Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission, Central Bank of Liberia, LEITI, amongst others.

Speaking to FrontPageAfrica, Mr. Nyei, a PhD Candidate at the School of Oriental and Africa Studies, University of London and an Adam Smith Fellow in Political Economy at the George Mason University, USA, expressed concern that nearly all of the special-purpose agencies having direct connection to the fight against corruption and the perennial struggle for good governance will be affected by the measure: Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission, Public Procurement and Concession Commission, General Auditing Commission, National Elections Commission and the Governance Commission.

Mr. Nyei said these commissions are task with specific responsibilities of fighting corruption and ensuring adherence to standards that promote good governance in the public service. “Obviously, they are resented by politicians because they work to limit opportunities for reckless discretion and abuse of power in public service. In most countries, officials of public institutions with similar mandates are often at loggerheads with politicians including Heads of states, but ultimately, once allowed to do their work with full independence and resource support they promote the public interest and improves the quality of governance.”

He added that public institutions are meant to enforce rules on public accountability, thus, integrity must be immune from presidential interference and all sorts of political interferences.

In this light, he said it is important for President Weah to reconsider his decision, and recall that bill for the good of the public service. “At this stage, as a President who was overwhelmingly elected on a mantra for ‘change’, and ‘ending poverty’, I would advise the President to promote legislation that enhance the autonomy of those institutions and support them with additional resources to carry out their mandates without fear of political interference. The LACC for example needs a legislation that strengthen its independence vis-à-vis the Ministry of Justice, a fast-track corruption court, and more resources to carry out its mandate.”

Mr. Nyei averred that it is in this spirit that the constitution provided extended tenure for judges in the judiciary who serve for the better part of their life until they reach the age of retirement. “It is in the same spirit that heads of certain institutions within the executive branch with quasi-judicial, investigative and advisory functions are given tenure security. The tenure is not meant to protect them in the job, it is meant to give them space, freedom, and confidence to make decisions that the political leadership might not like, but will have to accept for the advancement of the public value and democratic order.”

Mr. Nyei said it is deeply concerning that in the face of daily allegations of abuse of power, flouting of procurement rules, and other corrupt practices reported by the media, institutions that should be following up and conducting independent investigations based on their mandates are being exposed to political interference and manipulations. “The President should strengthen them more to support his numerous pledges to fight corruption instead of appropriating them under his discretionary authority,” Mr. Nyei declared.

Mr. Nyei explained that move is not only abortive of the progressive reforms initiated since the return to civilian democratic rule in 2006, but utterly disastrous for the future of public institutions in Liberia. “The consequence, which is predictably grim, would be seen in the quality of governance and service delivery were it to continue.”

Mr. Nyei said it is concerning that President Weah has taken a step that would, to a greater extent, undermine the morale, confidence and security of executives of these institutions by exposing them to day-to-day manipulation, influence peddling, and kowtowing characteristics of Liberian politics. “Already, these agencies suffered from lack of political support under Madam Sirleaf and they were also hamstrung by limited budget. By repealing the tenure security clause that is meant to ensure the independence of their executives, is to effectively emasculate them.”

Weakening anti-corruption and good governance institutions, Mr. Nyei said, is the beginning of a process of undermining the pro-poor agenda of this government, specifically the objectives set out under Pillar 4 which seek to build more effective state institutions and reduce corruption in the public service.