Monrovia –The Liberian Senate is discussing an Act that seeks to clearly define the scope of operations of the office of the Ombudsman that would hear and investigate complaints coming out of the Code of Conduct.
Report by Henry Karmo – [email protected]
The lawmakers are suggesting that complaints connected to sections 5.1 and 5.2 of the National Code of Conduct should not be the determination of the Ombudsman, rather the National Elections Commission (NEC) and the courts.
This recommendation was put forth by the Chairman on the Ombudsman Committee, Senator Morris Saytumah.
Section 5.1 of the Code states:
All Officials appointed by the President of the Republic of Liberia shall not: a) engage in political activities, canvass or contest for elected offices; b) use Government facilities, equipment or resources in support of partisan or political activities; c) serve on a campaign team of any political party, or the campaign of any independent candidate.
While section 5.2 states:
Wherein, any person in the category stated in section 5.1 herein above, desires to canvass or contest for an elective public position, the following shall apply; a) Any Minister, Deputy Minister, Director General, Managing Director and Superintendent appointed by the President pursuant to article 56 (a) of the Constitution and a Managing Director appointed by a Board of Directors, who desires to contest for public elective office shall resign said post at least two
(2) years prior to the date of such public elections; b) Any other official appointed by the President who holds a tenured position and desires to contest for public elective office shall resign said post three:
(3) years prior to the date of such public elections; c) However, in the case of impeachment, death, resignation or disability of an elected official, any official listed above, desirous of canvassing or contesting to fill such position must resign said position within thirty days following the declaration by the National Elections Commission of the vacancy.
The ad-hoc committee on the Ombudsman Tuesday, May 30, 2017, submitted for discussion to plenary of the Liberian Senate a draft report providing a governing framework for the operations of the office of the Ombudsman, including, the qualification, scope of authority, and tenure of appointees to the office.
In the draft report, the committee said in addition to the authority prescribed in the Code of Conduct, the office of the Ombudsman should be authorized to investigate, on its own initiative or on complaints filed by any person or organization in violation of the Code of Conduct by public and private officials and employees of government.
The draft report from the senate ad-hoc committee also prescribed that the Ombudsman as established by the President on the code of Conduct shall undertake, participate in or cooperate with persons or agencies in conferences, inquiries, meetings, or studies which might improve the functioning of the agencies.
The body is also empowered to make inquiries and obtain assistance and information from any agency or person as it shall require for the discharge of its duties.
It is also granted the freedom to seek subpoena or use other legal means if the requested information is withheld.
Prescribing qualifications, the committee indicated that the President shall nominate three persons for the office of the Ombudsman for subsequent appointment by the senate; one of whom shall be appointed as the chairperson. Said composition shall be gender sensitive.
Officials of the office of the Ombudsman shall be Liberian citizens of high moral character; recognized good judgement, objectivity and integrity; well-equipped to analyse problems of law, administration and public policy; with the minimum of age not less than forty (40) years and must have a law degree; and other professional experience relevant to the tasks to be performed.
The new draft report prohibits people serving on the Ombudsman from having other employment or political interest, and shall serve a two-year term following confirmation by the senate and appointment by the President.
Members on the Ombudsman shall be removed from office for acts of nonfeasance; misfeasance; malfeasance; and criminal acts as prescribed under the existing laws and regulations.
Meanwhile, the Senate is yet to confirm those nominated by the President for the office pending the passage of the Act to amend Part XII of the Code of Conduct for the Creation of the Operational Framework of the Office of the Ombudsman.