Liberia: Lawmakers Summon Foreign Minister over Diplomatic Passports Hurdle

Nimba County District #9 Representative, Taa Wongbe

Foreign Minister Sara Beysolow Nyanti has been summoned by the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee to address issues related to the issuance of Diplomatic Passports to lawmakers. The committee, consisting of seven members, has been tasked by the Plenary of the House to investigate the matter and report back within one week.

Lawmakers have been facing difficulties in obtaining diplomatic passports since the start of the 55th Legislature on January 15, 2024. This concern was raised in a communication by Representative Taa Wongbe from Nimba County District #7.

Wongbe pointed out that the regulations governing the administration and issuance of Liberian passports restrict the issuance of diplomatic passports to certain government officials based on their positions and the privilege it entails. 

“Mr. Speaker, as you are aware, many of our colleagues have requested diplomatic passports based on their travel requirements but have not been issued passports based on their personal and unexplained reasons,” Wongbe said in his communication. “However, Article IV: A of the March 2016 “REVISED REGULATIONS TO GOVERN THE ADMINISTRATION AND ISSUANCE OF LIBERIAN PASSPORTS”, restricts the issuance of diplomatic passports to certain categories of officials of government and individuals based on their ranks or positions as a matter of privilege, and when assigned by an appropriate Governmental institution to represent the Government or render service for the Government of Liberia in foreign countries.”

Representative Wongbe requested that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs revise these regulations to automatically issue diplomatic passports to deserving individuals once they are confirmed or certified by the relevant authorities. He viewed the current regulations as outdated and counterproductive.

In a separate matter, the House of Representatives has also directed its committee on State-Owned Enterprises and Utilities to investigate the management of the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) on the inconsistency of the power supply across Montserrado and the alleged huge salaries of about US$26,000.00 of Monie Captan, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC).

This decision was made in response to a communication from Wongbe. He requested that the CEO and Board Chair of LEC, as well as the Managing Director of the Liberia Electricity Regulatory Commission (LERC), appear before the House to discuss issues related to inconsistent power supply across Montserrado and allegations regarding high salaries of LEC officials.

Representative Wongbe expressed concern about the lack of stable electricity and the large salaries reported to be received by LEC executives. He called for transparency regarding salary distribution throughout the company and the role of LERC in ensuring reliable electricity.

“We would also like to know what Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) he was hired to deliver on. Honorable Speaker, as you may know, numerous residents have been forced to sleep in darkness due to the extremely uneven and subpar distribution of power supply,” the lawmaker noted in his communication.

The Nimba County lawmaker stated that according to various reports in his possession, there seems to be a governance issue at the LEC, with the current CEO also serving as Chairman of the Board. Plenary would like him to clarify along with the justification for his monthly salary, and that of the Chief Operating Officer (COO) at the LEC, which is reported to be US$17K and $26.65K respectively.

“Given the status of the nation’s economy, these are extremely large amounts these executives are receiving without the public having access to stable electricity. This is very troubling. We are interested in learning how salaries are distributed throughout the company, and the role the LERC is playing to ensure stable and reliable electricity,” the letter said.

Meanwhile, a source at the Capitol told the Daily Observer that the House of Representatives is taking these matters seriously and has initiated investigations to address the concerns raised by Representative Wongbe regarding the issuance of diplomatic passports and the management of the Liberia Electricity Corporation.