Liberia: Senate on Path to Modernization

Senate President Pro-Tempore Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence

— Makes significant strides under Karnga-Lawrence’s leadership; A look at the Upper House in little over one month of inception

It has just been a little over a month since the inception of the 55th national legislature, but the Upper House (the Senate) can boast of significant strides under Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence’s leadership — which has hit the ground running with the announcement of several reforms and modernization plans intended to enhance accountability, research, oversight, and dignity at the Liberian Senate. 

Since her unopposed election as Senate President Pro-Tempore, the Senate has embarked on significant reforms. These reforms are aimed at enhancing transparency, accountability, and modernization within the Senate. Sanitation has also been high on her agenda with some of the key initiatives including providing pipe-borne water in all bathrooms, while the leadership also embarked on installing public Wi-Fi and conducting a systems audit in collaboration with the General Auditing Commission (GAC).

Additionally, a specialized committee has been formed to investigate recent protests by women connected to the military, and plans are in place for a retreat to address important national issues. 

The Senate’s efforts to promote transparency and collaboration with the Executive Branch are seen as positive steps towards improving governance and effectiveness.

The water sourced from boreholes dug on the grounds of the capitol has solved the age-old problem of “no water in the bathroom.”

The availability of running water in the Senate wing by the Senate Pro-Tempore has so far enhanced sanitation to some greater extent at the upper-house Senate wing of the Capitol Building.

In continuation of her progressive plan, Pro Tempore Karnga-Lawrence has also commenced with works for the installation of public Wi-Fi in the Liberian Senate.

When completed, the internet service (Wi-fi) will affect the various corridors in the Senate wing, and also the chambers of the Liberian Senate, where regular sessions and hearings are held or conducted.

As part of her efforts in promoting transparency and accountability, Pro-Tempore Karnga-Lawrence has announced the Senate’s latest initiative to undergo a System Audit, working with the General Auditing Commission (GAC) to execute the task.

The Audit initiative taken by the Liberian Senate is geared towards promoting accountability, transparency, and fiscal prudence in the management of the Senate,

The Senate said in a communication to the GAC the senate said: “As part of the reform initiative, the Liberian Senate would like for the Auditor General to conduct a financial management system and control assessment of the Senate’s operating environment for the current period.”

The assessment would include reviews of the Senate accounting and financial management processes, policies and procedures, financial reporting, internal controls, document management system, and compliance with applicable laws and regulations.   

The objective of the assessment is to identify areas of weakness in the financial management system and control environment. Thereafter, the GAC will recommend improvements to ensure that the Senate’s financial management system and controls environment are operating effectively and efficiently.

As part of her effort to ensure transparency and credibility and lead by example, the Senate under her leadership has agreed to set up a mini-desk at the Senate wing of the Capitol for staff of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) assigned there to enhance the process of assets declaration of senators who are yet to complete the process.

According to the Senate Pro-Tempore, the LACC desk at the senate wing will help and provide guidance on the process of filling in the asset declaration form to be able to submit it in time.

Specialized committee

As a major national concern, a specialized senate committee was constituted to investigate the true causes behind the recent protest by women believed to be wives and widows of Liberian soldiers. 

Members of the committee include Sen. Augustine Chea, (Sinoe County) chair, Sen. Amara Konneh (Gbapolu County), Co-Chair, Sen. Darius Dillon (Montserrado County) Member, Sen. James Biney (Sinoe County), Member, Sen. Momo Cyrus (Lofa County), member, Sen. DabahVarpilah (Grand Cape-Mount County), Member, Sen. Gble-Gbo Brown (Maryland County), Member, Sen. Crayton Duncan (Sinoe County), member and Francis Dopoe (River Gee-County).

The committee will probe the situation that caused the cancellation of the celebration marking the Armed Forces Day celebration, which is a national event held every year on February 11 to celebrate the men and women in arms.  

The committee is being mandated to also look into the main cause of the situation and recommend a lasting solution to plenary that could be transmitted into policy action to avoid the re-occurrence of such embarrassment.

Meanwhile, the President Pro-Tempore has also constituted a technical committee to plan a retreat aimed at looking into the substantive issues facing Liberians and how Senators’ oversight can be strengthened to allow the national budget to positively affect the ordinary people; to improve on staff incomes and benefits, as well as train and employ specialized staff to enhance senator effectiveness in service. 

Senator Emmanuel Nuquay of Margibi County is being charged with the Responsibility to plan the retreat in consultation with the office of the Pro-Tempore.

The Office of the President Pro-Tempore has furthermore kick-started the process of a regular senate session journal to bring the public up to speed with the daily or weekly activities of the Liberian senate, something she believes will bring about openness to the senate.

Collaboration with Executive Branch

Also, for the first time in many years, the Senate, under the leadership of Pro-Tempore Karnga-Lawrence, met with the President of Liberia to encourage regular engagements for the smooth operations between the Senate and the Executive Branch.