The House of Representatives yesterday, November 22, voted to cancel tenured positions from various integrity institutions that were set up to hold the government’s feet to the fire independently without fear or favor of being removed from their various positions by the president.
The lawmakers emerged with the unanimous decision after a 30-minute debate whether to cancel those tenured positions, with 20 votes for, 10 against and 4 abstaining, on grounds that tenured positions were created to protect certain individuals in government by past leaders.
The bill will be sent to the Senate through the office of the House Chief Clerk for concurrence before being enacted into law.
On the contrary, the cancellation of those tenured positions did not affect Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), the General Auditing Commission (GAC), and the National Elections Commission (NEC).
The Lower House acted upon a report from its committee on Judiciary and Good Governance, which were mandated by the lawmakers based on a request from President George Weah.
President Weah recently communicated with members of the House of Representatives to revoke the constitutional covering on all tenured positions within the executive branch of government.
The two legislative committees said that when the mandate was sent to plenary, the lawmakers researched and found out that until recently, the CBL was one of the few institutions whose officials were appointed by the Executive Branch and were given tenured by Act of the Legislature.
When the report from the Committee was read, a motion was raised by Sinoe County District #3 Representative Matthew Zarzar, who called for the instrument to be debated in full for plenary to reach a decision.
During deliberations on the matter, the House Judiciary Committee Co-chair Representative A. Kanie Wesso, Gbarpolu District #2, a lawyer by profession, expressed the believe that the issue of tenured positions is intended to protect some officials.
Wesso said it was important for plenary to have voted and removed all of those covered under tenured positions in the Executive.
Some of the lawmakers who voted against the instrument said that Liberia has an imperial presidency, and so removing the constitutional clause covering tenured positions was giving the president more power.
Representative Ben Fofana of Margibi County District # 4, a member of the opposition Unity Party, said removing those protections will only give more power to the already imperial presidency. He tried to convince his colleagues not to vote for such a law.
Another lawmaker who was opposed to the idea is Lofa County District #4 Lawmaker, Mariamu B. Fofana, arguing that some of those tenured positions were provided through international recommendations and best standards.
She told her colleagues that for best international practice, it is important for some institutions not to give the Executive total control, a view that was countered by some members of that august body.
Fofana said the cancellation of those tenured positions will dump the credibility of Liberians in the mud, and that no international body will take Liberians seriously.
The House of Representative’s action, if concurred with by the Senate, will mean that the LRA, LACC, Public Procurement and Concession Commission (PPCC), National Social Security and Welfare Corporation (NASSCORP), National Lottery Authority, and Liberia Telecommunication Authority (LTA), the president will at any time employ anyone in those positions at his/her will whether the person is qualified or not.
With this, many Liberians are of the opinion that the President wants to have total control of the three branches of government, and that he has gotten weary of the constant dissatisfaction being expressed about issues surrounding tenured positions, and wants to put total stop to it by revoking the constitutional clause covering tenured positions.
It can be recalled that the chairperson of NGO Secretariat, Mrs. Frances Deigh Greaves, like many other Liberians, recently expressed concern that President Weah is canceling tenured positions through the Legislature in a vendetta to undo what the previous administration did to ensure independence and non-interference of their duties by any of the higher-ups in government.
Mrs. Greaves told the Daily Observer that she has followed the country’s peace process since the Accra Comprehensive Peace Accord was signed on August 18, 2003, which created five integrity institutions that stand to lose their independence, should President Weah do away with tenured positions.
She said tenured positions were created by law to have integrity institutions operate without fear of their heads being arbitrarily dismissed by the President.
Greaves expressed fear that the country may return to its dark days if President Weah is successful in canceling tenured positions through the Legislature.