An Act prohibiting the Tenure of Public Officials within the Executive Branch of Government received its first reading yesterday, November 6, which marked the 2nd day sitting of the extraordinary session of the House of Representatives of the 54th Legislature.
Twenty five members of the House of Representatives voted to send the Act to the Joint Committee on Judiciary, Good Governance and Government Reform to report on Tuesday, November 16, 2018.
In the communication to Speaker Bhofal Chambers, President George Weah said legislative actions taken in past years have provided for security of tenure in statute amending or establishing several agencies or corporations of government, ostensibly to limit executive interference and provide that the statutory provisions of tenures granted officials in level of independence to the appointed officials of those entities.
“However, after careful review of the costs and benefits of security of tenure, it has become necessary that the statutory provisions of tenures granted officials of government be removed by appropriate legislation,” the President wrote.
“Honorable Speaker, security of tenure for certain appointed officials of government would likely impede, obstruct or affect adversely the development agenda of the President. Moreover, it is our considered opinion that the framers of the Constitution of Liberia were farsighted and resolved when they included “other government officials” in Article 56 to those who would hold other offices of government, and under their Rules, Article 50 of the 1986 Constitution clearly and exclusively vests in the at the pleasure of the President. They understood that as Head of State and Government, all policies are driven by the President, who has the ultimate responsibility of governance,” he said.
The President added, “Honorable Speaker, as an example, while not taking anything away from tenured position, the ministers of Finance, Defense and Justice are powerful positions, heading the fiscal, defense and security areas of government respectively. These positions are equally significant or even more so than most tenured positions, yet they hold offices at the pleasure of the President. Therefore, l request your usual kind and timely consideration to enact into law this important legislation that will create an impetus to work towards the development of our nations.”
Some members of the House of Representatives who requested anonymity said Article 50 of the 1986 Constitution clearly and exclusively vests in the President the executive power and authority of the Liberian State.
The Legislators said the power and authority so exclusively defined, when combined with Article 56 and read together, imposes upon the President the unrestricted power to preside and administer the Republic of Liberia without any hindrance as sovereign Head of State, Head of Government and Commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia.
Article 50 of the 1986 Constitution states: “The Executive Power of the Republic shall be vested in the President who shall be Head of State, Head of Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia.
The president shall be elected by universal adult suffrage of registered voters in the Republic and shall hold office for a term of six years commencing at noon on the third working Monday in January of the year immediately following the elections.
No person shall serve as President for more than two terms.”
Article 56(a) sates: “All cabinet ministers, deputy and assistant cabinet ministers, ambassadors, ministers and consuls, superintendents of counties and other government officials, both military and civilian, appointed by the President pursuant to this Constitution shall hold their offices at the pleasure of the President.”
This means the heads of the General Auditing Commission (GAC), Liberia Anti Corruption Commission (LACC), Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) and other institutions created by means of legislative enactments and appointed by the former President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, are covered under the constitutional phrase of “…and other government officials, both military and civilian…” and can only be removed through act of legislation.