The Liberia Law Society (LLS) says that the country risks reversing the gains made to consolidate its democratic credentials if the necessary safeguards to conduct free and fair elections are not put in place.
Accordingly, LLS calls for the establishment of the office of an Ombudsman consistent with the provisions of the National Code of Conduct for Public Officials.
The LLS recalled that on February 18, it wrote a letter to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf advising and requesting action on this issue.
The Code of Conduct for public officials as enacted into law in 2014 provides for the creation of the office of ombudsman. PART XII, Article 12 of the Code provides for the creation of the office of Ombudsman that is to be established as an independent autonomous body, which shall be responsible for the enforcement, oversight, monitoring and evaluation of the adherence to the Code of Conduct.
The office receives and investigates all complaints in respect to the adherence to the Code of Conduct. In the case where there is a determination of guilt and violation of the Code by private and public officials and employees of government, said violations shall be submitted by the
Ombudsman to the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) or other relevant agencies of government. The Office of the Ombudsman shall be responsible to collaborate with the three Branches of Government and Civil Society Organizations in order to develop regulations for the Code of Conduct.
It further states in Part IV that all public officials and employees of government have constitutional and civic responsibilities as outlined below, which are over and above the good conduct and ethical issues contained in Part 1 of the Code of Conduct:
“He/she therefore shall uphold the Constitution and abide by laws, statutes, rules and regulations of the country. He or she shall ensure that his or her personal interests do not interfere with the interest of the public.
“For the respect for laws of the state all public officials and employees of government shall uphold all laws, lawful instructions, decisions and policies of the State, faithfully and impartially to the best of his or her ability.”
The history and intent of the Code of Conduct is unambiguous in its goal to deal with issues of public wasteful expenditure, fraud and abuse in government.
“If we cannot ensure compliance, then the intent, effect and force of the code will remain elusive,” said the LLS in a statement issued yesterday, adding that “law is nothing without the mechanism capable of enforcing compliance.”