– Election or appointment of leadership committees sparks debate among lawmakers
Against calls for the election of heads of statutory committees – similar to what the Senate has done – House Speaker Dr. Bhofal Chambers has appointed an eight-man ad hoc committee to review the rules and regulations of the House of Representatives.
The rules were first amended by the 52nd Legislature and recently amended by the 53rd, conferring authority on the Speaker to appoint heads of Statutory and Standing Committees, among others.
On Tuesday, January 16 during the 2nd day sitting, Dr. Chambers appointed the ad hoc committee and mandated it to report on Tuesday, January 23, 2018. There were 54 Representatives in session; 12 were absent.
The Ad hoc Review Committee is chaired by Rep. Kanie A. Wesso (Gbarpolu County District # 2, CDC); co-chair is Rep. Rustonlyn Suacoco Dennis (Montserrado District # 4, LTP); and Secretary General is Rep. Rosanna G.D.H. Schaack (Rivercess County, District # 1, LP).
Others are Samuel Enders (Montserrado County District # 6, Independent); Acarous M. Gray (Montserrado County District # 8, CDC); Dr. Isaac Roland (Maryland County District # 3, CDC); Rep. Clarence G. Garr (Margibi County District # 5, CDC) and Rep. Julie F. Wiah (Lofa County District # 2, Independent).
Traditionally, the Speaker has always handpicked the chair, co-chair and members of statutory committees. However, only the chairs and co-chairs are considered members of the leadership of the House of Representatives alongside the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker.
Rule 5 of the House rules says the leadership of the House of Representatives shall consist of the following officials: The Speaker, the Deputy Speaker, Chairman on Executive, Chairman on Foreign Affairs, Chairman on Judiciary, Chairman on Ways, Means, Finance and Development Planning and Chairman on Rules, Order and Administration, Chairman on Public Accounts and Expenditures, Chairman on Gender Equity and Child Development, Chairman on National Security and all co-chairpersons, “in order to ensure stability, decorum, orderliness, discipline and the proper distribution and delimitation of power, responsibilities and jurisdiction in the House of Representatives, Republic of Liberia; and in order to further guide Legislative practices and procedures and to regulate the activities of members of this Honorable body; and in further strict adherence to Article 38 of the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia, which empowers each House of the Legislature of the Republic to adopt its own of procedures and enforce same.”
In a related development, some Representatives have expressed opposition to 7.4 of Rule 7, which gives the Speaker the power to appoint the chairpersons and co-chairpersons of the statutory committees. It maintains that chairs and co-chairs of statutory committees should be elected by the members of each statutory committee.
Besides the appointment of the chairpersons and co-chairpersons of the leadership of statutory committee, another sticky issue which has been a hot topic of discussion is the the composition of the committees. Under current arrangements the Speaker is clothed with the authority to appoint committee members including their heads and deputy heads, something which some representatives find worrisome.
Rule 53 of the House rules says: “Each committee shall be composed of not more than seven (7) members, except the committees on Ways, Means and Finance and Peace & National Reconciliation, which shall consist of one member each from each of the fifteen counties; no member shall serve at any time as chairman of more than one committee; no member shall serve as co-chairman on more than two committees; no chairperson of a Statutory or Standing Committee shall co-chair more than one committee; no chairperson of a Statutory Committee shall co-chair another Statutory Committee; and no member shall serve on more than five (5) committees.”