-Set for Next Tuesday
The House of Representatives failed yesterday to concur with the Senate to amend Part XII of the Code of Conduct for the creation of the operational framework of the office of the Ombudsman as established in the National Code of Conduct for all public officials and employees of the Government of Liberia.
Members of the Lower House however acted to forward the ‘Ombudsman Act’ to the Joint Committee on Judiciary and Ways, Means, Finance, and Development Planning to critically investigate the Act and advise plenary whether or not the House should concur with the Senate on Tuesday, June 13, during the 39th day sitting.
The motion was made by Bong County District #5 Representative Edward Karfiah following a dead motion from Maryland County District #3 Representative Isaac Roland.
Earlier, members of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), comprising Representatives from the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), the National Patriotic Party (NPP) and the Liberia People Democratic Party (LPDP), lobbied for the passage of the Act, which did not materialize. Afterward, Rep. Roland, who made the motion, agreed that it should be sent to Committee’s room.
The motion also called for the Chief Clerk to make available copies of the ‘Act to Amend Part XII of the Code of Conduct for the creation of the operational framework of the office of the Ombudsman as established in the National Code of Conduct for all public officials and employees of the Government of Liberia’ to every Representative.
Montserrado County lawmakers Edwin M. Snowe and Adolph Lawrence were among some of the lawmakers who abstained.
According to the amendment from the Senate, which was passed on Tuesday, June 6, the Code of Conduct did not provide a governing framework for the operations of the Office of the Ombudsman including the qualification, scope of authority, and tenure of appointees.
According to Section 12.3, which deals with the scope of authority of the Ombudsman, it states: “(a) to investigate, on its own initiative or on complaint filed by any person or organization in violations of the Code of Conduct by Public and Private Officials and Employees of Government; (b) to undertake, participate in or cooperate with persons and agencies in conferences, inquiries, meetings, or studies which might improve the functioning of the Agencies and; (c) to make such inquiries and obtain such assistance and information from any agency or person as it (Ombudsman) shall require for the discharge of its duties, and shall seek the assistance of courts for subpoenas and other legal means needed to perform its duties consistent with the laws of Liberia.” Meanwhile, the Senate added Sections 12.3 to 12.10.
The amended Act empowers the Ombudsman to recommend appropriate sanctions and disciplinary actions to the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), as provided in Part XII Section 12.2 of the Code of Conduct.
Under Part V of the Code of Conduct relating to electoral matters, the Senate agreed that issues “appertaining to elections matters, shall be adjudicated by the National Elections Commission (NEC), as prescribed under the Elections Law; and any remedy sought from such adjudication shall be referred to the Supreme Court as provided for under the Laws and Constitution of the Republic of Liberia.”
The Act also provides that the Ombudsman prepares and submits through the office of the President for enactment a budget for the office of the Ombudsman to the National Legislature.
Under Section 12.4, the President shall nominate three persons for confirmation by the Liberian Senate, one of whom shall be appointed as chairperson, with gender sensitivity, non-partisanship, and geography taken into consideration.
With respect to qualification, officials shall be Liberians with “high moral character, recognized good judgment, objectivity and integrity; well equipped to analyze problems of law, administration, and public policy; with the minimum of age not less than forty (40) years; and must have a law degree (or) other professional discipline(/)experience relevant to the task to be performed.”
Further on requirements, “an official of the Ombudsman shall not be involved in political party activities or publicly endorse, solicit funds for or make contributions to political parties or candidates for elective office; and shall not be a candidate for or hold any other elective or appointive public office.”
Meanwhile, members of the Ombudsman shall hold office for two 3-year terms following confirmation by the Senate and appointment by the President, “and shall be removed from office by the President for nonfeasance; malfeasance; misfeasance; and criminal acts as prescribed under existing laws and regulations.”
In matters concerning the law, the office of the Ombudsman shall have the power to conduct hearings in a quasi-judicial manner and make findings, give reasons and conclusions in matters filed before it, “while appeal from a decision of the Office of the Ombudsman relative to violations of the Code of Conduct shall be immediately appealable to the relevant courts of Liberia.”
Furthermore, “No person who files a complaint or participates in any investigation or proceeding pursuant to Chapter 12.6 shall be subject to any penalties, sanctions or restrictions in connection with his or her employment or be denied any right, privilege or benefit because of such action. A person who alleges a violation…may bring a civil action for appropriate injunctive relief, actual damages, and punitive damages, which shall not exceed US$10,000 or its LRD equivalent.”