President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has rejected a proposed law aimed at providing huge pension and retirement benefits for the President of Liberia, Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, the President Pro-Tempore of the Senate and members of the National Legislature, elected officers of the Chambers of the National Legislature.
Other beneficiaries would have included the Vice President, Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court and Judges of the subordinate courts.
The Senate and the House of Representatives submitted the bill to the President since its passage in November 2014.
In a letter to House Speaker Alex Tyler, dated August 3, 2015, but read on Tuesday, September 29, President Sirleaf based her disapproval on procedural error, ambiguity, and cost.
The President argued that the bill did not conform to the requirement of the Constitution, which provides under Article 29 that, “It is enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in Legislature assembled.”
Secondly, the President pointed out that the bill did not speak to the situation of persons who served as transitional and interim leaders, specifically chairs and co-chairs of the government.
The President also asserted that though Section 2.4.4 (of the Proposed Law) authorized the National Legislature to determine a one-time death benefit to the surviving spouse, upon the demise of a former Legislator, she is of the opinion that the provision is vague and may serve as a means of confusion in the determination of the amount to be paid to each surviving spouse.
The President further argued that Section 1.4.2 (of the Proposed Law) speaks to the re-election of the former Chief Justice and the former Associate Justices, stating that in accordance with Article 54 of the 1986 Constitution, the Chief Justice and Associate Justices are appointed by the President, and therefore, cannot be re-elected.
The President said for those reasons among others, she disapproved the Bill.
The President added, that in view of her disapproval, as provided for in Article 35 of the Constitution, she was returning the Act to the national Legislature to Amend and Restate the Act Approved October 8, 2013,.”
Meanwhile, the motion for the President’s disapproval of the bill to be sent to the House’s leadership for review and subsequent collaboration, which was made by Lofa County Representative, Clarence Massaquoi, was voted for overwhelmingly.
The Amended Law
In the amended law, a former President who was elected and served his/her term successfully and is not re-elected, thus retiring to private life, and who is not in any way gainfully employed by the Government of Liberia, shall receive an annuity to be divided into monthly payments equal to 50 percent of the incumbent president’s salary and 25 percent of the incumbent president’s monthly allowances and benefits.
In addition to the cash a former President, according to the law, shall be accorded the following benefits for the rest of his or her life including full medical benefits, including a spouse, full Executive Protection Service protection, diplomatic passport, duty free privileges for all personal effects, two vehicles once every three years and at least six personal staff to include a chief of staff, a secretary, a cook, a butler and two drivers.
Upon being re-elected or appointed to another position within government the annuity payments granted the former President shall be suspended and if he/she qualifies for a second annuity upon termination of services with the government, he/she shall be granted of the two. The law also calls for payment after death: the spouse of a President who dies in office shall be paid 50 percent of the annuity and all benefits during their natural life.
“Upon the death of said spouse, all such monthly payments shall be paid in equal portions to each of the minor children but in the case the spouse remarries all benefits shall cease.”