Rep. Alexander Poure has written the leadership of the House of Representatives to invite President George Weah for questioning over his administration’s refusal to appoint an ombudsman to enforce the Code of Conduct.
According to Rep. Poure, his intent is to promote good governance and foster core values, trust, and ethical behavior within the Executive.
Rep. Poure is arguing that the Code of Conduct is being constantly violated due to the absence of an ombudsman to enforce the law.
He further claims in his communication that the law is being abused because of the President’s failure to appoint an Ombudsman which according to him is a tactics to make the Code of Conduct useless since without an Ombudsman it cannot be enforced properly.
“I am pleased to request the approval of the Plenary of the House of Representatives to invite President George Manneh Weah to explain why he has not appointed an Ombudsman that is charged with the responsibility to monitor, evaluate and receive complaints on alleged violation against the law,” Rep. Pour wrote in his letter.
“I am of the opinion that the reason why this law is deliberately being violated is that there is no structure as the law requires to monitor and enforce compliance,” he said. “It is needless to have a Code of Conduct without an Ombudsman that would serve as a watchdog.”
Rep. Poure added, “By inference, I am inclined with a conclusion that these violations against the Code of Conduct are attributed to the President’s refusal to appoint an Ombudsman. The former President, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, reneged on appointing an Ombudsman and now President George Manneh Weah,” he said.
The Code of Conduct, which came to existence in 2014, among other things disallows and bars public officials appointed by the President from participating in a political campaign, canvassing, or contesting for elected offices.
Additionally, the provision also disallows officials from using government facilities, equipment, or resources in support of partisans or political activities. It spells out that any Minister, Deputy Minister, Director-General, Managing Director, and Superintendent appointed by the President and who desires to contest for public office shall resign said post at least two years prior to the date of the election.
The law then empowers the President to appoint Ombudsman to safeguard its adherence by receiving and investigating complaints against public officials on alleged violations. Its intent was geared towards the promotions of good governance instead of abuse of state resources and power.
“Protecting President Weah”
Meanwhile, Rep. Poure has accused Speaker Bhofal Chambers and the House’s leadership of protecting the President by refusing to place his letter on the floor for discussion and subsequent action.
Rep. Poure accusation comes in the midst of being denied recognition by the Speaker despite effort made to raise his hands during the adoption of plenary agenda.
He explained that Speaker Chambers’ action is an act of prohibiting him and his colleagues from exercising their oversight responsibility by shielding the President from being questioned for his failure to perform one of his cardinal duties.
He said for too long the law has been violated as evidenced by the recent Special Senatorial Election when public assets such as vehicles and facilities were used for political campaigns.
“The buses that were donated by the Indian Government to the Government and People of Liberia and managed by the National Transit Authority were seen in political campaigns transporting supporters and members of political parties to political rallies to the disadvantage of students, commuters, and generally the Liberian Populace,” Rep. Pour added.
In the past, Speaker Chambers has often been criticized for “shielding” members of the Executive from legislative scrutiny. In reaction, Speaker Chambers’ political officer, George Watkins, admitted to receiving the letter and forwarded to the House’s leadership to make a decision.
A source close to the Speaker, requesting anonymity said the Speaker might have seized his colleague’s letter because it was out of order since there are no provisions in the Constitution that give the Legislature the right to summon the President.
“They are two separate branches of Government,” he said. “And the Constitution protects the President from being questioned or sued over any action while he is still President, except through an act of impeachment.”
However, Rep. Poure said the Constitution empowers the Legislature to make laws, represent the citizens and provide oversight. So, inviting the President, he believes falls within the function of the Legislature’s oversight.
He contended that he is in no error over his communication since the Constitution did not prohibit the Legislature from inviting the President.
However, he said if he were in error, the Speaker would have done the right thing and place his communication on the floor for Plenary to decide, and not to seize it.