Senate Passes Ombudsman Act

- Goes to House of Representatives for Concurrence

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Senators Morris Saytumah; Stephen Zargo

By J. Burgess Carter 

An 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, was yesterday unanimously passed by the Liberian Senate.

The Code of Conduct was passed by the Legislature, approved by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and printed into handbills; however, the Code of Conduct did not provide a governing framework for the operations of the Ombudsman, including the qualification, scope of authority, and tenure of appointees to the office of the Ombudsman.

According to Section 12.3, which deals with the scope of authority of the Ombudsman, the body, in count (c), “shall make such inquires 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.”

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, 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 of 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.”

“No person who files a complaint or participate 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. ”

The act was prepared by an Ad Hoc Committee on the Ombudsman under the membership of Senators Jewel Howard Taylor, Joseph N. Nagbe, Stephen H. Zargo, and Morris G. Saytumah.

It now goes to the House of Representatives for concurrence.

7 COMMENTS

  1. An anonymous philosopher once said, “Nobody has a more sacred obligation to obey the law than those who make the law.”

    However, this statement is an oxymoron in Liberia where the laws are brilliantly written on paper but poorly executed in its jurisprudence. Only “Time Will Tell.”

  2. The statement may be an oxymoron, but that which is more oxymoron is the act of appointing such an indiovidual or character as the chairperson of the very office!!!! How on earth a character as Chris Massaquoi can be appointed to head this so called office of Ombudsman when the law stipulates that:

    “With respect to qualification, officials (of the Office of Ombudsman) 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, other professional discipline, experience relevant to the task to be performed.”

    Chris Massaquoi as Director of Police, threatened to shoot and kill an innocent human rights lawyer Cllr. Pearl Brown Bull if she dares enter the premises of the Police Head Quarters a presmises not the Private property of Chris Massaquoi or anyone who is police director.

    Besides, Liberian dailies are replete with editorials and articles in which the very Chris Massaquoi is on record for stealing a generator. Not to even mention that just quite recently, there were many dissapearances and killings of innocent civilians (Victoria Zayzay, Michalel Allison, Harry Greaves Jr. etc. etc.) in which the very police complicity became highly suspicious with the very Chris Massaquoi as Director of Police. In fact as the result of the Police suspicious complicity in these killings, the then Justice Minister (Cllr. Benedict Sarnor) was fired because he leaked out the information on the police complicity to the media.

    And then YOU:

    (1) PUT ASIDE Liberians SUCH AS Cllr. Samuel Kofi Woods, Cllr. Tiawen Saye Gongloe, Cllr. Pearl Brown Bull, Cllr. Francess Johnson Allison, Cllr. Musa Dean, Cllr. Archiebald Bernard, Cllr. Gloria Scott etc. etc. with “high moral character, recognized good judgment, objectivity and integrity; well equipped to analyze problems of law, administration, and public policy; not less than forty (40) years; with a law degree, and other professional discipline, experience relevant to the task to be performed,” AND:

    (2) APPOINT SUCH A CHARACTER AS CHRIS MASSAQUOI A FORMER POLICE DIRECTOR UNDER WHOSE DIRECTORSHIP THE POLICE SUSPICIOUS COMPLICITIES OR PERPETRATIONS IN THE DISSAPEARANCES AND KILLINGS OF, PRISONERS, CRITICS, AND WHISTLEBLOWERS, WERE LEAKED BY THE THEN MINISTER OF JUSTICE WHO WAS FIRED FOR LEAKING SUCH FACTS TO THE MEDIA?????????? Not to:

    (3) even repeat his Chris Massaquoi´s public record of stealing a generator or his attempt/threat to shoot and kill a female human rights lawyer (Cllr. Pearl Brown Bull) for her public-spirited stance on human rights!?? So yes, Alpha, the statement may be an oxymoron, but the actual OXYMORON OR IN FACT, THE MOTHER OF ALL OXYMORONS IN CONTEMPORARY LIBERIA IS:

    (4) THE APPOINTMENT OF CHRIS MASSAQUOI TO HEAD SUCH AN INSTITUTION TAKING INTO ACCOUNT HIS PERSONAL LAWLESSNESS AND THE NUMEROUS POLICE BRUTALITY AGAINST INNOCENT CIVILIANS WHILE HE WAS DIRECTOR OF POLICE.

    • Hey Kou, let me just do a bit of injection here and let you decide if Cllr. Pearl Brown-Bull is a human rights lawyer.
      According to you, Chris Massaquoi threatened to shoot Cllr. Pearl Brown-Bull if she set foot on the premises of the Police Headquarters.
      But Cllr. Pearl Brown-Bull recently served as defense lawyer you Michael Samukai, son of Defense Minister Brownie Samukai. Michael was on trial for shooting and nearly killing a young man named Zardee Andrews and he (Michael) was charged with attempted murder and illegal possession of firearm or whatever the charges were.
      But we all know how the law works in Liberia so Michael Samukai’s verdict was a resounding “not guilty”. But my greatest astonishment came when at the end of the case, Cllr. Pearl Brown-Bull turned to the victim and his family and remarked that they were lucky that he (Zardee Andrews) didn’t die? In my world, I don’t think that anyone who respects human rights and human life should ever make such a statement to the victim of such a harrowing experience.

  3. Consciously growing a sense of responsibility and spine as the upper house of first branch of government finally… “Let your respective and collective conscious be your guide” as our people are growing sick of your ineffectiveness as a Senate over many sustained quality of life issues …

  4. Firstly, Momolu, thanks for this info on Pearl Brown-Bull which sanctions it apropriate that we make the disclaiming fact that we do not know Pearl Brown- Bull nor Chris Massaquoi personally, nor have we ever seen or met any of them. All that we know or say about them are what we gather from the media or from their own utterances published By the media.

    Now, in reponse to your request viz our decision as to whether Cllr. Pearl Brown-Bull SHOULD BE SEEN “as a human rights lawyer who respects human rights and human life, when at the end of the case, she Cllr. Pearl Brown-Bull turned to the victim and his family and remarked that they were lucky that he (Zardee Andrews) didn’t die”, we can tell you upfront that IF SHE REALLY MADE SUCH A heartless, psychopathic, unethical, and unlawyerly, UTTERANCE, she has neither the nature, conscience, noble qualification, intellect, nor the character, of a counsellor or human rights lawyer! Thanks once again, Momolu!

  5. Thanks Kou. I don’t know, neither have I ever seen Chris Massaquoi or Cllr. Pearl Brown-Bull. Everything I’ve ever heard/read about them is from the media.
    Thanks once again and I like the conversation with you. Have a very blessed day, dear.

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