Senate Sets up ‘Principal Oversight Committee’ on COVID-19

Maryland County Senator J. Gbleh-bo Brown

— Approves Eight Sub-committees for COVID-19 Response

Days after signing a Joint Resolution to endorse President George Weah’s declared state of emergency, the Senate has approved a structure, known as ‘Principal Oversight Committee’, that will handle matters arising from that resolution, with Maryland County Senator J. Gbleh-bo Brown serving as head.

The structure, according to a statement signed by the Liberian Senate Secretariat, includes the establishment of the Principal Oversight Committee (POC) to work with the Oversight Committee also established by the House of Representatives as mandated by the Joint Resolution.

Other members of the POC include:  Senators Peter S. Coleman, Co-chair; Stephen Zargo, Member; Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence, Member; Conmany B. Wesseh, Member; and Morris G. Saytumah, Member. Also on the POC include Senators Daniel F. Naatehn, Member, and G. Alphonso Gaye, Member.

The Senate also established sub-committees to exercise oversight over various aspects of the National COVID-19 Response, such as the Health Response, Security, Utilities, the Re-cast Budget and the Management of Donor Funds, Small Bank Loans and the Stimulus Program and the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund.

According to the Senate press statement, the various sub-committees have been mandated to hold their maiden meetings not later than Monday, April 27, 2020 to begin the formulation of their plans of action and detailed terms of reference.

The sub-committees on the Health Response and the Security Response will make their first reports through the POC to the Senate Plenary on Wednesday, April 29, 2020, according to the report.

The terms of reference of the POC is to drive the overall oversight responsibilities of the Senate with respect to the various measures indicated in the Joint Resolution. The committee will work with agencies of the Liberian Government in formulating plans and programs for implementation of the measures indicated in the Joint Resolution. Also, the POC will coordinate the work of all the sub-committees and make periodic reports to the Senate Leadership which will in turn make reports to the Plenary.

For their part, the Sub-committees will drive the sectoral responses to COVID-19 embedded in the Joint Resolution; help formulate plans and programs which will focus on the containment and mitigation of the scourge of COVID 19 and its eradication from Liberia.

The sub-committees are further mandated to collaborate with the respective committees of the House of Representatives up to the end of the pandemic in the country.

For all plans and programs, special emphasis will be placed on services to infected persons, health and other frontline workers, women, children and members of the vulnerable  population. The sub-committees will report to the Principal Oversight Committee.

The POC and sub-committees are requested to develop detailed terms of reference for their respective committees for submission to the Senate Leadership through the Office of the President Pro-tempore.

For instance, the Sub-committee on Health Response, which is chaired by Senator(Dr) Peter Sonpon Coleman, will analyze the health and related components under the National Response Plan and, as a start, request a progress report from health authorities on the status of the implementation of the plan, including challenges.

In order to support the various programs such as food procurement and distribution, security, health interventions, and so forth, funding has to be made available through the National Budget. This will require a second recast of the budget.

The sub-committee on Re-cast Budget and Management of Donor Funds, which is chaired by Senator Morris G. Saytumah, has to also take note of the various sources of funds from bilateral and multilateral institutions and ensure that these funds are used for the intended purpose and managed prudently with transparency.

In the Joint Resolution, the Legislature approved the Market Women and Small Informal Petty Traders Bank Loan Program to include credit unions and related entities throughout the country.

The Daniel F. Naatehn, who chairs sub-committee on Small Bank Loans and Stimulus Programs, will ensure that the process of the settlement of the loans is transparent and carried out fairly.