Senators Support Election of Superintendents, Mayors but…

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Senator J. Gbleh-bo Brown, Chairman on Internal Affairs

The Senate committee on Internal Affairs and Good Governance has presented to plenary “a comprehensive work” on a bill known as Local Government Law of Liberia 2017, with many senators cautiously welcoming it.

The Bill was presented to the legislature by the Executive Branch of Government in August, 2015 and subsequently passed by the House of Representatives in December of the same year and sent to the senate for concurrence.

For two years, the senate, through its relevant committee with the involvement of local and international experts and traditional leaders, conducted three public hearings in Buchanan, Ganta, and Tubmanburg respectively.

During yesterday’s debate, which followed a long PowerPoint presentation by Chairman of Internal Affairs Committee Gbleh-bo Brown in the Chambers of the senate, many senators who participated welcomed the provision in the Bill that called for the decentralization of the country through the election of local government authorities, especially superintendents, commissioners and mayors, but spoke against the election of chiefs.

Grand Cape Mount County Senator Varney Sherman, who displayed a huge consignment of Liberia Law Review books, among many arguments, welcomed the election of superintendents and commissioners but did not include chiefs, whom he said work under the “higher-ups.”

Sen. Sherman urged that his colleagues, who are against the election of superintendents, should not see themselves as being threatened by the strengthening of local government, and suggested that the committee introduce a standardized criteria for qualifications for the creation of cities, statutory districts and other local government structures.

However, Liberia being a unitary state, Article 56 (A) says, “All cabinet ministers, deputy and assistant cabinet ministers, ambassadors, … superintendents and other government officials, both military and civilian are appointed by the President. But the ‘B’ says, there shall be elections of paramount, clan and town chiefs by the registered voters… to serve for a term of six years.”

Constitutionally, Liberia currently has 113 cities, with Sinoe and Grand Kru counties having 42 and 32 cities each.

Sen. Brown at a press conference yesterday expressed the belief that decentralization will strengthen the country’s resolve for peace, adding: “Since 1847, governance system has been heavily centralized, with every major decision, activity, direction coming from Monrovia and decisions handed down to the local people, so decentralization is to give the legal regulatory framework some of the powers back to the people.”

Brown maintained that citizens want to participate in decisions as to the running of the country as well as decide their own fate from the clan, chieftain, the district and to the county levels.

“Every county is going to have a development plan and agenda through the Social Development Fund, and this calls for a decentralized plan using the participatory approach, which eventually brings ownership and helps bring about sustainability and peace,” Sen. Brown said. He served as Maryland County Superintendent during the regime of former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

Sen. Brown furthered that passage of the Bill will promote economic development in the counties, as the law will empower every county to collect some level of revenues that will be used for their own activities, while at the same time helping the central government.

Administratively, Brown assured the passage of the Bill will help in the harmonization and rationalization of the country’s local structures, adding: “The current system is overlapping, with some countries having a proliferation of cities and structures.

“So if this bill is passed, it is going to standardize the creation of cities, statutory districts and it will make sense out of our current local government structures,” Sen. Brown said.

He admitted, however, that the law as proposed is not perfect with some questions, which he said the committee has plans to remove.

He maintained that his committee is convinced that the benefits to be accrued from the Bill outweighs some of the concerns harbored by other senators.

He told reporters that his committee is convinced that the Bill will be passed before the end of May.

Meanwhile, Internal Affairs Minister Varney Sirleaf, who was present at yesterday’s debate, informed senators that his ministry has already commenced the process of boundary harmonization, “which is a very important component of the Local Government Bill, and prerequisite to some of the conditions for its passage.”

However there are concerns that the passage of such a bill could be a first step towards the holding of a national referendum on the issue, since Article 56 clearly provides for county superintendents to be appointed by the president and that they shall hold office at the pleasure and will of the president. Anything to the contrary will constitute a blatant violation of the constitution, according to a prominent lawyer(name withheld).

19 COMMENTS

  1. To add to the concern supposedly expressed by the prominent (withheld named) from the article above, is Senator Brown is also proposing in his bill changing the form of governance from unitary to a republican form? Under the current unitary system, the seat of government is the President and every office of the executive branch in each county serves at at his pleasure. Electing Superintendents and Commissioners remove them from that hierarchy of authority, but muddle how they would operate as their budgetary procurements are within the Executive Branch, unless the Senator is suggesting a quasi legislative branch at the county level, and may require amending the constitution. In contrast, under a Republican form, such as the U.S, the country is a union comprising of individual states with the seat of government for each state at the Governor’s office, but with defined authorities delegated to the federal government on certain issues and the state on matters specific within or arising out the state. The Senator’s suggestion appears moot with respect to whether that’s the only way the citizens of the counties are most represented. That’s why they have legislators. The Superintendents and Commissioners are the Executive Branch presence and functionaries in the counties to execute the plans of the administration.

    • Counties within the individual states are self governed. For example, California has 58 counties and all of them are self governed by board of supervisors (the county legislature), County Executive, County District Attys, School Boards, etc. ) It takes nothing away from the President, the national legislature , central or national gov’t, but, to empower the people of various counties to learn how to run and manage their respective local affairs with over sight and supervision from the national government…

      • Local governments within the states are established based on charters granted by the individual states. Under the U.S system of government local governments is a matter of State and not the Federal government. County Governments are defined in the constitution as the first layer of state government. While defined as such, States don’t have to have counties partitions. In fact, Connecticut does not have county government. There are other states where a certain part would have counties and others would not.The State can issue to a particular municipality a charter for the sole purpose of attending to, i.e., the sewage needs or utility needs of that municipality. That is not prevented under the current system in Liberia (e.g., I believe Monrovia has a Sanitation Department for Monrovia that operates under the city’s seat of authority and is certainly not a national Sanitation Department). Other Counties can do the same on matters of how best to allocate the funds given to each County to address specific areas. Furthermore, towns and townships in the U.S. are organized under State’s Constitution. Again, the key is all of these are possible in the U.S. because of the system of constitutional government in the U.S.

  2. Excellent! Have no FEAR. When this bill is passed, it will tremendously enhance the development of Liberia. Let there be two levels of TAXATION- National and Local/County. Any revenue intended for a County, shoud go directly into County’s account; not filtered through Monrovia. Any County should have a saying in whatever wealth is generated within its jurisdictions. Fortunately for Liberia, each County have Economic Potentials. Let’s do, as it’s done in the U.S. Let the County collect all TAXES; then send whatever portion belongs to National Government to Monrovia; NOT the other way. Government, will have an obligation to redistribute what’s in the NATIONAL TREASURE; based on needs.

  3. Sen. Brown at a press conference yesterday expressed the belief that decentralization will strengthen the country’s resolve for peace, adding: “Since 1847, governance system has been heavily centralized, with every major decision, activity, direction coming from Monrovia and decisions handed down to the local people, so decentralization is to give the legal regulatory framework some of the powers back to the people.”……Thank you Sen. Brown and other Senators, the first steps toward true decentralization administratively, economically and true empowerment of our citizens per local government and devolution.

  4. Well said Emerson. Our people who have been given the authority to lead should do this with diligence. The crafter of the current structure of government thoroughly examined the environment before coming with the various structures put in place. But to put it simple, let us be reminded that the Liberian people representation was well addressed by the current administrative arrangements. Each county is represented by two senators who represent the people at the senate. They (senators) have consent power to ensure that all “major” decision taken by the president is in the interest of the people. Each county district is represented by a representative; at the chiefdom level, the people are represented by a paramount chief; the clan is represented by a clan chief and even at the town level a town chief. All of these people are elected by the people. In the wisdom of the crafters of the current administrative structures, they even limited the executive branch’s participation in the affairs of the people at the district level. This was a mark of respect for the people tradition and privacy and was also intended to provide them the opportunity to handle some issues that are traditional in nature by their own chiefs who understand the traditions. So if you take away the only two representatives (superintendent or vice juror and commissioner) of the executive, who will be in the counties and the districts to carry out the executive functions? We need to think twice and exercise wisdom for the good of our country. Help save Liberia…trash the bill. Our problem is not inadequate representation. our problem is ensuring that the right characters are placed in position to represent the interest of their individual counties, districts, chiefdoms, districts and towns. God bless Liberia.

  5. The execution of what you’re suggesting is more complicated than saying it. It may require a complete change in the structure of government that, as the article suggests, would require a national referendum and then restructuring the machinations of government so that the chain of authorities flow seamlessly without overlapping and creating bureaucratic bottlenecks at every level between the central and local governments. Also, just to note, in the U.S., the federal government always collect its taxes directly and states and local governments collect their respective taxes. One would need to consider who will be responsible for national security, national health crises the rights of citizens against their respective states and localities? These are issues that have to be defined within the Constitution. I’m not outright against the idea from a revenue generation perspective, but if the goal is only to see more economic progress taking place in the counties from budgetary allocations made at the national level, maybe first start holding legislators accountable on how they vote (I.e., not based on party but constituents interest) and submitting themselves to transparency, the counties may start seeing some funding come their way.

    • In the U.S, The States Collect all taxes-Federal and Local, then send whatever portion belongs to the “Federal Government” to Washington D.C. Richer States actually send “MORE MONEY” to Washington D.C; than they receive in Federal Assistance. The Poorer-States get “MORE MONEY” from The Federal Government; ie, “MORE MONEY” in “FEDERAL ASSISTANCE”; than they send to D.C.

  6. It’s always a brilliant idea to give credit to where credit is due. Always! The Maryland county Senator, J. Gblebo Brown and his senate colleagues have introduced a legislation that’s spreading like wildfire nationwide. If this innovative idea is enacted into law, it will undoubtedly be a credit to sen. Brown and the people of Liberia. I will also suggest that Mayors of cities in the counties should be elected as well. What this boils down to is that the counties need mini constitutions.

    Let’s take quick a look at some of my pros and cons to elect Superintendents in the counties:
    Cons…..
    1. An appointed Superintendent is not usually properly vetted,

    2. An appointed Superintendent cannot be terminated for any wrongdoing by his or her constituents and

    3. An appointed Superintendent is not answerable to the people. Rather, an appointed Superintendent performs his or her duties based on the directives of the president.

    The Pros………..
    1. Electing a Superintendent by the citizens of a county is very educational. It enables the citizens to be familiarized with the process of election. Under the old sysyem, the citizens of the counties do not vote until after 6 years when presidential elections are being held.

    2. Electing a Superintendent by the citizens of a county is good because Liberians do not want to live in the past. This is Liberia’s Enlightenment age.

  7. Mr. Larry Emerson,
    You seem to have a problem with Senator J. Gblebo Brown’s proposal. As a Liberian, I understand that you have a right question anything you want. However realistically, the idea of electing Superintendents in the counties is something that should have been done 100 years ago. In an earlier comment of mine, I stipulated one of the benefits of electing Superintendents in the counties.

    Mr. Emerson, please note that the present system is gray-haired. It’s got to go! The citizens of the counties pay taxes. Because of that, they should have a God-given right to choose who represents them. Usually, appointed Superintendents are unvetted and sometimes inexperienced.
    Another important aspect of being able to elect a Superintendent is this; it will minimize the autocratic power of the president. Also, electing a Superintendent is helps or teaches the uneducated people. Example, the present system provides that Liberians should go to polls every six years. This happens because presidential elections are held every six years. Emerson, do you thin

  8. Look, while typing on my cell phone, I made a stupid mistake once again and depressed post comment. I didn’t finish what I intended to write neither did I re-read the stuff I wrote.
    I really apologize for the mistake.

  9. I am shocked people who didn’t even read the article are shouting praises at the senators for no justifiable reasons! This bill comes centuries too little and too late and deserves absolutely no celebration because Liberian Lawmakers (senators in this case) are getting excessively paid for doing nothing for years! Anyone who read the above article understands this is neither a new idea nor Senator Brown’s idea or bill. READ and you understand the bill did not originate from the Senate. It came from the Governance Commission and was presented by the Sirleaf Administration years ago-2015 to be exact! Without justifications, this bill was stalled in the Senate by senators! Read: “The Bill was presented to the legislature by the Executive Branch of Government in August, 2015 and subsequently passed by the House of Representatives in December of the same year and sent to the senate for concurrence.” There is a perception on the street that many Liberian lawmakers do not represent Liberians voters and are not accountable to the voters. Additionally, people feel lawmakers are not doing their jobs but through conflict of interest are paying themselves excessive salaries and benefits, far higher than the salaries and benefits of lawmakers in the Congress of the United States (the richest country on Earth)! IT MAKES NO SENSE and the USA Embassy in Monrovia is to blame for wasting American taxpayers’ money on foreign aid that ends up in the pockets of politicians. Here is a good example: When this bill languished in the Senate, Former Senate Pro Tempore Findley’s salary was US$482,203.00 yearly plus US$1.2 million dollars for his “office”. NOTHING HAPPENED! Compare Senator Findley’s pay for doing nothing to the Senate Pro Tempore of the United States Congress with a salary of US$193,400.00 yearly and Speaker of the United States Congress Paul Ryan’s salary is US$223,500.00 yearly. The annual budget of the United States in 2015 was US$3.8 trillion dollars compared to US$550 million for Liberia. Senator Findley who was voted out by Bassa voters eventually got rewarded by the CDC Pro-Poor Government as Foreign Minister for using the People’s money and doing nothing for years (starving babies, the healthcare system, education and roads). Liberia’s system of governance is corrupt and broken because it traps citizens in poverty, illiteracy and misery forever while turning lawmakers and politicians into overnight millionaires. This entire system must be abandoned! Liberia doesn’t only need a new leader, we need a new system of participatory democracy where voters decide the salaries of their public servants-we need a different system that does not rob the people of their resources.

  10. That’s a good start in our democracy if only we will not complain about lack of money to conduct those elections as we complained in the past about lack of money to conduct city mayors and chiefs’ elections. What is so unique about superintendent elections? One may say, “so the superintendent will be answerable to the electrates (citizens) of the county”. Is that all? Has there been any reflection in our history where one of those who are constitutionally elected had been empeached for poor performance unlike the presidential appointees who are uncountably dismissed for poor performance? Are we creating another room of difficulties that can not easily be untied by the citizens?

  11. Seemingly, some past legislators’ loyalty was to compensation instead of representation. These guys knew decentralizing an imperial Executive Branch and establishing elected city councils ensure local governance, which done effectively would’ve empowered, especially, rural Liberia. Of course, the process is neither rocket science, nor does it cost as much as successive governments have wasted and stolen over a century and half years.

    Nonetheless, we miss the main source of the problem when Liberia’s history isn’t factored into the conversation.

    For whereas elsewhere in West Africa, European colonists needed traditional chiefs to indirectly rule over distant provinces, hence local governance became automatic after Independence, American colonial projections aimed at lessening the influence of tradititional rulers over the people, therefore went about weakening the institution by various means. And why not, America didn’t need chiefs since they planned to empty their country of all Blacks, and dump them on the Grain Coast as the new ruling elites.

    Anyway, not all Black Americans, then, were fools or slaves, and they knew that America belonged to them like any White man; after all, their forebears were forcibly carried to the strange land, and it was built by their sweat and blood. (Even the present White House, home of US presidents, was built from the ground up by Blacks, no wonder Washington DC is electorally controlled by African Americans).

    Tellingly, the CIA motto is, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free”. So truth be told, it is past half-hearted US policy responsibe for the Country-Congua Divide, which contributed most to the widening gulf between Monrovia and Rural Liberia, continuing dangerous polarization, and lack of effective local governance, with the sorry outcome of national underdevelopment today.

    Mind you, a divided people would misunderstand each other, thus cannot build anything concrete together, that’s why the mythical Tower of Babel wasn’t built. Africa isn’t going to get reparations for slavery, but the US should pay for reconciiliation in Liberia – local governance, rural road construction, and education – they put us in the slippery slope. The US is noisy about other nations owning up to past incidents of massacres, ethnic cleansing, genocide, etc., perhaps they need to review their role in the formation of Liberia.

    Thanks to the Senator Gbeh-Blo Brown’s committee, the GC prepared the proposed policy; however, unless an interested legislators get like-minded in shepherding the bill through the legislative process, nothing would happen. Anyway, we can’t be serious about transformational change without examining past and road blocks towards achieving it: The US government owes Liberia a duty of fairness, if not a contractual one.

    Let’s stop being the stooping 1800’s silly Nigras, for once, and demand the initial financial wherewithal for local governance from Uncle Sam. You can accuse the US of being racist; you can accuse the US of being mean and cheap sometimes; but of all previous empires in recorded history, it would seem that in comparison, the US has more conscience than all. Perhaps, because despite all the bravado and love of opulence, most Americans believe in God with unwavering faith.

  12. Well, seemingly, some past legislators’ loyalty was to compensation instead of representation. These guys knew decentralizing an imperial Executive Branch and establishing elected city councils ensure local governance, which done effectively would’ve empowered, especially, rural Liberia. Of course, the process is neither rocket science, nor does it cost as much as successive governments have wasted and stolen over a century and half years.

    Nonetheless, we miss the main source of the problem when Liberia’s history isn’t factored into the conversation.

    For whereas elsewhere in West Africa, European colonists needed traditional chiefs to indirectly rule over distant provinces, hence local governance became automatic after Independence, American colonial projections aimed at lessening the influence of tradititional rulers over the people, therefore went about weakening the institution by various means. And why not, America didn’t need chiefs since they planned to empty their country of all Blacks, and dump them in the Grain Coast as the new ruling elites.

    Anyway, not all Black Americans, then, were fools or slaves, and they knew that America belonged to them like any White man; after all, their forebears were forcibly carried to the strange land, and it was built by their sweat and blood. (Even the present White House, home of US presidents, was built from the ground up by Blacks, no wonder Washington DC is electorally controlled by African Americans).

    Tellingly, the CIA motto is, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free”. So truth be told, it is past half-hearted US policy responsibe for the Country-Congua Divide, which contributed most to the widening gulf between Monrovia and Rural Liberia, continuing dangerous polarization, and lack of effective local governance, with the sorry outcome of national underdevelopment today.

    Mind you, a divided people would misunderstand each other, thus cannot build anything concrete together, that’s why the mythical Tower of Babel wasn’t built. Africa isn’t going to get reparations for slavery, but the US should pay for reconciiliation in Liberia – local governance, rural road construction, and education – they put us in the slippery slope. The US is noisy about other nations owning up to past incidents of massacres, ethnic cleansing, genocide, etc., perhaps they need to review their role in the formation of Liberia.

    Thanks to the Senator Gbeh-Blo Brown’s committee, the GC prepared the proposed policy; however, unless interested legislators get like-minded in shepherding the bill through the legislative process, nothing would happen. Anyway, we can’t be serious about transformational change without examining the past road blocks towards achieving it: The US government owes Liberia a duty of fairness, if not a contractual one.

    Let’s stop being the stooping 1800’s silly Nigras, for once, and demand the initial financial wherewithal for local governance from Uncle Sam. You can accuse the US of being racist; you can accuse the US of being mean and cheap sometimes; but of all previous empires in recorded history, it would seem that in comparison, the US has more conscience than all. Probably, despite all the bravado and love of opulence, most Americans believe in God with unwavering faith.

  13. Krua,
    You shouldn’t be so shocked!
    By the way, how do you know that some people did not read the article in its entirety? Is it because the people you are referring to do not share your point of view?
    A couple of months ago, you became critical of Weah because you said that the line up of men did not include a female in the photo shoot.
    As matters regard your most recent attack on those you claim did not read the full article, the bottom line is explicit. Senator Joe Gblebo Brown and his Senate colleagues did a good job. They deserve a credit.

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