Margibi County Senator Oscar Cooper has told his colleagues that it is about time they got back their independence, adding that “there is no way to do the people’s job without restoring the independence of this honorable Senate.”
The Margibi lawmaker, who failed miserably in last Thursday’s race for the President Pro Tempore position, was speaking within the ten minutes allotted to candidates for comments prior to the casting of ballots in the Chambers of the Senate.
Senator Cooper, who chairs the Senate Committee on Public Works, intimated that if they have to do oversight as Senators, there was a need for them to be independent in order for them to make informed decisions on behalf of the electorate that elected them.
As members of one of the three branches that make up the government, the defeated Pro Tempore contender maintained that coordination and collaboration can take place, “but we must maintain our independence; that is the only way we can make laws, representation, and oversight on Ministries and other GOL Agencies that we will have committee responsibility for.”
“We need to restore our independence from the Executive. We cannot sit here year after year and allow this honorable Senate to be held by our nose, pushed around and not do the work of the people. The Liberian people are looking at us and they are depending on us to do the right thing.”
Senator Cooper emphasized the need to work with the Executive, but cautioned that the new leadership work and collaborate with the Executive, but not work for the Executive. “We will work for the people that elected us to this honorable body, and that is our first and foremost priority, and this is what I offer you, my colleagues, for us to restore that independence…so that when 15 Senators go we can get them back to continue doing the work for Legislative continuity.”
The other area the Senator spoke about was what he called developing the credibility of the Senate: “Fellow colleagues, no longer can we sit here and let people ask us about brown envelopes; we have to restore the credibility of the Senate, and we all have to work hard in doing that.”
Cooper noted that a dynamic and reputable Senate is what Liberians are yearning for and his election would have been the perfect opportunity for achieving that aspiration.
He emphasized the need for togetherness, especially through the various committees; both leadership and standing, noting that if that body failed, it would reflect on all Senators, not the Pro Temp alone, because the leadership works together with all Senators.
“I am appealing to you to see the interest of your country, to see reason and wisdom that we can build this institution’s post-war Liberia. There have been many lapses in the Senate, because we have not been working; we need to earn our living and work for it by manifesting the interest of the Liberian people.”
He regretted the Legislature’s delay in making appropriations for restoring the burnt out offices of the Legislative Information Services (LIS), but promised to work with the leaders of LIS and the relevant committees to restore what he described as ‘a great institution.’
Cooper further lamented that justice has not been done to the Legislative Budget Office (LBO), where the Executive sends the annual national budget, and suggested that if that office is capacitated, the Senate would be able to do a dynamic job when the budget is submitted to the Legislature.
The Margibi lawmaker recalled that the Legislature sometimes passed the budget on leaflets, and that was where there was no tracking system of the final result. If such is tampered with by the Executive, it would be impossible to know what happened.
He hoped that the 2015/2016 budget, when discussed by the Legislature and the Executive on how to make appropriations, would be sent to the LBO to prepare the final draft. When it is agreed upon by the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning and the Legislature, then it will be sent back to the Executive so that it is not tampered with.
“We need bill tracking. When bills are presented here, how many times do we know that what we passed here is what is published in that bill? We have to set up a system here that will track that bill, from the time it is presented to the Senate, the time a resolution is made on it and the time it is printed into handbills."