A Sad Reality But Hard Truth: Liberians Feel Let Down by Their Legislators

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It is called “Capitol Hill” and it is the seat of Government. Atop Capitol Hill sits the Executive Mansion, the Temple of Justice and the Capitol Building seat of the National Legislature. These are important public buildings which in other countries will claim a pride of place. Sadly, this is not the case with Liberia where its Executive Mansion stands uncompleted after it was gutted by fire in 2006 during President Sirleaf’s first term of office.

Millions of dollars have since been spent on the renovation of the Executive Mansion but it still remains uncompleted even after 12 years of President Sirleaf’s leadership and after nearly three years of President Weah’s leadership.

The Temple of Justice appears to be faring better in terms of maintenance as compared to the Executive Mansion and the Capitol Building which news reports say is flooded with water. The Daily Observer Legislative reporter Burgess Carter reports that legislative functions are now conducted in the newly Chinese built annex while the original domed structure is being left to rot away out of sheer neglect.

Just why legislators have not seen it fit to provide for the maintenance and upkeep of the Capitol Building beats the imagination. It speaks volumes about the quality of leadership at the national Legislature.

This is a legislature whose head has been accused by his colleagues of manipulating and making unauthorized changes to the national budget after it had been passed into law. But were such changes been made in order to provide for the maintenance of the Capitol building? The answer is no.

And lest we forget, this is a legislature which under President Sirleaf passed into law 66 concession agreements which did not meet standards of transparency and probity. It is also a legislature which sanctioned the proposed but fizzled Eton and Ebomaf loan agreements before details about the agreement could reach the public.

More importantly, it is a legislature whose members are among the highest paid set of lawmakers the world over with each legislator bagging about USD$15,000 monthly.

But just why our legislators have failed in their fiduciary responsibilities to ensure that the public facility in which they conduct their business is kept properly maintained is troubling for such reveals a glaring lack of any sense of accountability and responsibility in the part of our elected officials.

And it shows that our legislators are all for self and not for the public. Are our officials now awaiting help from friendly governments to fix their own building? It certainly appears that way in view of current developments.

At the Capitol, according to sources the various bathrooms are filthy and in many instances lack water for flushing. The Legislative library which in theory should be a repository of information has been shut down for over two years.

Another critical problem is the lack of electricity which has left legislators with no choice but to buy small generators to facilitate their official work. Additionally, the lack of a library is negatively impacting and undermining research into policy issues.

How long this is going to continue is anyone’s guess, but legislators need to be informed or told that allowing such a situation to persist will constitute a stinging indictment of their stewardship. If these individuals cannot act to save the Capitol building from despoliation then they might as well pack their bags and go home for they will certainly fail to act in the interest of the Liberian people.

But greed will take the better part of them and they will more likely than not stay put. At this stage, it may be worth knowing just how much has been allocated over the years for maintenance and physical upkeep of the Capitol building. No one knows for sure as all such transactions remain reman shrouded in secrecy.

They have never been audited and chances are, they may never face any audit anytime soon. Truth be told, the Capitol Building makes a sore eyesight looking right across a seemingly accursed neighbor, the Executive Mansion.

The Legislature needs to awaken to its responsibility. They should bear on mind that theirs is not solely about lawmaking or receiving brown envelopes to pass bills; it is also about managing the resources of the country in a way that will benefit the widest possible number of its citizens.

To the contrary, the legislature appears to be failing the people of Liberia and this is completely unacceptable. Little wonder why therefore Liberians generally perceive legislators as a bunch of very corrupt and self-seeking individuals. And this is because the people feel a strong sense of being let down. This is the sad reality but it is the hard truth: Liberians feel let down by their legislators.

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