Displayed disrespect for the rule of law is one of the major criticisms leveled against this government. Of particular public concern is what appears to be a growing tendency on the part of officials of this government and even President Weah himself, to ignore and sidestep procedures and policies intended to ensue probity in government. And at the core of it is the Constitution and the Code of Conduct for public officials and a major concern arising therefrom is that of Presidential appointments to posts which are either tenured or have established policies and procedures on the basis of which individuals are appointed to serve.
In the case of individuals named to man certain posts, confirmation by the Senate is required before the individual can assume authority and exercise functions appertaining to that particular office. But since the coming to power of the Weah government, there has been, it appears a sustained assault against the very idea of having tenured posts in government. This was seen, and rightly so, as an attempt to place party loyalists in positions of authority, a situation which has served to undermine productivity, undercut efficiency, resulting in diminished output in the public sector.
In some cases, Presidential appointees have not even awaited Senate confirmation to begin functioning in their respective appointed positions, which is totally against the law. In one instance for example the head of secretariat of the Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (LEITI) was arbitrarily dismissed by President Weah and replaced by a party loyalist contrary to established procedures governing the appointment. Later the government was forced to beat a hasty retreat when international partners threatened to have Liberia expelled from that international body.
In another instance, Liberia’s representative to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) was replaced by a presidential appointee in disregard of the fact that his was a tenured position. The affected individual took his case to court where the matter has since lingered with no end in sight. But the damage to the country’s image had been done. Thus it was no surprise that Liberia has lost its seat on the governing council of the IMO. In yet another instance, an individual of questionable repute was appointed to serve as Justice Minister. His appointment was however revoked in the face of a barrage of public criticism following revelations that he had converted his client’s money to his personal use.
Of current concern is the appointment of a very controversial character to serve as chairperson of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission. This individual has been serving since as chairperson of the Governance Commission although he has never been confirmed by the Senate. Interestingly, he is reported to already be issuing directives to the staff at the LACC while yet serving as Chairperson of the Governance Commission without having been confirmed by the Senate.
This said individual has recently been accused by some Nigerian nationals of being associated with a deal involving the sale of a ship which later sank but has since been unable to pay them their wages in addition to a host of other charges against this individual, the current chairman of the Governance Commission. The story was first reported in the FrontPage Africa newspaper.
However, he has since told the Daily Observer that the charges against him are bogus and that he has a history of “boxing swindlers”, citing the case of the George Weah Presidential Committee to probe the ExxonMobil “bonus payments” to former government officials which he chaired. The report called for the restitution of monies paid to the former officials, but it did not charge any of the officials for swindling government.
Granted indeed that this individual has such a great history of “boxing swindlers”, it does not in anyway confer upon him the authority to function in a position to which he has not been officially authorized through confirmation by the Senate. As a lawyer, he cannot feign ignorance on this matter even if he maintains that he can function and act on the basis of Presidential authority.
But in the opinion of the Daily Observer, the appointment to serve in a post requiring confirmation by the Senate cannot be considered complete in the absence of this singular act by the Senate. In other words, an appointed individual is estopped from exercising authority, rights and functions of a given office in the absence of confirmation by the Senate.
This is to ensure accountability. In this regard, this newspaper holds that the Chairman of the Governance Commission has been illegally occupying that post and usurping its functions. Additionally, it remains unclear whether he has declared his assets in keeping with the Asset Declaration Law.
Similarly, is his new appointment to serve as Chairman of the LACC, never ever having been confirmed to serve in the post he now illegally occupies and is now said to be issuing directives to LACC staffs. President Weah is urged to revisit this appointment and call an end to this obnoxious practice of undermining accountability and transparency in governance. Presidential appointees requiring Senate confirmation should be disallowed from function in said post in the absence of confirmation by the Senate.
This is the law and the learned lawyer with a “history of boxing swindlers” should know that anyway around this is tantamount to swindling the law — the state.