The visiting US House of Representatives Congressional bi-partisan delegation had some important words for their Liberian counterparts and those words centered on the issue of accountability-accountability to the people who elected them. And one tried and tested way to ensure this is through transparency in the conduct of business according to the visitors.
Whenever a vote is taken in the US House of Representatives, for example, it is posted on the US Congress website. Additionally, records are also kept of “yea and nay” votes and how each legislator voted on the issue. This is to ensure that the people are kept aware of how and whether or not their representative voted in their best interests.
The Daily Observer welcomes the visiting congressional delegation and it fervently hopes that this visit will yield fruits. The visit of the US Congressional delegation has come at a time when the nation is wrapped in a national discourse on the establishment of a war and economic crimes court for Liberia. A resolution approved by a majority vote in the House of Representatives for the establishment a war and economic crimes court has been sent to the Senate for concurrence.
It however remains unclear whether or not a bill to this effect has been passed by the House and sent to the Senate for concurrence. From the look of things the near overwhelming passage by the House of a resolution to establish the war an economic crimes court for Liberia could serve to bring enormous pressure to bear on their colleagues in the Senate to pass enabling legislation for the establishment of the war and economic crimes court for Liberia.
Perhaps the visit of the US Congressional delegation at this time could have a salutary effect on current attempts by a majority of the House of Representatives to pass the relevant bill as an important first step forward towards the establishment of the Court. The Daily Observer fully agrees with suggestions from the public that a record be taken of the votes garnered for or against the proposal to establish a war and economic crimes court for Liberia.
This record should clearly show how each legislator voted on the issue in order to have the electorate informed whether or not their interests were betrayed by their legislators in the way they voted on the issue. Indeed this may be prove to be quite a challenging exercise given the spate of complaints from some Representatives about how the Speaker conducts the business of the House.
A number of them have charged that Speaker Chambers never fails to display great bias in placing their expressed concerns on the agenda, which they contend is highly undemocratic and discriminatory. These are indeed troubling concerns. Whether the visit of the Congressional delegation, short of recommendations to their home government, can do anything, more remains doubtful.
It remains doubtful because the Liberian legislature over the years have lost their independence and become very pliable and highly susceptible to manipulation by the Executive which is often expressed in the form of brown envelopes containing wads of US dollar banknotes. Perhaps this can explain why 60 out of 64 concession agreements passed during the tenure of President Sirleaf were fraudulent.
Under the watch of this present government, a bogus concession agreement aimed to cede virtually the entire mineral rich Southeast Liberia to a shady company, in which the President Pro Tempore of the Liberian Senate is a shareholder. Thousands of US dollars are recorded to have been illegally siphoned from the national budget and by Speaker Bhofal Chambers, Representative Jeremiah Koung and others to private use with virtual impunity.
In view of this, the public is left wondering whether indeed those words uttered by members of the Congressional delegation were, as our people say, “passing through one ear and coming out the other” or like “wasting water on duck’s back”. From all indications, it appears that for a few legislators (names withheld) it was like “wasting water on duck back” or “passing through one ear and coming out of the other”.
Still on the issue of transparency, most legislators, if not all lack competent staff to manage the affairs of their offices. Most hire their relatives, friends or cronies and underpay them while pocketing the rest. Thus, according to a former legislator, output is poor while efficiency and competence are compromised. This situation largely obtains because most of our legislators, with the exception of a few, have predatory self-interests ranking far above that of the state.
The salaries and benefits they earn for example in an economy as bad as this defies reason and worse of all, a highly discriminatory tax policy in which low income earners are hardest hit and suffer shocks each time the Liberian dollar depreciates against the Liberian dollar remains in place with little or no thought being given by our legislators to the long term implications which are sure to spell disaster for an economy on the downslide with no immediate signs of recovery in sight.
Once again, the Daily Observer extends a warm welcome to the visiting Congressional delegation. We hope that this just concluded visit will not be like those of “departing birds” leaving no good drops of feathers. In traditional folklore, nesting birds that return to their nests often shed the most beautiful feathers, while those not returning shed no feathers at all.
The Daily Observer hopes that you will shed and leave behind beautiful feathers of hopes for transparency and accountability which our legislators would proudly don. Whether or not those hopes shall be realized is uncertain. What is certain is that those hopes “spring eternal in our breasts” and that you will lend your weight influence and support to the establishment of a war and economic crimes court for Liberia as an important forward step towards transparency and accountability.