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Senate boils over tenure positions

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The Liberian Senate in its 8th day sitting of the 2nd session heatedly debates plan by President George Manneh Weah to scrape tenure positions with many senators publicly expressing their opposition to the decision.

The Senate Chair on Judiciary, Senator Varney G. Sherman, explains that in President Weah’s draft law before the senate, the following institutions are exempted from section (1) of the Act and their tenure remain enforced as per statute namely; the General Auditing Commission, National Elections Commission and the Executive and Deputy Governors and members of the Board of the Central Bank of Liberia.

He says a proposal for tenures in Government positions should have a limitation of three years based on good conduct and performance.
But the Senator warns that if the Senate doesn’t give credence to President’s proposal, and if the President took it to the Supreme Court, he will have his way because the court will interpret based on the Constitution that says all members of the Executive serve at the will and pleasure of the President.

“In fact, the Supreme Court went as far as saying that the Executive is composed of one person and that person is the President and all other persons serve at the will of the President.” Senator Sherman notes.

Grand Gedeh County Senator G. Alphonso Gaye says he understood from the report that the President, in keeping with law has authority to appoint people in the Executive as those people should serve at the will of the President besides those three agencies, noting all other public institutions with tenure service violate the Constitution.

“If that is the case, then making recommendation whether those institutions are integrity institutions or not it will still be the same violation if we give them tenure, so let’s cancel all tenure positions.”
However, Senator Jonathan L. Kaipay of Grand Bassa County argues that the title of the report should be changed from Act to Bill, reminding that Acts are not debatable. He stresses that the Legislature has authority to create agencies if there is a need.

For his part, Senator J. Milton Teahjay of Sinoe County observes the purpose and intent of tenures is to protect the Public’s interest in particular entities of government against Executive power and political tension.

“If we eliminate tenures in areas where pressure will be fiercest from the Executive, we are undermining the efficacy and subjecting ourselves to Public disrepute”, Senator Teahjay argues.

He notes that the presentation by the Chairman on the report is void, saying that there cannot be only three institutions that are to have tenures. Therefore, he argues, if it were the case, all tenure positions should be eliminated.

Senator Henry Yallah of Bong County agrees. He argues that institution such as Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission cannot be at the will and pleasure of the President, warning that the LACC that is supposed to indict people for alleged corruption is at the will of the President, the President can fire its head at anytime or at will, and the commission will lose its independence.

The debate continues at the senate next in what many fear, is an attempt by President Weah wield absolute power over state parastatals, particularly integrity institutions.

President George Weah submitted the bill to the Legislature last October, calling for the cancellation of tenure positions within the Executive Branch.

He took the decision after losing some legal challenges at the Supreme Court for appointing people to tenured positions that were still being occupied by officials appointed by his predecessor Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

The House of Representatives subsequently passed legislation, scraping tenure positions within the Executive Branch of government, except the General Auditing Commission (GAC), Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) and the National Elections Commission (NEC). By Ethel A. Tweh –Editing by Jonathan Browne

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