Editorial: A little, too late Mr. President
President George Weah on Tuesday, March 14, issued Executive Order #117 consistent with amended Sections 5.2 and 10.2 of the 2014 Code of Conduct requiring appointed public officials seeking elective posts to resign at least one year before the pending election.
The Act provides that all officials appointed by the President including all cabinet ministers, deputy, and assistant cabinet ministers, ambassadors, ministers consuls, superintendents of counties, and other Government officials, both military and civilian, appointed by the President pursuant to Article 56(a) of the 1986 Constitution, and any managing director, deputy managing director, assistant managing director of corporation owned by the Government of Liberia, any commissioner, deputy and assistant commissioner of any commission established by the Legislature, and any official of the Government who negotiates and executes contracts, procure goods and services, and/or manages assets for and on behalf of the Government of Liberia, who desires to canvass or contest for an elective public office within the Government of Liberia shall resign his or her position one (1) year before the date on which the election for the post for which he/she intends to contest.
The reasons given by the framers which the President acknowledged in his Executive Order #117 is to dissociate the fiduciary duty of trust, integrity and loyalty owed by public officials to the people from their personal desires to contest elections at the expense of public resources.
More besides, the intent of the framers of the Code of Conduct particularly the amended Sections 5.2 and 10.2 is to create a level playing field for all Liberians wishing to contest in a pending election.
However, the President’s Executive Order has come less than six months before the pending general and presidential elections, more than six months beyond the resignation deadline provided by the amended 2014 code of conduct for appointed public officials seeking elective posts in a pending election.
Asking appointed public officials wanting to contest in the 2023 general and presidential elections which is less than six months away to resign by April 7, something that should have been done more than six months ago only questions the sincerity of the President in the implementation of the law. This could even open the President’s order to legal challenges as was witnessed in 2017, though, this time, in a different fashion.
The President and team could argue that the law which initially stated two years was amended and printed into Hand Bill on December 29, 2022, therefore, even if the President had made the pronouncement in January it would still have not met the one-year deadline.
However, being aware of an election and making the pronouncement in the first week of January would have been seen as a good fate because of the time the law was passed and printed into handbills and not less than six months before the election date.
What is not done well is just not done at all. The law says resign one year to election, not less than six months. This is too little too late Mr. President.